AP US Government and Politics ~ Presidency

BarberNote: I used the six corner debate on the electoral college this spring and thought it worked particularly well.
C-SPAN has just posted a somewhat similar lesson using clips from experts discussing various ways of changing the electroral college.Barberging the electoral college. http://www.c-spanclassroom.org/Lesson/591/Lesson+Idea+Electoral+College+ProsCons+and+Alternatives.aspx

Idea #1 Using Worksheets:  Students examine the background of Harry Truman as an example of how to judge the credentials of a president

Use part of Lesson Plan ” Presidential Election 2008: Evaluating the Presidency” from


Idea #2 Students watch video clips on “The Johnson Treatment”.

And/Or on Ronald Reagan as ‘The Great Communicator”


Activities connected with this unit are interesting.  Especially the Critical Thinking piece

  Idea #3 Students complete Worksheets on Primaries and Caucuses and on Party Conventions from the Youth Leadership Initiative


Idea #4 Have students discuss the ideas of James David Barber, found  at  http://academic.regis.edu/jriley/414%20presidential_character.htm
A PowerPoint on Barber is attached. I have not intentionally violated any copyright laws in making it. It works well for promoting a discussion of Barbers ideas>

Idea #5 Day Students watch campaign ads, create their own Capturing the White House in ’08: The Battle for the Swing States, and learn campaign strategies

Use lesson plan from the Youth Leadership Initiative: http://www.youthleadership.net/teachers/lessonplans/all.htm;jsessionid=C643D5C37155ACE3431231EF1EF67458?service=action&service=1&service=c3&service=%24ActionLink%2411

Idea #6 six-corner debate on how to reform the Electoral College. Have students form groups: each group chooses one of these proposals (or one group may create its own substantive proposal) class:

Direct Election
Direct Election with Instant Runoff Voting

 Congressional District Allocation

 Proportional Allocation (with 5%, threshold

Arthur Schlesinger’s National Bonus Plan

C. Other ideas

These websites would be a good place for students to gather additional information:

The Kennedy School: http://www.hks.harvard.edu/case/3pt/electoral.html


Information to be found at CRS and FairVote.org



In class each group should make it’s proposal in a brief amount of time.  After all proposals are on the table, let students cross-examine one another.  Award a prize to the group whose overall presentation and defense is the best.

Idea #7 A.  Class Activity: Group presentations on various aspects of the modern presidency

Assign Each group one of the short essays available from the Miller Center (http://millercenter.org/academic/americanpresident/policy) and have each group present Briefly what’s involved in the aspect of the presidency they chose AND update it by evaluating how effective President Obama has been at carrying out this aspect of his Presidency. Students should produce either a PowerPoint or a one-page handout to go with their presentation.  Or use it as the prompt for a paper evaluating the Obama Administration

B. Students might find it useful to listen to this Interesting radio broadcast that looks at a typical Presidential day, based on a news story by Todd Purdum


Also useful would be essays from the American Presidency Project


Idea #8  A.  Students use worksheets and activities focused on Presidential Appointments: from the Youth Leadership Initiative


Especially good if there has been some controversy over a recent appointment.

Note there are many more excellent lesson plans on the presidency at this site[M1] .  

Idea #9  If your class runs around January 20th  have your students write a two-page critique of the State of the Union (or the Inaugural).    The Washington Post has various contests– In 2011 there was a one-minute video with a suggestion on regarding what President Obama should take up in the State of the Union Address. Some were  picked to be on the website which was fun for the students.


Idea #10 Students complete worksheets, examine cases and articles even, political cartoons on the relationship between the Congress and the Presidency in matters involving War:  Use part of the lesson from the Youth Leadership initiative “War and Peace – Whose Power Is It?  The War Powers Resolution seems to be of special interest to the test developers of the AP US Government class, so going over the struggle between Congress and the Presidency in matters of war is always advisable.)


On the Web:

The American Presidency Project (americanpresidency.org) was established in 1999 as collaboration between John Woolley and Gerhard Peters at the University of California, Santa Barbara.  It has archives of State of the Union addresses, press conferences, signing statements.  All sorts of documents that might lend themselves to comparison

Also has an excellent series of presidential election maps that are all on one page, making it easy to compare and contrast.


The Miller Center has digitized a number of Presidential tapes.   Students love hearing the presidents talk in the oval office.


The Youth Leadership Initiative (http://www.youthleadership.net/) has a great number of excellent lesson plans on all aspects of the presidency, and vice presidency.

Idea #9 Idea for a paper on the Presidency “using these categories discussed at the Miller Center, http://millercenter.org/academic/americanpresident/policy
Choose one of the seven criteria as the basis of a three-page paper evaluating the Obama Presidency in that area. You should definitely do some research; your paper needs a bibliography.

There are seven criteria, the most popular of which were National Security and Economic Policy. But what I like about this assignment is that the student starts off with a scholarly essay and then gets a chance to add his or her own evaluation. I’m in the throes of correcting these papers, and will let you know how they work out.


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