Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

What Are the Powers of the President?

Executive Branch

Susan McHale | Published: June 8th, 2022 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th
  • Subject Subject Social Studies
  • Course Course U.S. Government
  • Time Frame Time Frame 2-3 class period(s)
  • Duration More 150 minutes


Students will identify the qualifications of the presidency and determine what powers the president can exercise, as delineated by the constitution. Students will read about how presidents in the past have used executive orders to further a goal or ideal. Students will demonstrate their understanding of the qualifications and powers of the executive branch through a Color, Symbol, Image activity.

Essential Question(s)

What are the qualifications to be president of the United States? What are the powers of the president?



Students discuss what they believe should be the qualifications of a president and compare these to the constitutional qualifications.


Students guess what might be the powers of the president.


Students determine what the powers of the president are by checking the constitution through a Justified List activity.


Students read about how executive orders by the president can override the approval of Congress.


Students complete a Color, Symbol, Image activity to demonstrate their understanding of the qualifications and powers of the executive branch.


  • Teacher PowerPoint

  • Justified List for each student

  • Class set of Article II of The Constitution

  • Class set: A Reading about Executive Orders (linked in-text)

  • 8x11 sheets of computer paper for Magnetic Statements

  • Color, Symbol, Image activity sheet for each student


Class discussion: Show PowerPoint slide 1 (title) that discusses the essential questions. Tell students that these are the questions that this lesson will address. Next, show PowerPoint slide 2. Ask students to share any qualifications that would make a good president. List any ideas that students discuss on the board. Show PowerPoint slide 3, which lists the qualifications of the president as stated in the constitution. Ask students to discuss the following questions about the qualifications of the presidency (PowerPoint slide 4).

  1. Why do you believe the framers chose these particular qualifications for the presidency?

  2. In looking at the qualifications, what seemed most important to the framers?

  3. In comparing these constitutional qualifications with those listed on the board, what is different?

  4. Why do you think the framers did not include certain qualifications?


Justified List Activity: Pass out the handout titled "What Are the Powers of the President Justified List" to students and explain the directions (slide 5). Read both the directions and the statements on the handout aloud. Tell students that campaign promises made by presidents may not all be written in or supported by the articles of the constitution and presidents do take the oath of office to uphold the constitution.

Have students check any campaign promises of President Donald Trump that they think are probably supported by the articles of the constitution.

Allow time for students to choose what they believe are the president's constitutional powers.


Pair students into partners. Pass out the class handout of article II (a copy of which can be found under Attachments). Ask partners to reread each campaign promise and see if they can justify each activity with executive powers enumerated in the constitution. Students should write down the article, section number, and phrase that supports each campaign promise as they find it listed. Partners may wish to divide up the 10 statements where each partner does five statements and shares their answers with their partner. Make sure that students understand that they might not necessarily find constitutional support for every promise on their list.


Pass out the reading "Executive Orders coming? Here's How They Work" to all students. The CNBC article can be found on the news outlet's website at the link provided or by using the URL found in the Resources section. Explain that there are times when a president believes strongly in pursuing a goal but may not be able to win approval from Congress for this action. In this case, presidents can use the power of executive orders without Congressional approval. An example of this would be that during World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which created internment camps for Japanese-Americans. Roosevelt feared that, although these people were Americans, they might be persuaded to spy for the Japanese.

Have students read the article that explains executive orders. If students struggle with reading, the teacher can read the article aloud as students read silently along.

Have students look at the chart titled, "Executive Orders over the Years," (PowerPoint slide 7). Using this chart and the reading, have students discuss the following questions (PowerPoint slide 8):

  1. What are some of the reasons that past presidents chose to use executive orders? Several presidents have used executive orders to enforce the civil rights of minorities.

  2. Who has issued the most executive orders? Why do you think this president has the most orders? Franklin D. Roosevelt. He used executive orders during the Great Depression and World War II, two major crises in American history. He also served almost four terms in office, which also added to the high number.

  3. When would an executive order be rescinded or eliminated? When another president comes into power and wants to rescind the executive order of a previous president; when the executive order violates the constitution; and when an executive order violates the law, an order may be rescinded or eliminated.

Introduce the Justified List again (PowerPoint slide 9) of the campaign promises of Donald Trump. Of those not supported by article II of the constitution (already posted around the room), have students "vote" with their feet on any statements that they believe might merit an executive order (or they can choose to vote "None").

Once students are standing by the statement they believe justifies an executive order, have students explain their reasoning. If more than one student is standing by the same statement, the group should discuss their reasoning and come up with one answer as to why it warrants an executive order. Students should also be able to express their reasons for voting "None" as well.

During the discussion of the statements, share with students that presidents may issue an executive order, but it may be overturned by the Supreme Court if the executive order violates the constitution. Do any of these statements interfere with the other articles or amendments to the U.S. Constitution? Have students identify or brainstorm what the potential conflicts with the constitution might be.

Show PowerPoint slide 10, which poses the question: Would these promises violate the constitution? Further information is provided on the slide.


Review the qualifications of the president and remind students of some of the powers of the executive branch along with its limitations. These are shown on PowerPoint slide 11.

Pass out the Color, Symbol, Image activity (more information on this activity can be found by clicking on the link or using the URL, which can be found under Resources). Ask students to think of a color, symbol, and an image for the presidency of the United States. These directions are provided on PowerPoint slide 12. In their explanations of the color, symbol, and image, have students use reasoning that demonstrates their understanding of both the qualifications and powers of the executive branch. They may need to look at the article II handout for help.