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Jessika Richter
Jessika Richter
(Lund - Sweden)

The short and sweet: I have been a passionate teacher since 2001.  I first worked with the National Park Service in Washington (state), then moved to Australia where I completed my DipEd at the University of Melbourne and then taught at Hailebury  ...

Presidential Elections

Lesson plan 2 - Presidential Elections

The United States presidential election of 2008 saw Democratic candidate Barack Obama defeat Republican candidate John McCain.  This election was historically significant because it saw the potential for our first African American president or female vice president. Both sides of the election utilized various forms of media to increase the impact of their campaigns.
Knowing how to analyze and interpret the elements of a presidential campaign is the responsibility of every United States citizen. In this lesson, we will lead the students in analyzing the multiple ways in which television advertisements can impact voters.
Prior to this lesson, students will understand the basics of United States government and the political election process.

Group Size:
Whole class, groups of 4-5
Learning Objectives:  
After completing this lesson, students will be able to analyze the purpose and effectiveness of political campaign elements in order to make more educated decisions in future elections.
Guiding Question:  
How does the presentation (color, tone, imagery, etc.) of political campaign ads attempt to sway the opinion of voters?  How do the advertisements portray the candidate?  What is the role of the media in political elections?
  • Computer with Internet access
  • Projector and screen

  1. We will provide the historical background of the 2008 election through a Google Presentation.  We will share the Presentation with the class so they can follow along. <2 min>
  2. We will compare the logos of McCain and Obama and discuss the purpose and effectiveness of each.  This will be an example of our expectations in the next activity. <2 min>
  3. We will split the class into groups of 4-5 people and assign a specific campaign ad or video for the group to discuss.  Two groups will be assigned a campaign element from McCain, and two groups will be assigned an element from Obama. <1 min>
    1. Group 1 (McCain campaign ad)
    2. Group 2 (McCain campaign ad)
    3. Group 3 (Obama campaign ad)
    4. Group 4 (Obama campaign ad)
  4. Each group will work together to compare the purpose and effectiveness of their assigned campaign element.   They will type their responses onto the Google Presentation slide assigned to their group. <7 min>
  5. One or two representatives from Group 1 and Group 3 will come to the front of the classroom.  Group 1 will play their campaign ad for the class and present their findings about the ad.  Group 3 will do the same.  <4 min>
  6. We will have a class discussion comparing the ads assigned to groups 1 and 3. <2 min>
  7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 for Groups 2 and 4. <6 min>
  8. Discuss what we have learned and wrap-up. <1 min>

A rubric for participation in the activity will be provided in the Google Presentation.
Benchmark or Standards:  
Standard 2: Evaluate The Roles, Rights, And Responsibilities Of United States Citizens And Determine Methods Of Active Participation In Society, Government, And The Political System.

SS.912.C.2.3: Experience the responsibilities of citizens at the local, state, or federal levels.

Presidential Election 2008


Another educator would need to follow the current events concerning the election issues.

Group Size: Whole class

Learning Objectives:

Learning Objectives:

Students will be able to:

 1. name the candidates and their affliated party.

 2. describe the most important topic for voters.

Guiding Question:

"If you were 18 years old, how many of you would have the needed information to be able to cast your vote for president?


Power Point Proxima Smart Board Election ballots Informational handout


1. Review with class who is running for president and their party affiliation.

2. Distribute  informational handout.  This handout would have several pages, one page per candidate.  Class assignment throughout lesson would be to fill out blanks that will be addressed during class.  At the conclusion of lesson, students should have a useful resource.

3. Show students Power Point presentation on each candidate.  Profiles should include pictures, party, past experience (etc).   

4. Using Smart Board, bring students to http://teacher.scholastic.com/scholasticnews/indepth/election2008.htm  whgich will serve as a student homepage to this election.  Go to link "Meet the Candidates" to help students complete informational handout.

5. Allow class to navigate through http://www.generationengage.org/videoplayer/videos.php?clip_id=1&gclid=CJTi_8_T4ZQCFQikHgodhDWkQQ.  This site is meant to engage younger students in the political process by offereing a variety of media in their video library.

