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The Executive Branch

Teacher Guide by Matt Campbell

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Executive Branch Lesson Plans

Student Activities for The Executive Branch Include:

In these social studies lesson plans, students will develop a strong understanding for the purpose of the Executive Branch of the United States Government. Students will design storyboards that illustrate the power, responsibilities, and members of the Executive Branch.

The Executive Branch Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

5 Ws of The Executive Branch

Complex topics, such as the composition and responsibilities of the Executive Branch, benefit from taking a focused look at key questions. In this activity, students will create a spider map that represents the 5 Ws of the Executive Branch. For each question provided, they will respond by creating a visualization of their response, along with a brief written description below their representation.

Example Executive Branch 5 Ws


WHO is a member of the Executive Branch?


The Executive Branch is made up of the president, vice president, the cabinet, and numerous officers and advisers to the president.

WHAT is the purpose of the Executive Branch?


The main responsibility of the Executive Branch is to enforce the laws created by the U.S. government. These responsibilities are divided into numerous agencies and cabinet departments.

WHERE are the members of the Executive Branch usually located?


The Executive Branch is primarily located in Washington, D.C., but due to the vast array of responsibilities of the branch, it can be located almost anywhere in the country.

WHEN was the Executive Branch founded?


In 1789, the Executive Branch was created with the passing of the Constitution. The founders of the U.S. government created three separate branches for the creation of laws, the enforcement of laws, and the judging of laws.

WHY does the Executive Branch exist?


The Executive Branch exists to support America's separation of powers by solely being responsible for the enforcement of the laws. The founding fathers stressed that in order to prevent corruption, a branch that makes the laws should be independent from the branches that enforce and judge the laws.



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Biography of a President - Abraham Lincoln Timeline

The highest member of the Executive Branch is the president of the United States. The U.S. has had forty-three presidents and each has had a great impact on the country.

Students will research a president and represent major events of their lives. The timeline of the president should span his life and include his path to the White House, along with any events that occurred after the presidency. The suggestions below provide a mix of events and other factual aspects of the presidents’ lives.

Possible topics to research:

  • The education of the president
  • Laws passed while in office
  • Possible service in the military
  • Possible service in Congress
  • Controversies surrounding the president
  • Notable children
  • Hobbies or interests
  • Political viewpoints

Example Biography Timeline


February 12, 1809

Abraham Lincoln is Born

Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12th, 1809 in Kentucky. Abraham was born to Thomas and Nancy Lincoln. The Lincolns moved to Indiana when Abraham was nine years old. Abraham began his formal education and learned how to read and write in Indiana.
March 2, 1832

Lincoln Begins his Political Career

Abraham Lincoln announced his decision to run for the Illinois General Assembly. Although he was defeated, Lincoln made a name for himself as he argued for the preservation of the Sangamon River.
August 5, 1834

Lincoln Elected to Illinois State Legislature

Abraham Lincoln was elected to the Illinois State Legislature. Soon after his victory, Lincoln began to teach himself law, and within three years he was admitted to the Illinois Bar Association.
August 4, 1846

Lincoln Elected to Congress

Abraham Lincoln was elected to the U.S. Congress. Lincoln was elected during a tumultuous time in American history, as the issue of slavery was slowly tearing the nation apart.
June 16, 1858

"A House Divided" Speech

Lincoln propelled himself into the national spotlight by giving his famous "House Divided" speech. The speech argued that slavery in America could no longer exist. Lincoln argued that this division between slave states and anti-slave states could tear the nation apart.
November 6, 1860

Lincoln Elected President

Lincoln was elected as the 16th President of the United States. By the time of his inauguration, seven states had already left the Union. Lincoln's task of preserving the Union over the next few years would be one of the most challenging tasks ever called upon a sitting president.
September 22, 1862

Lincoln Signs the Emancipation Proclamation

President Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation. In his address, Lincoln proclaimed that all slaves in the "rebel states" are to be set free. This Proclamation also called for the enlistment of African American soldiers into the Union army.
April 14, 1865

Lincoln is Assassinated

On this day in history, Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. Lincoln's assassin was an advocate for the South, and was able to burst into the President's private theater box and kill the President with a single bullet to the head.
December 6, 1865

13th Amendment Ratified

On this date in history, Congress ratified the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This amendment was ratified eight months following the Civil War, and finally ended America's ties to slavery.


