The United States Executive Branch Activities for High School

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Teaching students about the structure of the United States government entails focusing on what each branch of government does. This lesson helps your high school students zero in on the executive branch through a series of engaging activities.

Why the Executive Branch Matters

If you are trying to teach your high school students more about American government and how it works, you'll be spending some time explaining the tripartite structure of the government. Engage students as they learn more about the executive branch, its powers, and its limitations, both theoretically and in practice with activities.

Teaching with activities will keep your students engaged and will appeal to a variety of learning styles and strengths. The activities in this lesson will deepen your students' understanding of the executive branch.

Visual Activities

In this section, you will find activities that appeal to visual learners, those who benefit from work with images and graphic organizers.

Illustrate the Constitution

The executive branch and its limitations are laid out in the Constitution, but this language can be challenging for today's students. Let students work in partners or small groups to read how the Constitution defines the executive branch.

Ask them to create a comic strip that illustrates the different roles and limitations of the executive branch. In addition to showing how the Constitution defines the presidency, their comics should focus on the importance of the Cabinet and even checks and balances. Leave time for students to share and compare their work with that of their classmates.

Assumptions, Theories, and Realities

Students can work in pairs or small groups for this graphic organizer work. Have students make a chart in three columns. In the first column, have them write at least four different things they assume are meant by the executive branch of government. For instance, they might assume that the executive branch makes laws or declares wars.

Then, in the second column, as students learn more about the executive branch, they should write at least four different things that are theoretically true of the executive branch. For instance, the executive branch has veto power. They might write that the executive branch appoints Supreme Court justices, or needs Congressional approval to declare wars.

In the third and final column, they should write observations about what the executive branch does in reality. For instance, they might note that presidents sometimes send troops to war even without Congressional approval.

Kinesthetic Activities

The activities in this section let students use their hands and bodies to learn more about the executive branch.

Cabinet Sculpture

Understanding how the president's Cabinet is structured is an important part of being able to understand the executive branch.

Ask students to work with clay or cardboard and other recycled materials to make a sculpture that represents the different positions in the Cabinet. They should include captions that explain what each Cabinet member does. They can also show the order in which different positions have been created.

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