Joanna Slater summarizes the interview she did with four authors who have written biographies of Donald Trump in an attempt to find out what he is like as a person.

Getting Started

Appropriate Subject Area(s):

Social studies, current events, history

Key Questions to Explore:

  • What aspects of Donald Trump’s personality inspire concern or confidence about his role as President?

New Terminology:

Modicum, innuendo, Achilles heel, unfettered, injudicious

Materials Needed:

Globe article

Study and Discussion Activity

Introduction to lesson and task:

More than for any other President-elect, the word unprecedented has been used to describe Donald Trump’s activities, statements and successes in his rise to power. Scarcely a day passes when he doesn’t shock the world with his actions and tweets. Over the past year, the world has watched in amazement and, to a considerable extent, fear, as Mr. Trump takes the international stage.

Students will likely have seen and heard Mr. Trump in public appearances and they may well have formed opinions about him as a person and as the incoming leader of the most powerful nation on earth—and Canada’s closest neighbour. In this lesson, students will read Joanna Slater’s excerpted interviews with four authors who have written biographies of Mr. Trump. They will then write a short report in which they summarize the author’s assessment of Mr. Trump’s personality and offer their own opinion on whether he is suitable or unsuitable to be President.

Action (lesson plan and task):

Engage students in a brief discussion about Donald Trump, focusing on their reasons for liking or disliking him, based on what they’ve seen and heard. Ask them to write these down, to compare them with their opinions after they’ve completed the assignment.

Discuss the role of a biographer in general, and the amount of time they typically would spend with the subject of their biography. Note that the four people whose opinions are presented in the article will have spent a great deal of time with Mr. Trump and under a broad range of circumstances. The fact that all four worked independently over different time periods and that they still agree to a considerable extent is evidence of the strength of their findings.

Provide them with the article and the following worksheet. They are to complete this in class or for homework as you choose. Follow up with a discussion based on their work in the next suitable class period—or even later in the same period, if time permits.

Work Sheet

According to reporter Joanna Slater, four major biographers of President-elect Donald Trump claim that he “is a person with unusual strengths and potentially crippling weaknesses, a man with a cinematic personality who has sought the spotlight his entire life.” You are to read the article and write a report on Mr. Trump in which you address the following questions and tasks:

Describe Donald Trump’s personality, using quotations from the article to support your statements and claims. In each example, explain why it would be a strength or weakness in an American president. Include responses to the following:

  • What motivates him in his business dealings?
  • The people he admires, his favourite movies, favourite actors;
  • The kind of America—the point in history—he has in mind when he says he intends to “make America great again;”
  • His need to win, to be in the spotlight, to be a star;
  • His ability to accept criticism and to change as needed;
  • List four weaknesses that the authors found to be the most worrisome about Mr. Trump;
  • Explain why the comment “I don’t think I got in very much trouble for that” might cause concern.
  • Mr. Trump has refused to hold regular press conferences, preferring instead to tweet directly to his millions of followers. How might this be problematic for him as President? How does not holding press conferences shield him from public criticism, if at all?
  • Are there any other examples of Mr. Trump’s behaviour that are not mentioned in the article that you would want to include in your report? If so, describe them and explain how they inform your opinion of Mr. Trump.

After reading the whole article, give your opinion of Mr. Trump’s suitability for being president. Do you think he has the right kind of temperament for the job, or do you think his personality could create problems for him and for the US? Explain.

Consolidation of Learning:

  • After you have read their reports, engage students in another discussion about Mr. Trump’s personality to see if their initial opinions of him have changed or if they remain the same.
Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria:

  • Students are able to use the source material effectively to answer the question: What aspects of Donald Trump’s personality inspire concern or confidence about his role as President?

Confirming Activity:

  • Students report on the latest news about Mr Trump’s inauguration and early days on the job.