Extended Activity

For this extended activity, students will either continue with the president from the previous activity, or select a new president. Students will create a storyboard that visualizes specific quotes from their president. Students will select the quotes that they found to be the most profound and insert the quote in the text below the storyboard. Students will then visualize the meaning of the quote in the space above it.

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The President’s Cabinet

There are additional figures that play a major role in the Executive Branch. The president has a cabinet of advisers that lead various federal departments.

Students will explore the role of the president’s cabinet. Students will be able to create a spider map that represents four different executive departments and the role of each. For each department, students should include the title of the cabinet department, a representation of the cabinet’s role, and a description of the the department.


Students may choose from the following departments:

  • Agriculture
  • Commerce
  • Defense
  • Education
  • Energy
  • Health and Human Services
  • Homeland Security
  • Housing and Urban Development
  • Interior
  • Justice
  • Labor
  • State
  • Transportation
  • Treasury
  • Veterans Affairs

Department of Agriculture

The Department of Agriculture is responsible for the promotion of agricultural trade, the protection of natural resources, and the assurance of food safety.


Department of Defense

The Department of Defense is responsible for the coordination and supervision of the United States military. The Department of Defense maintains the U.S. Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force.


Department of Labor

The Department of Labor is responsible for the upkeep of occupational safety, fair wages, and unemployment benefits.


Department of Transportation

The Department of Transportation is responsible for the promotion of safety and upkeep of federal highway, air, railroad, and maritime transportation.



Extended Activity

In this extended activity, students will create a spider map that represents specific cabinet secretaries throughout history and represent the effect they had on society. The spider map might include the entire span of American history, or a selected series of years. For each cabinet member selected, students will include a title with the name of the secretary, along with the years they served in office, a visual representation of a specific accomplishment of that secretary, and a description of their representation.

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Roles of the President Graphic Organizer

The President of the United States is a crucial and complex job in government. The president has many roles as head of the country.

Students will create a Spider Map that represents four of the roles of the President of the United States of America. Students should select four of the roles from the list below, create a title for each of the cells, and create a visual representation of what each role entails.

Roles of the President

  • Chief of State
  • Chief Executive
  • Chief Administrator
  • Chief Diplomat
  • Commander in Chief
  • Party Chief
  • Chief Citizen
  • Chief Legislator


Commander-In-Chief

As the Commander-In-Chief, the president is the leader of the United States military and all those who belong to it.


Chief Diplomat

As the Chief Diplomat, the president decides how American ambassadors interact with foreign governments.


Chief Executive

As Chief Executive, the president is the top administrator over all federal workers. The president also makes sure that laws are being enforced throughout the country.



Extended Activity

To extend this activity, students should research the history of these roles of the president and create a storyboard that represents specific events that have occurred during history. Students do not need to select the same president for each role in this activity and can instead span the entire list of presidents to find events that they found most interesting.

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Executive Branch Vocabulary Lesson Plan

Students will create a storyboard that defines and represents key vocabulary of the Executive Branch to assist them in the comprehension of this important part of the United States government. Students should define the term in the column to the left and create a corresponding visualization of each defined vocabulary term. The number of terms in student’s storyboard can vary at the teacher’s discretion.

Executive Branch Vocabulary

  • Veto
  • Electoral College
  • White House
  • Cabinet
  • Executive Order
  • Impeachment
  • Pardon
  • State of The Union Address
  • Presidential Succession
  • Mandate
  • Primary Elections
  • Treaty
  • Treason
  • Vice-President
  • Lame Duck
  • Political Platform
  • Nominee
  • Liberal/Conservative


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When the Founding Fathers established the American government, they made a system of checks and balances so no one part of the government would have too much power. There are three branches of government: the Legislative Branch, the Executive Branch, and the Judicial Branch. The Legislative Branch was intended to make laws, the Executive Branch to enforce laws, and the Judicial Branch to judge laws.

The Executive Branch of government is a vital topic for those studying American government. Although many recognize the President of the United States as our chief executive, the branch itself carries more roles and responsibilities than many realize. The Executive Branch preserves the rights and safeties guaranteed to all citizens. In order to understand how America is able to function as a collective body, it is critical to have the knowledge of the scope of power and responsibility vested in the Executive Branch.

Essential Questions for The Executive Branch

  1. What is the the Executive Branch?
  2. What purpose does the Cabinet serve?
  3. What are the different roles of the President of the United States?

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