Wayne RESA
Unit Abstract

This unit focuses on the executive branch of government, presidential elections, and the making of foreign policy. Students begin the unit by exploring the five constitutional grants of power delineated in Article II (executive, appointment, war, legislative, and treaty powers), and the limits on those powers. Expanding their understanding of the presidency to inherent powers, students examine executive prerogative and presidential roles (e.g., Commander-in-Chief, Chief Diplomat, Chief of Party, etc.). They learn that the executive branch is comprised of many different offices and agencies, including the Cabinet, which help the president faithfully execute the laws. Using historical examples of tensions between the branches, they consider how the legislative and judicial branches serve to check the power of the executive. In doing so, students explore the use executive privilege. Students are then introduced to the presidential election process and explore how the Electoral College influences campaigns. They analyze demographic data and voting trends with respect to presidential elections, plan campaign strategies for winning the electoral vote, and reflect on how money plays a role in presidential campaigns. Students also assess the demographic data and identify gaps in the information. Next, students hone their critical literacy skills by exploring and analyzing the accuracy and effectiveness of campaign ads and speeches. The last portion of the unit addresses world affairs as students distinguish between domestic and foreign policy and explore the process by which foreign policy is made. They revisit executive prerogative as it relates to the foreign policy realm. Students also examine how other actors and organizations are involved in shaping foreign policy, including the role of international organizations. Using historical examples, students study how the tools of foreign policy have varied according to the time period and the situation at hand. They also consider how foreign policy statements reflect evidence of idealism and realism in foreign policy philosophy. Students apply their knowledge of foreign policy to a case study of the Korean conflict. They then conclude the unit with an expository writing piece detailing the attributes of a foreign policy decision.



Stage One - Desired Results

Compelling Question

How are both knowledge about American constitutional government and actions by citizens essential components of effective government?

Supporting Questions
  1. How are the purposes of government and constitutional principles reflected in the powers and structure of the executive branch?
  2. How democratic are presidential campaigns and elections in the U.S.?
  3. How do economic, political, national security, and cultural issues influence U.S. foreign policy decisions?
Content (Key Concepts)


campaigns and elections

constitutional powers of the president

demographic data and trends

domestic vs. foreign policy

electoral College

executive prerogative

executive privilege

governmental and non-governmental international organizations

independent regulatory agencies

national security

roles of the president


Skills (Intellectual Processes)

Cause and Effect



Identifying Perspectives

Non-linguistic Representations



Stage Two - Assessment Evidence

Unit Assessment Tasks

Stage Three - Learning Plan

Lesson Plan Sequence


Chart paper


Computer with Internet access




Overhead projector or document camera


Student Resource

2008 What ifs? Boston.com. 6 October 2015 http://www.boston.com/news/politics/2008/specials/demographic_map/


Campbell, Thomas J. “An Understanding of the Constitution’s Foreign Affairs Power.” The Heritage Foundation. 6 October 2015 http://www.heritage.org/Research/Lecture/An-Understanding-of-the-Constitutions-Foreign-Affairs-Power


Election Interactive Maps. 270towin.com. 6 October 2015 http://www.270towin.com


Executive Branch - Divisions off The Executive Branch. Law Library, American Law and Legal Information. 6 October 2015 http://law.jrank.org/pages/6653/Executive-Branch-Divisions-Executive-Branch.html


Fact Check.org. Annenberg Public Policy Center. 6 October 2015 http://www.FactCheck.org


Independent Agencies and Government Corporations. USA.gov. 6 October 2015



John Locke’s Second Treatise on Government, Chapter 14, Section 159. 15 April 2011


Lesson: Understanding the Language of Political Ads. The Living Room Candidate. Museum of the Moving Image. 6 October 2015 http://www.livingroomcandidate.org/lessons/15


North Atlantic Treaty Organization. FAQs. 6 October 2015http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/faq.htm


PolitiFact.com. St. Petersburg Times. 6 October 2015 http://www.politifact.com


Polling Report.6 October 2015 http://www.pollingreport.com/


President’s Schedule. The White House. 15 April 2011.


Teaching with Documents: The Korean Conflict. National Archives. 6 October 2015 http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/korean-conflict/


The Constitution of the United States, Analysis and Interpretation. United States Government Printing Office. 15 April 2011


The Democratic Party. 6 October 2015 http://www.democrats.org


The Heritage Foundation. 6 October 2015 http://www.heritage.org/


The Living Room Candidate: Presidential Campaign Commericials. 1952-2008. Museum of the Moving Image. 6 October 2015 http://www.livingroomcandidate.org

The Republican National Committee. 6 October 20 15http://www.gop.com/


The Seven Hat Challenge: Master the Roles of the President. Scholastic. Teacher. 6 October 2015 http://teacher.scholastic.com/scholasticnews/games_quizzes/president_roles/


Three Views of Presidential Power. Syracuse University. 6 October 2015 http://classes.maxwell.syr.edu/hst341/prezpower.htm


Trimble, Phillip R. Executive Perogative. 1992. 15 April 2011


U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Constitution Online. 6 October 2015 http://www.usconstitution.net/const.html


