- Understand functions of the executive branch of government
- Explain ways that individuals and groups may influence public policy
- Use reason and evidence to make decisions
- Use technology to communicate ideas
- Computer(s) with Internet access
Set Up and Prepare
- Preview the "If You Were President" game prior to the lesson.
Step 1: Introduce your lesson by explaining that for today's class, students will get to act as President of the United States. Review with students some of the important decisions that the President makes — creating a budget for the nation, deploying troops, appointing judges, signing bills into law, etc. Write these responsibilities on the board, then ask students to think about how one leader can possibly do all of these things. How does the President know what's going on in faraway countries, monitor the environment, make sure schools are doing a good job, and handle countless other responsibilities, all at the same time? Guide students to understand that one of the first things a new President does in office is create a team of s to help with those tasks.
Step 2: Have students log on to "" Invite them to enter a first name and indicate whether they are a boy or a girl. Take a moment to remind students that they should never enter personal information without asking a parent, teacher, or other responsible adult. In this case, the information will be used to generate a printable newspaper article about the student as President; it will not be viewed or collected by Scholastic or any outside party.
Step 3: The next screen invites students to choose their team of s. Have students read the short description of each and begin weighing each person's qualifications. Without influencing students' selections, explain that it is important to think carefully about how each can help them make decisions.
Encourage students to consider:
• What topic(s) does this probably know a lot about?
• What experience or qualifications does this person have to be a presidential ?
• Will this person help you as President to make smart decisions?
Have students choose three of the five s by clicking on their icons. Remind students to choose wisely; they will not be able to go back and change their selections once they continue.
Step 4: Before students tackle the next step in the game, check that they understand the concept of a budget. Use a household budget as an example. Explain that students' parents probably earn a certain amount of money each month. That money has to pay for housing (rent or mortgage), food, clothing, medical care, and transportation, as well as extras like movies or sporting-event tickets. Explain that when we create a budget, we decide how much money we will spend on each category. When the amount we are spending equals the amount we have available to spend, the budget is considered balanced. Discuss what might happen if a family decided to go to the movies every night: They might not have enough money left in their budget for important things like food and medicine. Guide students to understand that a balanced budget is as important for the nation as it is for a household.
Step 5: Have students read the five budget categories that they must weigh as President — education, the environment, health care, the military, and crime prevention — and use the sliders to indicate what percentage of the nation's budget they would like to dedicate to each category. Point out the pie chart on the right that shows how the budget breaks down as well as the bar at the bottom of the page that will let students know when their budget is balanced. Remind them to think critically about their budgets; later, they will be asked to explain why they gave more funding to some categories than to others. Have students click to present their budget to the American people.
Step 6: Just like the real President, your Presidents-for-the-day will be scrutinized by the press! As students proceed to the next step of the game, they will be asked to respond to reporters' questions about their decisions. First, they will be asked to explain why they chose the s they did. Next, they will be asked to justify the top and bottom items on their budgets. Encourage students to respond as if they are speaking to a real reporter and may be quoted. Ask: What would you say to show Americans that you made each decision very carefully? Have students type their responses in the spaces provided.
Step 7: In the final step, the game will generate a newspaper front page with stories about each student President. Have students print out the page and share it with a partner. Ask partners to discuss what decisions they might make differently if they were to be President all over again. If you'd like, use the news pages to create a "" bulletin board or hallway display.
Supporting All Learners
To help English-language learners with the interview question portion of the game, act as a reporter and rephrase each question in simpler language. Repeat students' answers back to them so they can hear how they sound and revise if necessary.
The game explores five important categories in the nation's budget. As a class, brainstorm other things the federal budget covers (upkeep of federal highways, space exploration, national parks, help for the poor, etc.).
For homework, invite students to describe a person (real or imagined) whom they would choose as a presidential and explain why they would select that person.
Have each student hand in his or her completed newspaper front page. Evaluate whether each student was able to create a thought-out, balanced budget' choose s wisely and explain his or her decisions.
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