Introduction

Impeachment has long been a topic avoided or only briefly discussed in history classes across the country, but with President Trump recently being impeached by the House of Representatives and then acquitted of these articles of impeachment by the Senate, many teachers are jumping at the opportunity to teach about impeachment. Impeachment isn’t a process that everyone sees throughout their life and as recent events will certainly be ones that will go down in history, it is the perfect time for students to learn about the topic. 

 

Resources

There are many good resources online for teaching students about impeachment. Some of these lesson plans and articles were created or posted during different stages in the impeachment trial of President Trump. Therefore, a few do not include the final verdict made by the Senate, but they are still filled with key information about the trial in the House of Representatives and are some of the best resources on the internet so far. A mixture of sources from earlier times in the trial along with those from recent times will produce the best results in the classroom. Get creative and have fun with it!

Lesson Plans

  1. A Lesson Plan for Teaching About the Impeachment Hearings: This lesson plan from the New York Times is geared towards helping students understand what occurred during the impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives because information they have seen on social media and the news can be quite confusing. In this plan, the students will first respond to a few questions in order for the teacher to gauge how comfortable their students are with talking about politics. After this, they will watch a video that explains the process of impeachment and its history. Lastly, students will take a look at an interactive Times article, “A ‘Threat,’ a ‘Drug Deal’ and a ‘Troubling’ Call: Key Testimony in the Impeachment Inquiry,”  which discusses the accounts of the key witnesses of what occurred between the United States and Ukraine. A homework assignment is provided, which includes reading the Times “Guide to Impeachment Inquiry” and answering the corresponding questions. Additional resources are provided to lay out both sides of the impeachment argument in “Gordon Sondland Leaves Us With No Other Option” and “Trump Is Doing Exactly What He Was Elected to Do.” Overall, the Times supplies a detailed lesson plan that teaches students the basics about impeachment and dives into the specifics of the allegations against President Trump, giving homage to both arguments. 
  2. Lesson Plan: House Drafts Impeachment Articles: PBS offers a lesson plan which is geared towards the details of the impeachment trial proceedings in the House of Representatives. The plan starts off with a summary of a few background details about the accusations that would be important for students to know about the impeachment question. Next, it supplies a video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi briefly explaining why the Founding Fathers wrote impeachment into the U.S. Constitution, and she then approves drafting an impeachment article, describing in simple terms how the president broke the law. Then, there are two different videos provided in which Representative Doug Collins (Republican) gives his perspective, disagreeing with the Democrats on the facts, and Representative Madeleine Dean (Democrat) shares her opinion of being confident that there is enough evidence for impeachment, as this is prior to the acquittal by the Senate. Lastly, there are six discussion questions that are based on the three videos and an extension activity about Watergate. The overarching goals for this lesson are that students will be able to understand the significance of the hearings, learn about the two different arguments made regarding the president’s impeachment, and develop their own ideas and opinions about the matter. 
  3. Impeachment Process and President Trump: This lesson plan, though it is based upon the developments made during the impeachment trial in the House of Representatives, has various objectives, including teaching students the difference between opinion and fact, how to determine whether or not a source is reliable, and developing analytic skills. Before jumping into the logistics of the lesson plan, a resource guide is provided to help educators with teaching controversial issues in the classroom. In the lesson plan, a step-by-step process is provided on how to conduct the lesson in the classroom with the proper handouts, which cover the history of impeachment and how it has been used in the past, two short packets of various sources for the impeachment inquiry (one anti-impeachment and one pro-impeachment), discussion questions for students to answer as a class, and additional resources and extra challenges if desired.

Articles

  1. Teaching Impeachment: 7 Ideas From Our Readers: The New York Times, in the article “Teaching Impeachment: 7 Ideas From Our Readers”, asked teachers how they were handling teaching their students about impeachment with the recent inquiry against President Trump. Many replied that impeachment is an important concept to teach students and this trial was giving them the opportunity to do so, but that it is difficult to teach about politics today when there are different beliefs and biases in the classroom. Therefore, the Times put together a list of seven ways to teach about the impeachment inquiry, which includes understanding the impeachment process, weighing the evidence by reading primary and secondary sources, staying up-to-date in the classroom with weekly or daily check-ins, and more. Each of these ideas also contains a handful of links to videos, other articles from the New York Times, primary and secondary sources, a podcast series, etc. This article has many resources for teachers to incorporate into their class lessons and gives advice, such as where to start with teaching about the history of impeachment.
  2. Teaching impeaching: History comes to life in school as teachers seize on this historic moment. Here’s what some are doing — and how: As the impeachment trial progressed, teachers started taking the opportunity to teach their students about the topic. This article by the Washington Post describes how Mark J. Westpfahl’s classrooms and others across the nation stepped away from their standard curriculum for the time being and began teaching their students about the history that was currently in the making, which students will be reading about in textbooks fifty years from now. Students were being taught about the Constitution, the impeachment process, separation of powers, and the history of impeachment in the American presidencies. Some classes were even participating in mock impeachment trials where students used what they learned to make an argument and decide for themselves whether or not Trump should have been impeached. Teaching about impeachment in depth is something that is new for both teachers and students, and most agreed it is important in general but also a missed opportunity if they refrain from it.
  3. The Educator’s Playbook: A Lesson Plan for an Impeachment Inquiry: This lesson plan, which seems to present itself as more of an article, discusses how to teach about impeachment inquiry. It first talks about how to get past the controversy of the impeachment and politics by encouraging educators to dive headfirst into this controversy because discussing these issues will get their students involved. First, the plan provides a few questions to dig into, advocates for having a class-discussion over lecturing in order to keep the conversation flowing, talks briefly about issues with finding time to have these discussions, reminds educators to stick to the facts, discusses extending the discussion beyond the classroom, and helps teachers with whether or not to tell students their political views. Along the way, there are a couple different guides which link to other articles on keeping the discussion in the classroom flowing and creating a lesson that requires students to think critically.

