An election year makes for some great, real-world teaching opportunities for social studies, political science, history, and civics teachers. As much as they might want to, students will have a tough time tuning out the news avalanche that is Decision 2012. There is a wealth of resources out there for educators looking for lesson plans and ideas for stimulating conversation about the election process. We’ve lined up 50 excellent places to help you turn your elementary, middle, or high school students into the informed voters of tomorrow.
Lesson Plans and Activities
Some of your fellow teachers across the country have been kind enough to make some of their terrific lesson plans freely available for your own election teaching.
- New York Times Election 2012 Unit: The authoritative newspaper offers this multi-part, continuously updated teaching unit designed to give teachers questions for kicking off class discussions about the election.
- PBS Electoral College Lesson Plan: The public educational network brings you this lesson plan for a beginning introduction to the electoral college, with included handout, teacher key, and links to articles and videos.
- Pearson’s 2012 Election Teacher Resource Center: Candidate bios, info on past presidents, American political history, and interactive learning modules are just some of the treasures you’ll score by checking out this site.
- C-Span Classroom: Here a number of educational lessons are hosted, like “The Electoral College and the Constitution,” courtesy of the all-politics cable channel.
- Scholastic’s Election 2012: Infographics, games, videos, and tutorials are all included here on the Election 2012 page produced by education publishing company Scholastic.
- Ben’s Guide to Election of the President: There are sections for grades 6-8 and 9-12 that are more in-depth, but the simple, clear K-5 lessons are the winners here.
- National Constitution Center Election HQ: This site has “Headed to the White House” lessons for elementary, middle, and high school classrooms.
- Center for Action Civics’ Elections in Action: Email in your school name and grade you teach and they’ll send you eight free lessons on why voting is important, registering voters, and more.
- The White House or Bust: The Smithsonian makes three lessons with associated activities available here on the presidency, campaigning, and the candidates.
- Election Day by abcteach.com: This is a handy assortment of printable forms for putting together your elementary election lesson plans, with printouts for mock election ballots, compare and contrast the candidates, and more.
- NBC News Decision 2012: A great resource from NBC Learn, Decision 2012 features “weekly thought starters,” debate materials for K-12, news, videos, and more.
- Take a Stand: Educational World offers this fun idea for debating key election issues. The corners of the room become designated zones comprising students who are all for or against a certain issue. The groups then create a statement on why they feel the way they do.
- Project Vote Smart: This site has a great stock of resources for both teachers and students, from its K-12 Civics Matters materials to a political glossary and beginner’s guide to government.
- TeacherVision’s 2012 Elections: The teachers’ resource site has a slew of helpful resources on this year’s election. You’ll find lesson plans, quizzes, printables, and more.
- All About Electing a President of the United States: This is a nice primer on presidential elections, with info on the 2008 race and a list of activities and relevant websites at the end.
- Civics and Economics: Duke University teacher Margaret Ann Scarborough offers her lessons on political parties, nomination and campaign processes, and more that are perfect for high schoolers.
Election History Materials
Give your students a foundation for understanding the present race by teaching them about major elections from years past.
- Stage an election debate: From the book Eyewitness to the Past: Strategies for Teaching History in Grades 5-12, this is an outline for recreating the 1832 Jackson vs. Clay presidential debate to teach your kids about the history of the election process.
- Constitutional Rights Foundations’ Election Central: Here is a collection of lessons on a wide range of election issues, including “Who Voted in Early America?” and “Election 2000: The Closest Race Ever.”
- The Election of 1860: Educator Ron Miller crafted this detailed lesson plan on one of the first elections to feature the Republican Party, tailored for 8th grade social studies.
- The Presidential Election of 1824: The National Endowment of the Humanities wing EDSITEment! Provides these three lessons on a watershed election in American history for grades 9-12.
- America Votes: Show your kids the amazing history of presidential elections through the panorama of election memorabilia that stretches back to 1796, courtesy of the Duke University Special Collections Library.
- Election Lesson Plans: Lessonplanspage.com presents this lengthy list of lessons on the electoral college, presidential campaigns, both recent and decades-old, and more.
