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Lesson plan: Making the transition

January 10, 2001
Web posted at: 2:19 PM EST (1919 GMT)

Editor's note: If you are planning to use the news story that this lesson plan is based on for a homework assignment, please write the URL on the board and have your students copy it. updates the site in the early evening, so students may have difficulty finding it without the URL. You can find the lesson plan by going to the Subject Areas page and clicking PREVIOUS in the square for Today's Lesson Plan.


Students will:

  • Explain the Presidential Transition Act of 1963.
  • Restate specific events and details that occur when one administration leaves and another comes in.
  • Evaluate what happens in case of an unplanned transition -- i.e., if a president should die office.
  • Research and appraise various Cabinet positions for their duties as well as qualifications.


National Council for the Social Studies
VI. Power, Authority and Governance

High school students study the various systems that have been developed over the centuries to allocate and employ power and authority in the governing process. Students should have opportunities to apply their knowledge and skills in understanding the various levels of power, authority and governance.

Materials article, "A change is gonna come"
Internet access (optional)
Materials to create charts

Suggested time

One to two class periods


1. Assess students' knowledge regarding the transition of administrations. Record their responses or thoughts. Have them read the article "A change is gonna come," then answer the following:

  • What is the purpose of the Presidential Transition Act of 1963? How much money has been allocated for transition expenses? For what is it used? To what is the president-elect entitled under this act? Before this act, how did a new administration fund its transition? Do you think that this money is well spent? Explain.
  • Why did the General Services Administration have to make preparations for two offices in the 2000 election? Give examples of some transition services that are needed for incoming and outgoing administrations. What additional services did President Bill Clinton give to the GSA? Why do you suppose he saw the need for those services? How will President-elect George W. Bush's administration benefit from these services? According to the article, what services are provided for former presidents?

2. Direct students to online or other media resources to choose two of the Cabinet positions and current appointees. Have them research the position and the background or preparation that qualifies the appointed Cabinet member for the job. Also, instruct students to analyze the Cabinet member from the previous administration to compare backgrounds, education, work experiences, etc. Have students formulate opinions on the reasons that they were appointed.


Logical: Students can find out what would happen if the president dies in office. A Web site below with a succession chart may be useful.

Visual: Encourage students to use graphic organizers to create diagrams of Cabinet positions and their requirements. Instruct them to find similarities in roles, responsibilities and qualifications.


Students can choose a Cabinet position that interests them. Based on research about the post, they can write about how they would fill it to make a positive contribution.


Have students present their comparisons of Cabinet members' qualifications and assets for their positions. Also, have students share their opinions about those Cabinet appointees or perhaps suggest a person who they believe is better qualified. Encourage students to explain their positions.

Internet Public Library on presidents: George W. Bush
Presidential line of succession

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