United Nations: An Introduction for Students. 15 January 2011


Who We Are. Amnesty International. 6 October 2015 http://www.amnesty.org/en/who-we-are


Who We Are. International Committee of the Red Cross. 6 October 2015 http://www.icrc.org/eng/who-we-are/index.jsp


Who We Are. Organization of American States. 6 October 2015 http://www.oas.org/en/about/who_we_are.asp


World Court. Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site. Natioal Park Services. 15 April 2011


Teacher Resource

Annotated Constitution. Cornell Law School. 6 October 2015 http://www.law.cornell.edu/anncon/html/art2frag12_user.html#art2_hd52


Herman, Susan. “Patriot Games: Terrorism, Law, and Executive Power.” The Jurist: Legal News and Research. University of Pittsburgh School of Law. 26 Jan. 2006. 15 April 2011


Mankani, Nirmal and Ethan Roeder, 2010 Turnout: Quantifying the Quandry: How Voting in 2010 will be Unlike any Previous Midterm in Recent History and How it will be Exactly the Same. New Organizing Institute. Sept. 2010. 6 October 2015 http://neworganizing.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/NOI-2010-Turnout.pdf


*Monk, Linda R. The Words We Live By: Your Annotated Guide to the Constitution. Hyperion: New York, 2003.


Oakland Schools Teaching Research Writing Website: Skills Progression & Lessons http://www.osteachingresearchwriting.org/


“Presidency - What is Executive Privilege and Why Do Presidents Like to Invoke It?” History News Network. 6 October 2015 http://www.hnn.us/articles/470.html


President Lincoln Signs the Emancipation Proclamation, 1863. Eyewitness to History. 15 April 2011


Presidential Politics. American Experience. PBS. 6 October 2015 http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/presidents/32_f_roosevelt/f_roosevelt_politics.html


Root, Damon. “A Switch in Time Saves Nine.” Reason.com. 22 Jan. 2009. 6 October 2015 http://reason.com/archives/2009/01/22/a-switch-in-time-saves-nine


*Scardino, Franco. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to U.S. Government & Politics. The Penguin Group, NY: 2009.


The Treaty of the Louisiana Purchase. Archiving Early America. 6 October 2015 http://www.earlyamerica.com/earlyamerica/milestones/louisiana/


Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Accomplishments. National Park Services. 15 April 2011



“Unit 4, Lesson 10, PowerPoint.” Michigan Citizenship Collaborative Curriculum, 6 October 2015.



Williams, Frank. “Abraham Lincoln and Civil Liberties in Wartime.” The Heritage Foundation. 5 May 2004. 6 October 2015 ://www.heritage.org/research/lecture/abraham-lincoln-and-civil-liberties-in-wartime>.


For Further Professional Knowledge

Barilleaux, Ryan J. and Christopher S. Kelley. Ed. The Unitary Executive and the Modern Presidency. Texas A & M University Press, 2010.


O’Connor, Karen and Larry J. Sabato. Essentials of American Government: Roots and Reform. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2009.


Thurber, James A. Rival for Power: Presidential-Congressional Relations. Lanham, MD: Rowman-Littlefield, 2009.


* Although the resources denoted with an asterisk are not cited in the lessons for this unit, they are included here to provide meaningful options for teachers.





