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TeachNet NYC: Lesson Plans
Presidential Decisions 

Project URL: http://teachersnetwork.org/teachnet-lab/fklane/gnewman/presidents.htm

How it works:

Students will study four periods in American History when critical decisions were made by Presidents concerning wars within and wars with foreign foes. There are a number of overriding issues that go hand-in-hand with these crises, including the childhood of a president, the political climate at the time, the will of the American people, and the President's personal feelings and abilities. The following historical periods will be focused upon:

  • Slavery - Abraham Lincoln
  • W.W. I - Woodrow Wilson
  • W.W. II - Franklin D. Roosevelt
  • Post War World- Lyndon Johnson

Students will access the Internet to research the lives of these Presidents and to try to identify the reasons that these chief executives acted in the way that they did.

Standards addressed by this unit:

  • Explain the significance of historical evidence, and understand the concepts of change and continuity over time
  • Illustrate the intersection of people and events across time in U.S. History
  • Understand the concept of multiple causation
  • Conduct research using the Internet and use information found to form and support an opinion


Materials used:

Web browser, word processing application

The students:

This particular project would work best with students who have had prior course work in American History. 

Overall value:

It is important for students to understand what is behind the decisions that are made in the Oval Office. In virtually all of these cases, it is the President and him alone who must shoulder the responsibility of the decision. History will judge him, and he must be ready to explain to the world the reason and motivation for that decision.


A background in American History is necessary to understand the complexity of the issues and events that surround the crux of each presidential decision. The ability to moderate a comprehensive discussion of this issue would also be helpful for the instructor. Bring an opposing point of view to help develop the contrast and devil's advocate position. The discourse should have a possibility of a full-rounded forum.  Be sure to check the links, as the White House site is frequently redesigned and links change.

Gary Newman has been a special education teacher for 13 years, the last seven at Franklin K. Lane High School in New York City.  He specializes in American History and Government, but also teaches Global History and Law.  He likes to prepare students for state comprehensive examinations that are needed to attain a high school diploma in New York State.

Email: gary@fklane.org

Estimated class periods to complete: 4-5

Subject: Social Studies

Beginning grade level: 9

Ending grade level:


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