Lesson Plan: The Powers of the President

The Constitution & the Presidency

The Constitution & the Presidency


The executive branch was created by Article II of the U.S. Constitution and is headed by the President of the United States. The Constitution granted the president many powers, including to execute the laws of the country. However, much of the language of Article II is vague, and therefore the powers of the president have evolved over time. In this lesson, students will learn about the powers of the president and how they have grown and been used throughout our history.



    As a class, view the following video clip and then discuss the questions below.

    Video Clip: The Constitution and the Presidency (3:41)

    • List each branch of government and the corresponding Articles of the U.S. Constitution.

    • Which branch of government did Alexander Hamilton suggest was the weakest? Why?

    • Why does Mr. Meese suggest that Article II was the most vague in its definition?

    • Describe the difficulties, as outlined by Mr. Meese, that George Washington had in distinguishing his role as the first U.S. president.

    Break students up into groups and have each group view the following video clips. Students should take notes using the handout provided, and then share their findings with the rest of the class.

    HANDOUT: The Powers of the President Handout (Google Doc)

  • Video Clip: Presidential War Powers (3:42)

    Lt. Col. Walter Narramore discussed Presidential war powers, including the Constitutional justifications and the role of Congress.

  • Video Clip: Emergency Presidential Powers (3:40)

    Author Chris Edelson discusses Emergency Presidential Powers

  • Video Clip: Executive Orders (6:56)

    David Abshire talked about the history of executive orders and their role in presidential power.

  • Video Clip: Clemency and Pardons (4:23)

    Author Jeffrey Crouch spoke about presidential pardons and executive authority.

  • Video Clip: Appointment Power and Checks and Balances (1:04)

    Barbara Perry spoke about the debate at the Constitutional Convention on the appointment process and selection of federal judges as well as the importance of checks and balances.

  • Video Clip: Take Care Clause and Executing Laws (1:16)

    Nicholas Resenkranz described the meaning and importance of the "take care clause" at a hearing on presidential powers and the Constitution.


    After the students have watched each video and completed the chart, they should go to the C-SPAN Classroom Constitution Clips webpage here:

    Website: Constitution Clips

    Using the last page of the The Powers of the President Handout, each group should find two examples of a presidential power in action. One of of the powers should be an example of a power the president uses as a check on another branch. Students should be prepared to share with the class how their chosen clip illustrates a presidential power being carried out and its impact on public policy.


    As a class, view the following video clip and discuss the questions below.

    Video Clip: The Evolution of the Presidential Office (4:44)

    • Explain the challenges modern presidents face based on previous assumptions according to Jeremy Sumi.

    • Describe the difficulties presidents face in a growing country and globalized world.

    • What did Thomas Jefferson predict about the future of the presidency? In what ways was he correct?

    • What characteristics did Andrew Jackson introduce to the presidency?

    After viewing the video clips and reporting out to the entire class, have students write an essay (or similar culminating activity) that includes the following information. Students should cite specific examples from the videos and class discussion.

    • The specific powers given to the president in the Constitution

    • How and why the presidential powers has evolved and increased over time.

    • How the president can check other branches, as well as how other branches can check the president

    • Whether the powers of the president have grown too much compared to the intent of the Framers.

    Concept Application Question Free Response Question- Foreign Policy Powers Respond to this writing prompt (Google Doc) presented in the style of the Argumentative Question component of the redesigned AP Government and Politics exam.

Additional Resource

  • LESSON PLAN: Presidential Roles

    This lesson explores the nature of each of the roles of the President, the ways his various roles overlap, the powers associated with each role, and the checks on those powers


  • Appointment Power
  • Branches Of Government
  • Clemency
  • Constitution
  • Executive Authority
  • Executive Branch
  • Executive Orders
  • Executive Privilege
  • Pardon
  • President
  • Separation Of Powers
  • Take Care Clause


Constitutional FoundationExecutive Branch


Middle SchoolHigh School