6. At end of class, hold a mock election.  Students can decide for themselves who should be President of the United States.


There is no assessment fo this lesson. We will vote at end of class period.

Answer Key or Rubric:

No Answer Key.

Benchmark or Standards:

NYS Learning Standards: 

Standard 1:   History of the United States and New York

Students will use a variety of intellectual skills to demonstrate their understanding of major ideas, eras, themes, developments, and turning points in the history of the United States and New York.

Standard 5:   Civics, Citizenship, and Government

Students will use a variety of intellectual skills to demonstrate their understanding of the necessity for establishing governments; the governmental system of the United States and other nations; the United States Constitution; the basic civic values of American constitutional democracy; and the roles, rights, and responsibilities of citizenship, including avenues of participation.

Resources for Covering the 2012 Election

Resources for Covering the 2012 Election

Pearson offers a great collection of videos, exercises, discussion kick-offs, and teachers guides around the election process.

Click here to Try it Out


Political Roots and Attitudes: Agents of Change Movie Alex and Maya meet GW, their mentor, as they explore issues of American citizenship. GW prompts the kids to consider their attitudes about what is important to them, and how they may have come to hold these views.

Political Roots and Attitudes: Agents of Change Interactivity Now it's your turn! After watching Alex and Maya reflect on their views in the Political Roots and Attitudes Movie, see where you stand on the issues, and evaluate who may be an influence on your way of thinking.

Political Roots and Attitudes: First Amendment Poll Simulation Not only might your political roots and attitudes be of interest to you, but they may also be of interest to the candidates looking for your vote. With this in-depth classroom activity, go behind the scenes of public opinion polling while helping the class reflect on its views on First Amendment issues.

Evaluating Leadership: Agents of Change Movie Maya wants to volunteer on a political campaign and is trying to decide on a candidate. The Agents of Change kids help her by sharing their ideas about what makes a strong candidate.

Evaluating Leadership: Agents of Change Interactivity Have you thought about what makes a good leader? Read about some examples of leadership in the Anytown Sentinel, and weigh in on which leadership qualities you think are most important.

Evaluating Leadership: Build a Leader Simulation This fun classroom activity will encourage your class to think about the qualities of a good leader and evaluate different styles of leadership. A detailed lesson plan and activity cards help you support your class in considering leadership in a dynamic group setting.

Casting Your Vote: Agents of Change Movie Alex realizes that he is now old enough to vote. When the construction of a new skate park comes up in the town election, he decides to use his vote to participate in the process. But first, Alex has to register. GW is there to help.

Casting Your Vote: Agents of Change Interactivity Alex needs your help to register to vote! After watching the Casting Your Vote Movie, play this fun sequencing game to make sure Alex is ready to cast his vote on Election Day.

Casting Your Vote: Ballot Initiative Simulation Will you be ready to cast your vote when the time comes? Take a Voting Basics pre-assessment and let your voice be heard on three classroom ballot initiatives.

Interactive Constitution What are the qualifications to serve as President of the United States? What powers and duties does the President have? Find answers to these questions and more in this interactive, annotated version of the United States Constitution. Quiz yourself on key constitutional understandings.

Election Glossary What is a direct primary? How about a superdelegate? Not sure? This Election Glossary will come in handy. Key terms relevant to the election are defined.

Election Day


Democracy is a hands on, participatory activity only we teach it as a spectator sport where the ‘children’ are to watch from the sidelines. By the time the students are done with their high school education, they rarely have more than an academic experience to relate to with regard to elections, politics and voting. This is a mistake, an opportunity squandered. Couched within a larger unit focused on Political Participation and Suffrage, this lesson challenges students to attend their polling place on Election Day to conduct an interview and capture video. After participating in this community-based activity/lesson, students have a personal experience interacting with their own election polling places. The ‘other’ness and mystery is taken out of voting procedures for a group of students on the verge of casting their own first ballot. In addition, the stories that develop from year to year are accessible to learners in subsequent years and to bolster a record of historical context for future voters and citizens. Finally, students watch democracy with their own eyes, interacting with their own neighbors in conversation about the voting system and then reflecting on their own future as an active citizen engaged in the democratic process. I hazard a guess that there is nothing more memorable or meaningful for my students in the year long course. This is everything education can and should be: personal, engaged and meaningful.

