Without a doubt, one of the relevant social studies discussion topics in the news today is the topic of impeachment. This is not a subject that is approached without trepidation in the current climate, but can we really teach government, civics, or history without addressing such significant current events? So how we can do this in such a way that our students learn and grow and we don’t end up in the news? In this post, we’ll share some good resources that can help you teach about impeachment! One of the things you will note here is that we DO NOT suggest asking students to take a position on the impeachment of President Trump. That is simply not a feasible or appropriate question for many of our classrooms. Instead, let’s consider other ways to address the difficult but important current event.
Dr. Emma Humphries of iCivics offers a really good suggestion for approaching instruction around impeachment:
Teaching the history can be another safe approach. And if you’re teaching older grades with higher reading levels, you can dive right into the Federalist Papers. What did Alexander Hamilton say in Federalist 65 about the impeachment process? Let’s start there. Let’s walk through what happened with President Johnson, with President Nixon, with President Clinton. What similarities do you see? How are these circumstances different? And ask a lot of questions. When students provide answers, really push them to provide evidence in those answers rather than just say what they’re feeling.
Be sure to check out the rest of her interview linked above! She discusses how to approach it with parents, how to address issues in the classroom, and more.
Teaching Impeaching: When Lessons Change
This blog post, by Jennifer Hitchcock from the iCivics Educator Network, presents her own experience in teaching about the impeachment inquiry and provides a good outline of the questions that she asked with her students. Please give it a read, as it really can help you decide how you want to approach this.
An Important Note
Well, we all want resources, don’t we? We’ve taken a look at some of the resources floating around out there (as always, be real careful about what you are pulling off of Teachers Pay Teachers or similiar sites), and identified a few that you might be able to use. As always, make sure that you are aligning your resources and instruction with the relevant standards and benchmarks. Some example middle school civics benchmarks are below.
Relevant Florida Middle School Civics Benchmarks
||Describe how the Constitution limits the powers of government through separation of powers and checks and balances.
||Define the rule of law and recognize its influence on the development of the American legal, political, and governmental systems.
||Analyze the significance and outcomes of landmark Supreme Court cases including, but not limited to, Marbury v. Madison, Plessy v. Ferguson, Brown v. Board of Education, Gideon v. Wainwright, Miranda v. Arizona, in re Gault, Tinker v. Des Moines, Hazelwood v. Kuhlmier, United States v. Nixon, and Bush v. Gore.
||Examine the impact of media, individuals, and interest groups on monitoring and influencing government.
||Examine multiple perspectives on public and current issues.
||Illustrate the structure and function (three branches of government established in Articles I, II, and III with corresponding powers) of government in the United States as established in the Constitution.
||Analyze the structure, functions, and processes of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches.
Also Assesses: SS.7.C.3.9—Illustrate the law making process at the local, state, and federal levels.
||Diagram the levels, functions, and powers of courts at the state and federal levels.
Also Assesses: SS. 7.C.2.6—Simulate the trial process and the role of juries in the administration of justice.
What benchmarks you choose will depend on the approach you take towards teaching about impeachment, so plan accordingly!
Resources for Instruction
High Crimes and Misdemeanors
Constitutional Rights Foundation
This resource provides a strong foundation in understanding the constitutional language around impeachment. It has students completing an extended reading and associated comprehension questions about what ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ means, and then gets into a scenario-based activity around the concept.
The Impeachment Process and President Trump
The Choices Program
While the title of this resource may raise in the teacher the fear of parent (and school) pushback, it does not ask students to decide whether President Trump is worthy of impeachment. Rather, it is mainly focused on understanding media and sources, and developing media literacy skills, using the impeachment inquiry as a relevant and important foundation. Note, for example, that it provides sources from both sides of the question around the appropriateness of the inquiry. I would happily use this resource no matter what.
How Does Impeachment Work-A Quick TED Explainer
The video and its associated page (available at the link above) does a simply fantastic job laying out the process of impeachment and how it works. Indeed, the video is a really useful resource for helping kids how the process as a whole is supposed to be done. It’s worth your time!
The Bill of Rights Institute
This lesson, like others we have shared here, focuses on the process and the approach to impeachment, exploring the constitutional questions around impeachment.
A Final Note
The resources provided here take a couple of different approaches to teaching about impeachment, but they all have one thing in common: they DO NOT ask students to ‘decide whether President Trump deserves to be impeached’. While you are free to take that approach, you MUST recognize that you are likely opening a can of worms that could lead to challenges you may not want to or be able to deal with, especially as this is an ongoing event AND a heated emotional and political issue. The best approach is one that focuses on process and the Constitution and media literacy (which is why the Choices lesson is so good!).
Do you have resources about impeachment that you think are worth sharing? Shoot them our way!