For Teachers

Try These Different Ideas to help Teach about the Presidency

Comparing State of the Union Speeches

The President’s State of the Union speech gives a report to the nation on how our country is doing. Have your students visit “The Public Papers of the Presidents”:

Instruct students to search the presidential papers for the State of the Union Address for the year they were born:

  • 1

    Issues

    What issues did the country struggle with according to the State of the Union Address?

  • 2

    Changes

    What has changed in the years since the State of the Union Address was given?

  • 3

    Contrast

    Have students contrast their speech with the current State of the Union.

Have students research the qualifications to be president by visiting the “List of U.S. Presidents” page [here]and have them answer these:

  • 1

    Make Sense?

    Do these qualifications still make sense today's world?

  • 2

    Your View

    Write your opinion about whether these rules should or should not change.

Family Interviews about past Presidents

Have students interview the older members of their families and ask about the family member’s most memorable president in their lifetime.

Provide students with a list of interview questions to ask:

Why was this president so memorable for you?
What did people think about him at the time?
What was the president’s greatest achievement?
Why do you think the president got elected?

Then have the students do research on the president their family member remembered. How does history present this president?

Students may be surprised to learn that presidents their family members revere or remember, like FDR or JFK, were not as loved at the time.

The Bully Pulpit

Presidents have a lot of influence, both in and out of office. Many presidents find causes they want to work on-for example, President Jimmy Carter’s work with Habitat for Humanity [what?] once he left office.

Ask students to imagine they are the president…

  • What issue or topic–not political–would they use the “bully pulpit” to highlight?

  • How would they do it? Lead by example? Give awards to celebrate people working in that field?

  • Why do they think the president’s influence would make a difference?

Vice Presidents: The Most InsigniFicant OfFice

The first Vice President, John Adams, called his job “the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived.”

Research topics/themes about the vice presidency you may want your students to explore:

  • How many Vice Presidents have gone on to become President?

  • Who is the most interesting Vice President? Why?

  • Who do you think is the most important Vice President in presidential history? Why?

Presidents and Military Experience

Throughout U.S. history, many presidents have been veterans and even war heroes.

Have students research the military careers of president:

George Washington

1789-1797

Andrew Jackson

1829-1837

Theodore Roosevelt

1901-1909

Ulysses S. Grant

1869-1877

Dwight D. Eisenhower

1953-1961

John Fitzgerald Kennedy

1961-1963

After students have researched the military careers of the above presidents (or just one of them) ask them or have them write answers to these questions:

Why have many military veterans been elected to the presidency?

Why is it that more recent presidents (Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Donald Trump) have had limited (or no) military experience?

Has having been in the military mattered during their presidency?

From the 'military' presidents you have researched, has military service helped or hindered a president?

Test that appears in the student section of the presidents website

This form was created using Google Forms. If you would like your students to fill out the form online, you can receive the answers by emailing tchilds@historymuseumsb.org and giving him your email address and he’ll share the quiz form with you.