Presidents’ Day Basics: Explaining the Role of the President to your Classroom

The White House, the U.S. President’s official residence

As we celebrate Presidents Day this month, it might be wise to explain the basic responsibilities of the presidency to your classroom. Luckily, we at Classhook have found videos that can help. In this post, we’ve separated it into three categories: What the President Does and How He/She works with the rest of the government, how the President gets elected, and who is the President.

What the President Does and What the Rest of the Government Does

The President is often viewed as the face of the U.S. government. But in reality, a lot of responsibilities and decisions are split between a large number of people. In particular, there are three branches of the federal government which share these responsibilities: Executive Branch (the President, Vice President, their Cabinet, and Government Departments), the Legislative (Congress), and the Judiciary (the Supreme Court and Other Federal Courts). To explain the differences between these three branches, you should show your classroom one of the following three videos:

NBC News Learn: White House

This clip offers a quick summary of the President’s duties and what they can do.

Crash Course: Government and Politics: Checks and Balances

For a more detailed summary on what the President can do and what the other branches do, what this Crash Course clip.

Schoolhouse Rock!: Three Ring Government

Finally, show this clip from Schoolhouse Rock! for a fun summary of the powers of each of the branches.

How the President Gets Elected

Your students are probably familiar with the basic principles of American Democracy. But the Electoral College, the way the president is elected, can be a bit tricky. To simplify explaining it, you can show one of these two clips:

Ask History: Electoral College

The Ask History clip will sufficiently explain how it works and how it’s different from a straight popular vote.

NBC News Learn: Electoral College

The NBC News Learn clip goes into detail on the strategy involved with winning an election in the electoral college. The segment was from the 1976 election between Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter.

Who is the President

The Current President of the United States is Joe Biden, who was just sworn into office this January. There have been 44 presidents who have served before him (he is officially the 46th president though, because Grover Cleveland served two non-consecutive terms, so he is known as President #22 and #24). It’s not reasonable to expect your classroom to remember every president beyond the most important ones. You can check out our blog posts are four of the more impactful presidents: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy. But in case you want to challenge your students, in this video from The Animaniacs, the Warner Siblings sing a catchy song to help memorize all of the presidents. The episode was created in the 1990s so it won’t include our last four presidents: George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and the aforementioned Joe Biden. It might be a fun activity for your classroom to continue the song and include them in it as well.

Animaniacs: The Presidents Song

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