The American Presidency: Core Documents

This collection of documents on the presidency begins with Alexander Hamilton’s commentary on the sections of the Constitution related to the executive branch and ends with President Barack Obama’s address to the nation defending his interpretation of executive authority under the Constitution to use force against the Syrian regime. The documents cover the executive’s role and the specific topics of presidential selection, term limits, and impeachment.

Grades 10, 11, 12
Executive Branch/Presidency
Primary Sources

Cold War Document Based Question

Utilizing primary source documents from the archives of Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Nixon, and Reagan, this piece of curriculum is modeled after the Advanced Placement Document Based Questions. This question invites students to explore U.S. Cold War foreign policy through the lens the office of the presidency, and to develop crucial critical thinking and writing skills.

Presidential Elections

The purpose of this lesson is to have students learn about each presidential election and presidential terms. Students will understand how various events in history shaped campaigns. Why elections were won and lost. What accomplishments and disappointments each president experienced. Each election and presidential term served had its own mark on history. The presentation to the class is the order of the elections starting with Washington’s first election and proceeding forward. The lesson plan was created to engage students in the election process and create interest in the coming presidential election.
Constituting America’s 90 Day Study of The Intrigue of Presidential Elections and Their Constitutional Impact is a resource guide for students. This study supplies many of the important facts and figures of each presidential campaign. There are also intriguing facts, stories, and information about the person, campaign, time in office and after the presidency.

The Constitutional Convention: Lesson 3: Creating the Office of the Presidency

This lesson focuses on the arguments over the various characteristics and powers of the office of president as debated at Constitutional Convention of 1787. By examining the views of delegates as recorded in James Madison’s Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787, students will understand the arguments of those who supported either a strong, independent executive, or a very limited and highly controlled executive. Students will also see why, in the end, the delegates compromised.

Grades 8, 9-12
Executive Branch/Presidency
Essays

Constitution Hall Pass: The Presidency (Constitution Day 2012)

Just in time for the 2012 election, this engaging, interactive lesson traces the history of the American presidency and features a special introduction by ABC News anchor George Stephaopoulos–former adviser and communications director for President Bill Clinton. Join constitutional experts and the Center’s education staff to explore why it was important for our young nation to have an executive branch, and why nevertheless some people were worried about giving it too much power.

George Washington and the Presidency

This short video highlights the crucial role played by George Washington in writing upon the “blank slate” of the Constitution. Washington was self-conscious about the importance of establishing principled precedents in his interpretation of Article II and what it said—or did not say—about the extent of executive power. According to Professor W. B. Allen, Washington was “conscious and deliberate” as he and his advisors gave meaning to the outline of the Constitution.

Grades 11, 12
Executive Branch/Presidency
Video

The Constitutional Convention of 1787

In this unit, students will examine the roles that key American founders played in creating the Constitution, and the challenges they faced in the process. They will learn why many Americans in the 1780s believed that reforms to the Articles of Confederation were necessary, and the steps taken to authorize the 1787 Convention in Philadelphia. They will become familiar with the main issues that divided delegates at the Convention, particularly the questions of representation in Congress and the office of the presidency. Finally, they will see how a spirit of compromise, in the end, was necessary for the Convention to fulfill its task of improving the American political system.

Grades 9-12
Foundations of Democracy
Lesson Plans

The Powers of the President

In this lesson, students will view video clips to learn about the powers of the president and how they have grown and been used throughout our history. Students will use these video clips to respond to a writing prompt about the balance of powers between the three branches.

Grades 7-12
Executive Branch/Presidency
Media

Comparing the 2020 Democratic and Republican National Conventions

Using clips from the Democratic National Convention (August 17-20, 2020) and the Republican National Convention (August 24-27, 2020), this lesson has students compare the speeches given at each party’s convention and develop summaries of the messaging and priorities of each party. Students will use this information to evaluate the effectiveness of each party’s message.

Grades 7-12
Executive Branch/Presidency
Media