Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Cabinet Chronicles: Unraveling the U.S. Executive Departments

Executive Branch, Cabinet, Executive Departments

Dannie Deason, Mariana DeLoera, Erin Finley | Published: May 22nd, 2024 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th
  • Subject Subject Social Studies
  • Course Course U.S. Government
  • Time Frame Time Frame 125–150 Minutes
  • Duration More 3–4 periods


In this lesson, students will research the role of the President’s Cabinet and the Executive Departments in creating public policy. Students will explore the duties of the cabinet, then participate in a simulated activity to gain a deeper understanding of the role the executive departments play in our lives.

Essential Question(s)

What are the President’s Cabinet and the Executive Departments, and what role do they serve in the United States Government? How do the Executive Departments impact the lives of individuals through the implementation of public policy?



Students classify statements about the decision-making process as “always, sometimes, or never true.”


Students watch a video about the President’s Cabinet, then create an anchor chart about one executive department.


Students complete a gallery walk and summarize the roles of each executive department in a graphic organizer.


Students further analyze the roles of the Executive Departments through an iCivics simulation game.


Students reflect on their learning by composing a two-minute paper that addresses the essential questions for the lesson.


  • Lesson Slides (attached)

  • Poster exemplar (attached)

  • Department Name Strips (attached, one per class)

  • Anchor Chart Checklist handout (attached; one per group)

  • Gallery Walk Graphic Organizer handout (attached; one per student)

  • Executive Command Note Catcher handout (attached; one per student)

  • Student devices with internet access

  • Notebook paper 

  • Poster paper 

  • Markers 


10 Minute(s)

Introduce the lesson using the attached Lesson Slides. Move to slide 3 and share the instructional strategy Always, Sometimes, or Never True  with your students. Explain to students that you will be sharing a series of statements with them and they should decide whether the following statements are always, sometimes, or never true. 

As you go through the statements with students, have students raise their hands to reflect their responses. Invite a few to share their responses and explain their reasoning. Repeat this process for slides 4–9.

  • I go with my gut feeling when making a decision.

  • I consider the potential consequences before making a decision. 

  • I take time to gather information and evaluate my options before making important decisions. 

  • I ask for advice from trusted people in my life before deciding.  

  • I take responsibility for my decisions, whether they turn out positively or negatively. 

  • I try to learn from past decisions to improve my decision-making process. 

Once you have gone through every statement, move to slides 11–12 to introduce the lesson’s objectives and essential questions.


60 Minute(s)

Display slide 13 and have students watch a brief video, President's Cabinet.

Once students have watched the video, move to slide 14 and ask them to share what they noticed about the President’s Cabinet and how it connects to their prior knowledge of the president’s duties. Invite a few students to share out. 

Transition to slide 15. Divide students into groups of three and introduce them to the Anchor Chart strategy. Explain to students that they will choose one of the executive departments to research and create an Anchor Chart over with their group. Go over the expectations as a class using the Anchor Chart Checklist handout (attached). Expectations can also be found on slide 16

Each poster should feature the following: 

  • Title/Bio: Name of the department, year it was created, and name of the current secretary.

  • Roles and Responsibilities: List the daily functions and responsibilities of this department. 

  • Current Initiatives: List three current initiatives of this department.

  • Real-World Connection: List three ways the department impacts your everyday life. 

  • Historical Timeline: Include a timeline featuring five major decisions, regulations, and/or impacts from this department.

  • Visual Representation: Include an image or seal to represent this department. 

  • Formatting: Ensure your Anchor Chart is neat, organized, and uses your own voice.

Consider ending Day 1 after reviewing expectations. Use Day 2 as a work day. Once students complete their anchor charts, have students hang them around the room. 


20 Minute(s)

Begin Day 3 by ensuring all posters are hung around the room. Display slide 17 and introduce the instructional strategy Gallery Walk / Carousel. Distribute the Gallery Walk Graphic Organizer handout (attached) to each student and, as a class, review the expectations for each column. Instruct them to move around the room exploring the different executive departments. Direct students to fill out the graphic organizer as they rotate. 

After students have completed their Gallery Walk, bring the class back together and invite students to share out which life impacts stood out to them the most, and any final thoughts.


45 Minute(s)

Display slide 18, and pass out the attached Executive Command Note Catcher to each student. Click on the link to iCivics and display the game, Executive Command, and start a new game. Model how to play the game for students for just a few minutes. 

After modeling the game for the whole class, return to slide 18 and have students use their personal devices to access the game Executive Command. Provide time for students to play the game together while taking notes with the Executive Command Note Catcher. When students successfully complete the game, they are given a completion certificate. If desired, have students “print” their certificate, and choose “save as PDF” so students can submit their certificate via email or through an LMS.


5 Minute(s)

Display slide 19, which lists the two essential questions of the lesson. Have students take out a blank sheet of paper and write a Two-Minute Paper that addresses the two essential questions:

What are the President’s Cabinet and the Executive Departments, and what role do they serve in the United States Government? 

How do the Executive Departments impact the lives of individuals through the implementation of public policy? 

Explain to students that they have two minutes to reflect on what they have learned as they revisit the essential questions. You can use the K20 Center 2 minute timer for this. Because of the short timeframe, reassure students that they do not need to worry about their papers being entirely grammatically correct. Rather, they should do their best to explain to you what they have learned over the course of the lesson.