Lessons for the Election Year

Campaign fever is in the air! This year, the 2016 Presidential Election offers ample learning opportunities for students of all ages. The early grades will surely participate in many voting simulations as they choose among the best books in the classroom and their favorite storybook characters. As soon as the young minds can count and distinguish personal tastes, they are ready to vote. As those children progress through their education, though, they will quickly realize there is more to our country's election process. By third grade, students are expected to begin understanding this complex system.

Teachers will find plenty of online resources to supplement their existing lessons or to guide their curriculum planning entirely. Below is an overview of what to expect in lessons offered by some of the most reputable sources in education. Visit each one's website to search for additional lesson plans by specific grade level or course.

ReadWriteThink: Voting! What's It All About? (grades 3-5)

During eight 50-minute sessions, students build on what they already know about elections. In their classroom, they create a graffiti wall: a portion of a classroom wall devoted to articles and images associated with elections and current candidates and issues. Students practice distinguishing facts from opinions. They also write about their reasons for wanting to vote for a particular candidate, and they are expected to support their reasons with facts from what had been posted and discussed on the graffiti wall.

ReadWriteThink partners with the International Literacy Association, the National Council of Teachers of English, and The Verizon Foundation. Their lesson plans are aligned to both state and national standards. Resources for all grade levels can be found on their website, www.readwritethink.org.

History.com: The Roles and Responsibilities of Government (grades 3-5)

As an activity part of a larger lesson on the U.S. Constitution, students discuss the roles of each of the three branches of government. The activity includes a visual aide to help students identify the branches. In a collaborative activity, small groups write a constitution for their school that includes ten rules. Groups practice making compromises in order to do this. The groups then present their constitution to the class. A follow-up activity allows for feedback as the teacher facilitates a discussion about the highlights from the presentations.

PBS News Hour Extra: Role of Technology in Election 2016 (grades 7-12)

Aligned with national standards, this lesson has students examine how the internet is used as a campaign tool. Students evaluate the importance of the internet in the political process. Following this, students consider cellphones being the next tool used in campaigns. After reading an article on the subject, students draw conclusions based on the evidence presented. In addition to handouts, PBS provides links to related resources, such as additional articles and websites.

C-Span Classroom: Campaign 2016 (grades 9-12)

This site is an extensive collection of lessons that continues to grow with time. The lessons explain various aspects of an election such as political parties, campaign finance, the Electoral College, and the polls. This site is a trove of primary sources. Both videos of historical announcements and clips from current presidential candidates can be located here. The site's lessons contain high-quality comprehension questions, activities, and culminating assessments. More resources are here than you will have time to cover, and more are being added. Since the lessons are being crafted as events occur, teachers may be challenged when making plans in advance.

iCivics: Mock Election (grades 9-12)

In this lesson, students learn to explain the steps needed to take one from the formation of a political party to being elected president in a national election. iCivics, founded and led by former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, provides teachers with tools that create clear objectives and engaging, interactive learning activities for students. In the three-day lesson, students act as candidates on the campaign trail and constituents involved in the voting process. Students learn about the democratic process and are able to describe an election's impact on a people.

Teachers must create a free account to access the materials on iCivics. Lessons are professionally designed and include resources in pdf format as well as interactive online content. On each lesson is a search button to be used for identifying the standards aligned to each lesson.