 

(As a side note, the articles and lesson plans above were put together around late November or December, which means that they focus most on the charges of impeachment by the House of Representatives, as the decision regarding Trump’s acquittal did not happen until recently. However, the next few were made during or just after the Senate made their decision, and combining these resources with those from above will cover the content from the entire trial.)

 

  • Republican-controlled Senate acquits President Trump of both impeachment charges: This lesson plan from PBS provides a quick summary, 10-minute video (a time is given for the educator to stop at a certain point), and nine discussion questions on the U.S. Senate acquitting President Trump of both impeachment charges, which were abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. In this 5-minute portion of the video, the sides that specific senators took in this vote and for what reasons was a main focus. An extension activity is also offered which includes a video discussing the aftermath of Trump’s acquittal by the Senate, including Trump’s reaction to the vote, the political ramifications for the parties, and the need for a bipartisan basis for impeachment.
  • Student guide- Senate impeachment trial of Donal Trump: PBS offers another lesson plan, containing a summary, 16-minute video on the Senate’s impeachment trial, and 6 different discussion questions. This plan focuses on the rules during President Trump’s impeachment trial, specifically the changes made to them, and the details dividing the members of the Senate on the impeachment of Trump. (This lesson plan was put together in the middle of the Senate’s investigation.) In addition, an extension activity is provided, which calls on students to essentially compare the dynamic between the senators during the impeachment investigation of President Richard Nixon’s during Watergate and that of the senators during President Trump’s Senate trial after watching a clip of the Watergate hearings.
  • ‘Not Guilty’: Trump Acquitted On 2 Articles Of Impeachment As Historic Trial Closes: In this article published by npr, the circumstances of the recent vote in the Senate which acquitted Trump of both impeachment charges is detailed. After running through the particulars of the acquittal, including Mitt Romney’s vote across party lines, the Ukraine Affair and how the specifics played into the trial on both sides is covered. All information is presented in a way that students are able to easily compare the differing views of the Democrats and Republicans on the issues. Lastly, this impeachment trial and its possible effects on the upcoming presidential election are brought up, which is now one of the most relevant topics as November approaches.
  • Trump acquitted by Senate in impeachment trial: BBC offers an article about the accusations made against Trump, the impeachment vote in the Senate, the views of Democratic and Republican senators, Trump’s reaction to this vote, and the president’s preparations for the upcoming election. Overall, this article in particular covers the majority of the information necessary for students to know about the trial in the Senate!

 

Informational Sites

  1. Impeachment: This informational webpage, provided by Cornell Law School, gives a quick-run down of impeachment and the process of impeaching a president or another person in public office. In addition, the role of impeachment in the Constitution and the articles with references to it are provided. When learning about impeachment, it is important for students to be aware of who can be impeached, why they are being impeached, and how they are impeached, which are all included in these articles.
  2. United States Senate – Impeachment: Who better to learn about impeachment from than the Senate? On this page of the Senate’s website, there are many links provided for students to learn about impeachment. Information provided includes the origins and development of impeachment (Senate’s role, constitutional authority, grounds for impeachment, etc.) and impeachment trials in the Senate, which include that of cabinet members, judicial impeachments, and presidential impeachments (Andrew Johnson, William Clinton, and Donald Trump). The format of this information is a bit more high level, as it comes from the Senate, and is probably best for middle schoolers in higher grades and high schoolers to investigate.
  3. Britannica – Impeachment: Britannica’s informational page on impeachment gives background on the history of impeachment in both the United States and England. The few presidents who have been impeached or almost impeached are mentioned and the reasons for their impeachment are explained, Donald Trump included. The information provided is a great general overview of how impeachment has been used in the past and present-day.

 

Conclusion

All of the resources on this page will aid you in your goal to teach your students about impeachment. Teaching politics is controversial, but it doesn’t have to be. Just stick to the facts, recognize the different views in your classroom, and try to keep the class on track! Good luck!

 

Additional Resources

  1. Khan Academy Video – Impeachment: This video from Khan Academy is part of their lesson on the Principles of American Government. Topics covered in the video are the definition of impeachment, as many believe impeachment is an immediate removal from office, the process of impeachment in the legislative branch, the past presidents who have faced impeachment (or almost have), and the articles in the Constitution where impeachment is found.
  2. Trump Impeached for Abuse of Power and Obstruction of Congress: This New York Times article was written and released after Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives. Therefore, this piece is a great read for students who want to learn more about the vote that led to the president being impeached and the trial in the Senate, which was coming up at the time, which determines whether or not the president is removed from office or acquitted.   
  3. How Will History Judge Trump’s Impeachment? It Won’t Just Be Decided On Election Day: This article from npr on Trump’s impeachment offers a new perspective, one which is focused on the future and how “history” will be the final judge of the president’s impeachment. The upcoming presidential election in November, the history of impeachment, and how others will perceive Trump’s impeachment years from now take center stage in this piece. This one is great for reflection on how this impeachment will impact more than solely Trump’s current time in office!