MI: Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, & Technical Subjects 6-12
MI: Grades 9-10
Reading: History/Social Studies
Key Ideas and Details
1. Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
RH.9-10.1. Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.
2. Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
RH.9-10.2. Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.
Craft and Structure
4. Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
RH.9-10.4. Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary describing political, social, or economic aspects of history/social science.
5. Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole.
RH.9-10.5. Analyze how a text uses structure to emphasize key points or advance an explanation or analysis.
8. Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.
RH.9-10.8. Assess the extent to which the reasoning and evidence in a text support the author’s claims.
Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity
10. Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.
RH.9-10.10. By the end of grade 10, read and comprehend history/social studies texts in the grades 9–10 text complexity band independently and proficiently.
2. Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
WHST.9-10.2. Write informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events, scientific procedures/ experiments, or technical processes.
WHST.9-10.2a. Introduce a topic and organize ideas, concepts, and information to make important connections and distinctions; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., figures, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.
WHST.9-10.2b. Develop the topic with well-chosen, relevant, and sufficient facts, extended definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples appropriate to the audience’s knowledge of the topic.
WHST.9-10.2c. Use varied transitions and sentence structures to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the relationships among ideas and concepts.
WHST.9-10.2d. Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to manage the complexity of the topic and convey a style appropriate to the discipline and context as well as to the expertise of likely readers.
WHST.9-10.2e. Establish and maintain a formal style and objective tone while attending to the norms and conventions of the discipline in which they are writing.
WHST.9-10.2f. Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the information or explanation presented (e.g., articulating implications or the significance of the topic).
Production and Distribution of Writing
4. Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
WHST.9-10.4. Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
5. Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.
WHST.9-10.5. Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience.
Research to Build and Present Knowledge
7. Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
WHST.9-10.7. Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
8. Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.
WHST.9-10.8. Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the usefulness of each source in answering the research question; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.
9. Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
WHST.9-10.9. Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
Range of Writing
10. Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.
WHST.9-10.10. Write routinely over extended time frames (time for reflection and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.
MI: Social Studies (2007)
High School
Civics & Government
2.2 Foundational Values and Constitutional Principles of American Government
Explain how the American idea of constitutional government has shaped a distinctive American society through the investigation of such questions as: How have the fundamental values and principles of American constitutional government shaped American society?
2.2.5 Use examples to investigate why people may agree on constitutional principles and fundamental values in the abstract, yet disagree over their meaning when they are applied to specific situations.
3.1 Structure, Functions, and Enumerated Powers of National Government Describe how the national government is organized and what it does through the investigation of such questions as: What is the structure of the national government? What are the functions of the national government? What are its enumerated powers?
3.1.2 Analyze the purposes, organization, functions, and processes of the executive branch as enumerated in Article II of the Constitution.
3.1.4 Identify the role of independent regulatory agencies in the federal bureaucracy (e.g., Federal Reserve Board, Food and Drug Administration, Federal Communications Commission).
3.1.5 Use case studies or examples to examine tensions between the three branches of government (e.g., powers of the purse and impeachment, advise and consent, veto power, and judicial review).
3.2 Powers and Limits on Powers
Identify how power and responsibility are distributed, shared, and limited in American constitutional government through the investigation of such questions as: How are power and responsibility distributed, shared, and limited in the government established by the United States Constitution?
3.2.1 Explain how the principles of enumerated powers, federalism, separation of powers, bicameralism, checks and balances, republicanism, rule of law, individual rights, inalienable rights, separation of church and state, and popular sovereignty serve to limit the power of government.
3.5 Other Actors in the Policy Process
Describe the roles of political parties, interest groups, the media, and individuals in determining and shaping public policy through the investigation of such questions as: What roles do political parties, interest groups, the media, and individuals play in the development of public policy?
3.5.6 Explain the significance of campaigns and elections in American politics, current criticisms of campaigns, and proposals for their reform.
3.5.7 Explain the role of television, radio, the press, and the internet in political communication.
C4 The United States of America and World Affairs
4.1 Formation and Implementation of U.S. Foreign Policy Describe the formation and implementation of U.S. foreign policy through such questions as: How is foreign policy formed and implemented in American constitutional government?
4.1.1 Identify and evaluate major foreign policy positions that have characterized the United States’ relations with the world (e.g., isolated nation, imperial power, world leader) in light of foundational values and principles, provide examples of how they were implemented and their consequences (e.g., Spanish- American War, Cold War containment)
4.1.2 Describe the process by which United States foreign policy is made, including the powers the Constitution gives to the president; Congress and the judiciary; and the roles federal agencies, domestic interest groups, the public, and the media play in foreign policy.
4.1.3 Evaluate the means used to implement U.S. foreign policy with respect to current or past international issues (e.g., diplomacy, economic, military and humanitarian aid, treaties, sanctions, military intervention, and covert action).
4.1.4 Using at least two historical examples, explain reasons for, and consequences of, conflicts that arise when international disputes cannot be resolved peacefully.
4.2 U.S. Role in International Institutions and Affairs
Identify the roles of the United States of America in international institutions and affairs through the investigation of such questions as: What is the role of the United States in international institutions and affairs?
4.2.4 Identify the purposes and functions of governmental and non-governmental international organizations, and the role of the United States in each (e.g., the United Nations, NATO, World Court, Organization of American States, International Red Cross, Amnesty International).
4.2.5 Evaluate the role of the United States in important bilateral and multilateral agreements (e.g., NAFTA, Helsinki Accords, Antarctic Treaty, Most Favored Nation Agreements, and the Kyoto Protocol).
C6 Citizenship in Action
6.1 Civic Inquiry and Public Discourse Use forms of inquiry and construct reasoned arguments to engage in public discourse around policy and public issues by investigating the question: How can citizens acquire information, solve problems, make decisions, and defend positions about public policy issues?
6.1.1 Identify and research various viewpoints on significant public policy issues.
6.1.2 Locate, analyze, and use various forms of evidence, information, and sources about a significant public policy issue, including primary and secondary sources, legal documents (e.g., Constitutions, court decisions, state law), non-text based information (e.g., maps, charts, tables, graphs, and cartoons), and other forms of political communication (e.g., oral political cartoons, campaign advertisements, political speeches, and blogs).
6.1.3 Develop and use criteria (e.g., logical validity, factual accuracy and/or omission, emotional appeal, credibility, unstated assumptions, logical fallacies, inconsistencies, distortions, and appeals to bias or prejudice, overall strength of argument) in analyzing evidence and position statements.
6.2 Participating in Civic Life
Describe multiple opportunities for citizens to participate in civic life by investigating the question: How can citizens participate in civic life?
6.2.4 Participate in a real or simulated election, and evaluate the results, including the impact of voter turnout and demographics.
© Copyright 2010. National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and Council of Chief State School Officers. All rights reserved.
Wayne RESA