Lasting Ideas & Results:

These are the enduring understandings connected to the larger unit of study: Students will understand how the different suffrage accomplishments affect the vote Students will investigate their own political affiliation. Students will understand how to identify bias in media. Students will understand local voting procedures and how to locate their polling place. Students will understand how to amend the US Constitution. Students will understand how to conduct an interview

Essential Question(s):

These are the questions related to the larger unit of study: • How does the right to vote impact the overall course of the nation through history? • How do your personal beliefs translate into political affiliation? • What is the role of the individual in the electoral process? • How can change in the process impact the outcome? • What motivates a citizen to choose to exercise their right to vote?

Desired Learner Outcomes:

Students will be able to…Students will know…
evaluate personal political affiliation.the American electoral process is both complicated and unique in its use to select a president.
conduct an interview.main stream media is difficult to analyze due to its massive output and potential bias.
locate their polling place.the value of engaging in the political process at the most basic level and the importance to educate themselves as to the issues and events of the day.
understand the procedures for voter registration and voting. 



The Pennslvania State Standards addressed in the lesson:

from the Civics and Government Standards:
5.1.12 Principles and Documents of Government
Evaluate the importance of the principles and ideals of civic life.
Evaluate the principles and ideals that shape the United States and compare them to documents of government.
5.2.12 Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship 
Evaluate an individual’s civic rights, responsibilities and duties in various governments.
Evaluate political leadership and public service in a republican form of government.
Analyze how participation in civic and political life leads to the attainment of individual and public goals.
Evaluate what makes a competent and responsible citizen.
5.3.12 How Government Works
Evaluate the roles of political parties in election campaigns.
Evaluate the elements of the election process.
Evaluate how the government protects or curtails individual rights and analyze the impact of supporting or opposing those rights.
Evaluate the impact of interest groups on the political process.
Evaluate the role of media in political life in the United States and explain the role of the media in setting the public agenda.

from the Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening Standards

1.6. Speaking and Listening
Students present appropriately in formal speaking situations, listen critically, and respond intelligently as individuals or in group discussions.

1.9. Information, Communication, and Technology Literacy
Students use technology to locate, evaluate, and collect information from a variety of sources for a variety of purposes.

1.9.C.B. Evaluate information found in selected sources on the basis of accuracy, validity, and appropriateness, importance, and social and cultural context.

from the Science and Technology and Engineering Education Standards:

Analyze ethical, social, economic, and cultural considerations as related to the development, selection, and use of technologies.

from the Student Interpersonal Skills Standards

3. Demonstrate decision-making skills and responsible behavior in individual, family,
school, and community contexts.
(A) Consider civic, safety, and societal factors in making decisions.
(B) Apply decision-making skills to deal responsibly with daily academic and social
(C) Contribute to the well-being of one’s school and community.

Summative Assessment(s):

Describe Performance TasksExplain &/or Reference Criteria
Students locate their polling placeStudents provide this information to the teacher in an online submission through their online learning portal.
evaluate personal political affiliation.Using a variety of online surveys, students journal regarding the different political ideologies. Let me be clear at this point, at no time are students asked to disclose or defend their political affiliations, but rather empowered to investigate the range of tools available.
conduct an interviewStudents post a video of the interview to their blog by the end of the election day.
understand the procedures for voter registration and votingStudents step through the process and procedures with a local poll worker and/or representative from the county election office.


Pre-Requisite Knowledge & Skills:

We work through a series of activities to mock up interviews so students feel more at ease about the process of interviewing a voter on election day. In addition, we lean on web resources for location of polling places and to know what is and is not acceptable behavior at polling places.


The first year that I did this activity I collaborated with two other classrooms around the United States.  I intend to resurrect this procedure for the upcoming school year.  Here is the web resource that outlines the process for the teachers involved in the 2008 election day project. The years past we collected photos, audio and video.  Since then, video has become largely included on the student devices so this year we will collect all video.  If a student does not have access to a recording device, there are cameras for check out at school or students are encouraged to partner up.  Here is the overall unit plan that more fully encompasses the investigation of Political Participation and Suffrage in American History.

