PLAN:THE PRESIDENT'S CABINET: CHOOSING THE RIGHT PERSON FOR THE JOB
Subjects: Social Studies, Government, History
Estimated Time: Approximately three 45-minute class periods
1: Reviewing the System of Checks and Balances (approx. 45 minutes)
2. Once students are seated, direct them to write their names on the top of the index card. Next, direct their attention to the term "Checks and Balances" on the board. Give students 60-90 seconds to use their prior knowledge to write a definition for the term on their index card. If students are unfamiliar with the term, ask them to make an educated guess about what it means.
3. Working as a class and using students' brainstorming ideas, create a definition for the term checks and balances. After 5-10 minutes of discussion and brainstorming, help the class get to a definition such as: "Checks and balances are a system that keeps one branch of government from having more power than the others. It helps to separate and define the powers that each of the 3 branches of government have."
4. Next, review the 3 branches of government: Executive, Legislative, and Judicial. Use a graphic organizer such as the one found at:
to show students a basic summary of each branch and its powers. Visit the U.S. Constitution Online for articles on the separation of powers and the system of checks and balances at http://www.usconstitution.net/consttop_cnb.html. Be sure all students understand the basic powers of each branch, particularly when it comes to presidential appointments.
Part 2: Learning about the Federal Confirmation Process (approx. 45 minutes)
5. Next, introduce students to the process one must go through if he/she is appointed to a key position by the president. Using the Confirmation Process Flow Chart, have each student complete a graphic organizer that shows the steps a candidate must go through in order to be placed in the job. Work as a class to discuss each component and how the system of checks and balances is working throughout the process.
6. Once students have completed the flow chart and have a basic understanding of the process, introduce them to some of the nominees for key positions vacant in the Cabinet using a recent newspaper or magazine articles or an online source such as: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/rice_11-16-04.html (President Nominated Condoleezza Rice to Serve as Secretary of State) http://www.pbs.org/newshour/extra/features/july-dec04/justice_11-15.html (New Attorney General Will Help Shape National Policy)
7. In the second part of the discussion, talk about why political parties can make a difference in a nomination such as this, particularly since it is an election year. Some topics to explore in this discussion could include:
8. Now it is time to go back to the index cards distributed at the beginning of class. Use these to break students into two groups. Red should go to one side of the room, blue to the other side. From here, students should choose a partner with the same color sticker. At this time, tell students if they are red, they are democrats and if they are blue, they are republicans (or vice versa). Partners should move to be seated next to one another in class.
9. Distribute a Finding the Facts worksheet to each student. Review the directions for completing the worksheet. Explain to students that they will be working with their partner to find answers to questions about whether or not a certain nominee for a specific position should be approved. Stress the importance of doing fact-based research while recording facts that support the particular point of view supported by the party they are representing. Remind students they will be relying on the data they collect to conduct a class debate about the confirmation.
3: Should Nominees Be Confirmed? An Informal Debate (approx. 45 minutes)
11. Next, create a large flow chart like the one from the Confirmation Process Flow Chart worksheet and place it on the overhead or board. Have students work as a class to fill in the specific steps that will need to be taken to decide if the selected nominee will be confirmed.
12. Explain to students that you will now act as the moderator for an informal debate about the nominee and whether or not he/she should be confirmed for the position. The "Democrats" and "Republicans" will need to take turns presenting the facts that support their ideas about the qualifications and effectiveness of this particular candidate. Encourage students to share as much information as possible when presenting their ideas. Allow for debate and discussion between the two sides for as long as time permits or until all ideas are exhausted.
13. Close class discussion about the confirmation process by reminding students about what they learned about "partisan politics" earlier. Then, using the back side of the index cards, have each student vote YES if they would confirm the nominee for the specified position or NO if they would not confirm him/her. In the space below their vote, have each student write 1-2 sentences explaining the reasons for his/her vote.
14. Collect all of the ballots and do a quick tabulation. Show the following data:
NOTE: To add a math element, have students create charts or graphs to represent the results of the voting.
15. End with a final discussion about the results of the vote. Include ideas such as:
16. Continue following up on this activity by keeping a blank copy of the confirmation process flow chart posted in the classroom and completing it as various phases of the confirmation process take place. In addition, encourage students to post current news articles about the process and take time to share these with the class periodically until the decision about the nominee has been made.
2. Examine the confirmation process more closely, especially as it relates to the appointment of judges on the federal level. There has been much controversy over the confirmation process, and with two Supreme Court justices due to retire soon and the potential to have a new president in place, many are suggesting that the process needs to be evaluated. Have students research the controversy surrounding the confirmation process for judges and present possible solutions for ensuring that the best judges are chosen for federal positions, particularly the Supreme Court. Have students present these ideas in the form of persuasive speeches, letters to the editor, or editorials.
Author Lisa Prososki is an independent educational consultant who taught middle school and high school English, social studies, reading, and technology courses for twelve years. Prososki has worked extensively with PBS authoring and editing many lesson plans for various PBS programs and TeacherSource. In addition to conducting workshops for teachers at various state and national meetings, Prososki also works with many corporate clients creating training programs and materials, facilitating leadership and operations workshops, and providing instructional support for new program rollouts. Prososki has authored one book and also serves as an editor for other writers of instructional materials.
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