Nixon and Watergate

Lesson Plan

Ohio Content Standards:

Grade 8: Government 4, Grade 12: History 2, 3; Government 3, 12.

Duration of Lesson:

One to two classes

Learning Objectives:

The student will -
  • Explain the political concepts expressed in the U.S. Constitution: Representative democracy; Separation of powers; Checks and balances.
  • Describe the ways in which public officials are held accountable for the public good.
  • Describe the changing relationships among the branches of the national government, and evaluate applications of the principles of separation of powers and checks and balances for serving the public good.


Students use editorial cartoons dealing with the Nixon and Watergate to understand the role of executive privilege.




Concepts to understand: separated and balanced powers, executive privilege (definition and Constitutional basis), and impeachment.

Instructional Steps:

  • Each student is given an individual's name from "The Executive Branch" (1972) cartoon to research, making a thumbnail sketch with emphasis on his relationship to the Watergate affair. Students report to the class their findings. Each student either draws a picture of the person they researched or draws a symbol representing the individual (no computer graphics or tracing, freehand only), placing the icon on the appropriate place on the timeline.
  • As a class, with the transparency of "The Executive Branch" on the overhead, respond to the "Cartoon Analysis Worksheet."
  • Assign the students to form six small groups. Give each group one of the cartoons to analyze, using the "Cartoon Analysis Worksheet." Each student records the group's responses on their own Worksheet.
  • As each cartoon transparency is displayed on the overhead, the group that worked with that one presents to the class their analysis (their responses on the Cartoon Analysis Worksheet). As the students do this, they should build a list of the positive and negatives of executive privilege.
  • Each student finds an editorial on the internet that was written within the past five years on the theme of executive privilege and write a summary the article. Here are some editorials: (advise the students about blogs not being editorials)


  • Students draw a cartoon that reflects the view of their editorial.
  • Students write a critique of their cartoon that includes a description, analysis and interpretation.

Extension Activities:

  • Students choose three student generated cartoons and write a critique of each.
  • Students draw an editorial cartoon about a current Constitutional concern (other than executive privilege).


The Mob Has Taken Over
The Mob Has Taken Over
Defining Impeachable Offense and Executive Privilege
Defining Impeachable Offense and Executive Privilege
I Have Nothing to Hide
I Have Nothing to Hide
We the People
We the People
Executive v. Legislative
Executive v. Legislative
The Executive Branch
The Executive Branch

The Opper Project