- The Election of 1896 – Gold or Silver?: The Ohio State University takes you back to the time of William McKinley and William Jennings Bryan and the role editorial cartoons played in the election.
- Political Debates: Advising a Candidate: The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum offers this and other lesson plans about the pivotal debates that swept JFK into the White House.
- The Election of 1800: This lesson plan delves into a time Americans were not entirely certain a change of president would come without bloodshed. That should grab students’ attention.
- Teaching Elections in Washington State: This packet may have been intended for teachers from the Evergreen State, but teachers from all 50 can benefit from this smorgasbord of teaching material.
These are the best sites on the web for news, commentary, and data to help your students in their election assignments.
- BarackObama.com: The stances, latest news and press releases, and more regarding the current POTUS are here to aid your students’ study of the election.
- MittRomney.com: If your students are having trouble deciphering who exactly Mitt Romney is and what his positions are (and who could blame them), direct them to his website and its Issues tab.
- FactCheck.org: It’s required reading for anyone interested in cutting through the spin that always accompanies the race to the White House.
- Drudge Report: It’s a news aggregator, but also much more. It’s the kind of website that could spark a lifelong interest in politics in some young scholar.
- Politico: Fox may call its news “fair and balanced,” but that mantle would be much more appropriately applied to this politics-only site, thanks to its solid reporting on the Loop.
- ProCon.org’s 2012 Presidential Election: If you’re wanting to focus on issue debates, there’s no better resource than ProCon, with its cache of quotes from prominent politicians from both sides.
- Real Clear Politics: RCP is one of the best aggregators of political articles on the web, a one-stop-shop for election research.
- CNN Student News: CNN puts together this daily 10-minute news segment geared toward middle- and high-school kids and will no doubt be featuring election coverage into November.
- PollingReport.com: Secondary students can keep their finger on the pulse of American opinion with this database of political polls.
- FiveThirtyEight: Using “proprietary prediction models,” this New York Times “political calculus” blog brings some great election data to the table.
- 270towin.com: Referring to the number of votes it takes to win the electoral college, 270towin is a good resource for polls, primary results, and voting trends.
- Commission on Presidential Debates: The official producer of all presidential debates for over 20 years, the CPD website hosts all the debate transcripts and throws in sections on news and voter education.
- Google Politics & Elections: Google has created its own hub for helping follow the election, which packs cool features like trends, insights, and voter info all into one place.
- Politics and Elections: This is an incredible collection of links from website Journalist’s Toolbox. Every topic your students could want or need to cover is no doubt in here somewhere.
Games and Infographics
Keep your students engaged with these fun activities and illustrations about elections.
- eLECTIONS: The board game Life meets politics with this game from CNN and C-SPAN, in which students get to experience life as a presidential candidate.
- Eight Steps to the White House: This is a cool cartoon-like module that explains the path from a regular Joe dreaming of power to the Oval Office.
- How America really chooses its president: This videographic by The Economist shines the light on the disproportionate and outdated way we choose our leader in the U.S.
- ISideWith: Give your students this slick online quiz to both enlighten them on the issues and get them to consider what their own beliefs are.
- NBC Politics on Foursquare: The social check-in site has teamed with the news branch to track where Mssrs. Obama and Romney go on the campaign trail. It makes a great activity for young students to follow along on their trail.
- A Presidential Election Game: 2012 Edition: Not to be confused with the 2008 edition, this game has players pick a party, launch a virtual candidacy, and see how their decisions affect their polling numbers and ultimately their election hopes.
- Play the Election: For grades seven to 12, this free, collaborative game and 11 included mini-games teach students about election issues like battleground states and voting blocs.
- Win the White House: Raise funds, poll voters, and act like a real presidential candidate with this game hosted by iCivics.org.
- Run for President: If your class is lucky enough to have an iPad, kids from K-12 will enjoy this fun simulator where you can run as one of the current candidates or one from the past.
- ABC News’ Game Changers: This is a really cool interactive map that shows not only how all 50 states are predicted to vote in 2012 but also their voting histories going back to 1960.