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Cabinet Reflective Experience

Lesson Author
Required Time Frame
Two 90 minute class periods
Grade Level(s)
Lesson Abstract
This lesson will give students the opportunity to examine the role of the President from various angles to consider its important role within the United States’ government.

This lesson will give students the opportunity to examine the role of the President from various angles to consider its important role within the United States’ government. Students will be given the opportunity to examine how current and former presidents have used their cabinet, in addition to assuming the role of president themselves.

Rationale (why are you doing this?)

A cabinet can have a play influential role in the decision-making process of the president, so it is important for students to understand what the cabinet is and the role that they can play in shaping policy.

Lesson Objectives - the student will
  • Students will examine the evolving role of the Cabinet.
  • Students will examine the pros and cons of unvarnished feedback from the Cabinet.
District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met
  • Tennessee: GC.23 Evaluate various explanations for actions or events through textual evidence to analyze the scope of presidential power and decision-making related to significant examples, including the Cuban Missile Crisis, passage of Great Society legislation, War Powers Act, Gulf War, and intervention in Bosnia. (H, P)
Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed
  • Students will read from Peter W. Rodman’s New York Times article ‘Presidential Command,’ which looks at how presidents have used their cabinets throughout history.


  • Students will watch a video that takes them inside as President Obama cabinet meeting.


  • Students will watch President Trump hold one of his first cabinet meetings



  • Students will watch a clip from the 2012 film Lincoln in which President Lincoln held a cabinet meeting addressing the issue of slavery.

Primary sources needed (document, photograph, artifact, diary or letter, audio or visual recording, etc.) needed
  • Students will examine cabinet meeting minutes from President Ford’s cabinet meeting on the evacuation of Saigon


  • Students will examine minutes from President Truman’s cabinet meeting on tightening up administration communication with media outlets to coordinate messaging on foreign policy.

Fully describe the activity or assignment in detail. What will both the teacher and the students do?
  • Students will begin class by being exposed to the history of the cabinet through various primary and secondary sources. These will be examined at various stations, with students spending 8-10 minutes per station. Students will use this time to better understand the various approaches different presidents took to their cabinet. Ultimately, this will be used as students will assume the role or either a cabinet member or president and will be asked to determine how they would use a cabinet.
  • (Please see below) Next, students will be placed in groups of five. Within these groups, students will be given either the role of a cabinet position or students will be given the role of president. Students will work together to address the issue at hand: an earthquake which has destroyed the Bay Area. Throughout this activity, students will apply approaches used by presidents to a realistic scenario.

A Major Earthquake Hits the Bay Area of San Francisco and Oakland, CA

What do you say at your cabinet meeting . . .

Department of Homeland Security:

As it is your primary job to keep America safe, you should advocate for funding because . . .

  • Money will be needed to provide immediate disaster relief for all citizens impacted. This includes temporary housing, food, shelter, and removal of destroyed homes.
  • Coordination must be done with other agencies and the military to provide security, or else looing and crime will occur.

Department of the Interior:

As it is your primary job to protect America’s land, you should advocate for funding because . . .

  • The city will need to be rebuilt with advance technology that prevents structural damage in the event of future earthquakes.
  • Damage was done to the Golden Gate Bridge, which is not only a major American landmark, but also critical to the economy of the Bay area.

Department of Education:

As it is your primary job to educate America, you should advocate for funding because . . .

  • You will need to spend millions of dollars to rebuild school destroyed by the earthquake.
  • Failure to rebuild the schools will result in the decline of education and population in the Bay area.
  • Education of the youth must be the nation’s top priority, as they are our nation’s future.

Department of Health and Human Services:

As it is your primary job to maintain the health of America, you should advocate for funding because . . .

  • You will ensure that necessary first aid materials reach the Bay area.
  • You will ensure crisis counselors and food assistance programs are available for those who need help during this crisis.
  •  Quick action by this department is key to prevent rioting and looting.
Assessment: fully explain the assessment method in detail or create and attach a scoring guide

As an assessment piece, students will be required to write a reflective essay on the proper role of the cabinet. The essay will be 2-3 pages, typed, double spaced. In the essay students will be required to include at least three pieces of evidence gained from their work at the stations. Likewise, students will be required to assess how their group did within their cabinet simulation. Ultimately, students will be required to make a conclusion on the best approach to successfully utilize a cabinet as president based on their perceptions of the strengths and failures of the presidents they examined.