American Presidents

American Presidents Teacher Guide
To Be A President: The Childrenís View
Recommended Use: Elementary Level

This teacher guide is adapted from a lesson by C-SPAN Champion Teacher Karen Stofcheck of Lecanto Primary School in Lecanto, FL. C-SPAN is provided to her area by Time Warner.

Goal: To explore the duties and roles of the presidents from George Washington to Bill Clinton.


  • Become aware of the main duties of the office of the president of the United States
  • Learn about current events and historical events of significance
  • Use the Internet to explore web sites including C-SPAN's American Presidents web site
  • Express the duties and roles of the presidency through drawings and pictures

Materials & Tools:

  • TV/VCR
  • Videotapes of selected American Presidents segments
  • American Presidents web site
  • A handout listing the United States presidents

Time: Two class periods - one class period for Part I, and a second class period for Part II

PART I - Presidents at Work

1. Before class, videotape a few programs from the weekly American Presidents: Life Portraits series on C-SPAN (The week's programming re-airs every Friday at 8pm ET). Make sure that you include clips of presidents from different time periods.

Select segments that show or describe a president in different roles: diplomat, head-of-state, commander-in-chief, etc.

2. Ask the class to list some of the jobs, duties or roles of a president. Write all of the answers on the left side of the board. Categorize students' answers according to a specific duty. Lead a discussion with students to understand that some of the duties of the president were established in the Constitution and some evolved over time.

3. From the list on the board, have the students pick one role or duty and have them draw a picture of the president performing that duty.

4. Play segments of videotape showing or describing the president performing various duties. After each segment, discuss the content of the programming and assess students' understanding of the material.

5. Ask students to draw a picture that reflects a new understanding of the job of president. Discuss with the students the difference between their two pictures and what they have learned.

PART II - Internet Research
Divide the class into two groups. Have one group visit C-SPANís American Presidents: Life Portraits web site and the other group visit the official White House web site. Students should switch sites to explore during the halfway point of the class time.

Instruct students to explore C-SPAN's American Presidents: Life Portraits web site for examples of past presidents performing different duties. Students should research the White House web site to find examples of the current president performing his different duties. Students can print out and organize the information they find.

Review and Evaluation
1. As a class, students should discuss what they have learned about the presidency. Ask students: What are the most enjoyable duties of the presidency? Least enjoyable? Was there anything that surprised you? Has the job of the president changed over time?

What can you conclude about the job of president? Do you think being president is a job you would like to pursue as an adult? Explain.

2. Ask students to go home and ask their parents about their favorite president. The student, together with his or her parent, should then find three interesting facts about that president. Have a few of the students share their answers with the rest of the class.

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