The Governor’s Many Hats


When founded in 1624, Virginia’s governor was appointed by the King of England. Today the Governor of the state of Virginia is elected. In this activity, students will analyze the state Constitution to better understand the role and organization of the state’s Executive Branch, and the Governor’s duties and responsibilities.


Activity 1: Think-Pair-Share

Distribute Handout #1: Hats of the Governor.  It might be helpful to also project the handout digitally or use a transparency and an overhead projector.

Think: Students are asked to silently think about the roles of the Governor represented by each hat and record their thoughts on the handout provided.

Pair: For one minute, students are to turn to a partner and share their thoughts about the roles of the Governor represented by each hat.

Share: As a class, students are asked to share their thoughts concerning the roles of the Governor represented by each hat.

Follow-up with a class discussion explaining to the students that they will be examining the roles of the Governor of Virginia by addressing the following questions:

  1. How do the roles of the Governor compare to the roles of the President of the United States?
  2. How do we know the roles of the Governor?
  3. What is the best primary source to discover information about the executive branch of Virginia?

Activity 2

Provide students with a copy of the Constitution of Virginia, Article V., also available online.

Students are to work with a partner to complete Handout #2: The Executive Branch of Virginia’s Government using information from Handount #6: Constitution of Virginia, Article V.

Activity 3

  • Provide students with events from Handout #3: The Governor’s ScheduleAdditional Governor’s schedules are available online. and are updated weekly.
  • Cut the Governor’s Schedule into a series of strips. The teacher may cut the strips in advance and place them in a plastic sandwich bag or envelope for use by students.
  • In pairs, students sort the events using Handout #1: Hats of the Governor to match the hats worn by the Governor to each event.
  • Follow up with a class discussion in which the students compare their answers. Students should use information provided in the Handout #6: Constitution of Virginia, Article V and answers from Handout #2: The Executive Branch of Virginia’s Government to support their positions.

Activity 4 (optional)

Handout #4 Reading: The Executive Branch in Virginia provides a simplified explanation of the roles of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General. Have students read the handout and highlight the main ideas and details.

Activity 5

For assessment, students read Handout #5 News Releases of Governor Timothy Kaine, May 26-29, 2009. Students then write one paragraph or more describing the roles the Governor is performing during this week. The description should include specific references to the Constitution of Virginia, Article V and detailed explanations of how the Governor is fulfilling the roles identified by the student. This activity can be finished as homework.

Historical Background

In 1624, Virginia became a royal colony and the governor was appointed by the King of England. From 1652 to 1660, the Virginia colony was almost completely self-governed and the General Assembly elected four governors. Royal authority was restored in 1660, and from then until 1776, the governors were appointed by the English monarch. After the Virginia colony declared independence, a constitution was adopted which provided for the election of the governor by the General Assembly. The Constitution of 1851 provided for the popular election of the governor for a four-year term. According to the 1851 Constitution of Virginia, the governor may not serve two consecutive terms. Mills Godwin is the only governor who has been elected to two non-consecutive terms:1966–1970 and 1974–1978. Of the eight United States Presidents born in Virginia, three served as governor of the Commonwealth: Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and John Tyler.