Presidential Power and Responsibilities – Middle School

The Six Roles of the President

Oval Office copy 2

Estimated Class Time

    25-45 minutes


    Copies of the following:

    • Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution
    • Six Roles, One President handout
    • President Truman’s schedule from May 21, 1945
    • Analysis of Truman’s Schedule worksheet
    • Presidential Power and Influence Worksheet

Video Clip

    Coming Soon!

Vocabulary & Key Concepts

    Presidential Power, Chief of State, Chief Executive, Chief Diplomat, Commander in Chief, Chief Legislator, Chief of Party

Common Core Standards


    Further lessons can examine the role of the presidency and how it has changed over time. Students can research and compare three presidents in the last 50-100 years and how the role of the office has changed over time. For example, students can compare and contrast the schedules of Presidents Obama, Reagan, and Truman from the same day of the year or following a similar event (e.g., first day of their second term). Students will then consider what roles each president applied to their schedules.

    Students may also conduct extensive research on two to three presidents and craft an argument-driven essay in response to the question: Have interpretations of constitutional powers of the presidency changed over time? Students should consider which presidential role(s) was (were) dominant for each president and what roles conflicted during their term.


    This lesson can be adapted by choosing three roles to concentrate on in the presidency—Chief Executive, Commander-in-Chief, and Chief of State are dominant roles students can study for awareness of presidential power.  Instead of studying the schedule, visual images of president’s performing their duties can be used to generate discussion among students and the role of the president.  For example, show a picture of the president at a State Dinner, visiting troops overseas, and appointing a Supreme Court Justice, and discuss as a class which presidential role is being demonstrated and why. Visual images can be used to enhance learning opportunities of the students.

Related Documents & Worksheets

Further Research

    • Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. labeled the presidency the “Imperial Presidency.” Define the “Imperial presidency” and explain what the author meant. Do you agree or disagree with the author’s view of the presidency?
    • Has the role of the president exceeded what the founders intended?
    • Which is the more powerful branch of government, Congress or the President? Debate.
    • What are other executive powers of the presidency other than the roles?
    • Research executive orders and how they differ from laws.  When have president’s used executive orders? For what purpose? How have executive orders increased the power of the presidency under recent administrations?
    • What is the difference between executive agreements and treaties?
    • Research the term “bully pulpit.” How has the media increased/decreased the power of the presidency?


    Executive Branch, Powers of the President


    This lesson introduces students to the office of the President by examining the six roles of the modern President of the United States based on the powers enumerated in Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution and precedent set by president’s throughout history. Students will then analyze President Harry S. Truman’s schedule from May 21, 1945 to further explore the six roles of the President of the United States. As students research the roles of the president, they discover the many types of action a president might take in a given situation. The lesson begins with a short clip from We the People, a giant screen film and the compelling question “What roles does the President of the United States play?”

Learning Objectives

    • Students will discuss presidential power as defined in Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution.
    • Students will learn the six roles commonly associated with the presidency.
    • Students will analyze President Truman’s schedule from May 21, 1945 and determine which of the six roles of the president is used in each scheduled meeting.
    • Students will apply the lessons learned about the six roles of the president by determining how to respond to a crisis using the six roles of the president.

Guiding Questions

    • What powers does Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution grant the President of the United States?
    • In practice, what are the president’s primary roles?
    • How are the roles of the presidency applied in various situations?


    Presidents of the United States must serve in different capacities throughout their terms in order to fulfill the duties of the office as established in the U.S. Constitution. Formal powers given to the president are derived from Article II in the Constitution; informal roles have evolved over time. In order to understand the many powers a president possesses, student must analyze the roles a president faces in the day-to-day running of the country.


    1. Read Six Roles, One President as a group.
    2. Examine Truman’s Schedule from May 21, 1945.
      1. Note the crowded schedule and the amount of time allotted to meet with people. Ask students to consider who got the most time and why?
    3. As a class, determine which presidential roles (if any) are reflected in the first two meetings listed on the Analysis of Truman’s Schedule worksheet.
    4. Divide the group into small groups to complete the rest of the Analysis of Truman’s Schedule worksheet.
      1. Tell students there could be more than one right answer and not to overthink the schedule.
    5. Share the answers as a group and discuss.
    6. Apply the knowledge by completing one of two scenarios in the Presidential Power and Influence section.
      1. Working as a large group complete “Chief of State” portion.
        1. Possible answers include making a speech or going on a presidential visit to provide exposure for the problem of starving women and children.
      2. Have the students complete the rest of the chart in their small groups.
      3. Share answers as a class.

Assessment Recommendation

    Political Cartoon or Newspaper Article
    Have students read a current newspaper article or political cartoon of their choice that focuses on the presidency. Have students identify which role(s) are reflected in the coverage of the president, then explain how presidential power is reflected in that role.

    Have students research and create a Powerpoint/Prezi/iMovie explaining the powers of the presidency using examples from the current administration.

    Have students research President Obama’s schedule at Each student should pick a day within the last month and create a poster identifying and explaining the roles of the presidency based on the president’s schedule.

    Choose a current event related to the president and share it with the class. Have students write a synopsis of the event on the blank Presidential Power and Influence Worksheet, then fill out the rest of the worksheet to demonstrate which presidential roles apply to the current issue and what kind of action(s) the president could take in that role.