  1. Review local voting procedures and voter registration. I have as a goal this year to invite in a poll worker or election official to speak directly with the students.  I have the students take a short quiz on the basics of voter procedures and voter registration.
  2. Investigate Global Suffrage Procedures - Journal Question - Considering that the United States does not have compulsory voting, Which one of the examples shared … do you think would work best inside the United States? Defend your answers with specific examples.  Lead a class discussion with student sharing and defending ideas.
  3. Take Personal Political ideology? survey - have students journal - Do you feel as though your initial assessment of your political affiliation was affirmed or negated by the survey?  If it was affirmed, speak to why how you came to know about political parties and affiliations?  If it was negated, why do you think your preconceived idea was not validated by the survey?
  4. Through brainstorming and class discussion, draft a set of interview questions for Election Day.  Review the previous years of questions and interviews for reference. (if available)
  5. Teacher composes a letter that each student carries with them to the polls - Election Day Procedures
  6. On Election Day, prepare to manage questions and issues that arise in the moment.  We have this day off of school which lends to the availability of the lesson to be delivered.  In addition, my principal allows me flexibility on that day of Professional Development to step out and handle issues that arise.
  7. Set up a space for students to upload their interviews.  We use our Learning Management System where students have blogs to post content.  Other ideas are to have a common tag on schooltube.org as this provides for moderating videos before they post as well as student identity protection - I know these are large concerns amongst many in the educational community.  In addition, my school has a 1:1 laptop program which allows for same day submission of video, if this is not available to your students (as I am aware is often the case) an additional day of computer lab time may be necessary.
  8. Spend the day after Election Day conducting 'speed learning' which facilitates each student sharing their election day story with a series of classmates.  Please visit the link for a visual explanation of speed learning.  End the day with a whole group discussion of the day, suggestions for improvement for next year, reflections on the learning.
  9. Homework is to watch and comment on 3 of the student posted interviews.
  10. Student examples - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9I9IkGl8zEI and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fg-lnJRTJyE - these were posted to youtube last minute because we hit a snag with our internal video uploader on the day of, one of the moments that one must remember to be patient and flexible.



Active internet connectivity Web space for video submission Enthusiasm Flexibility

Modifications, Adaptations, & Accommodations:

This assignment is all about modifications, adaptations and accommodations. Sometimes the students aren’t able to visit the polls for a whole host of reasons and I have developed a bank of modifications and adaptations that address their individual needs. Some of them include:

  • When a student was feeling too shy to complete the assignment, I had them partner up with another student for the visit
  • In the case of an autistic student, I involved the parents in the process so as to enlist their support in the endeavor.
  • When a student’s mother was in the hospital on Election Day, we came up with the idea for her to ask the nurses about Election Day at the hospital, procedures for helping those that were hospital bound with casting a vote.
  • When students were sick, they conducted an interview of a staff member the next day they came to school.
There are more examples of modifications and adaptations, but this gives a sense of the types of changes that were instituted to ensure access to the essential questions, enduring understandings and learner outcomes.


I have done this lesson for the past three years and have tweaked it from year to year. This year we will be moving to all video submissions of the interviews. In addition, I did not always send the students out with the Election Day Procedures. This is a must, some students are asked some tough questions as to what they are 'up to' as some polling officials find them suspicious. Other students are welcomed with open arms into their polling places, but the letter of procedures serves as a nice backup just in case.

Remember with something that is tech-based and in real time to be flexible and understanding when there is difficulty. Try to foresee as many issues as possible, but be ready for the dealing with something you didn't prepare for.

In the first year, we collaborated with a classroom in Texas to compare and contract the voting process in other places. I would like to extend this for the upcoming school year so if anyone is interested in participating, please let me know.

Seg 2: "Debates and the Race for the White House" Script

The debates are the most anticipated events remaining this election year. Stacey Delikat reports on the impact of past debates and what to expect this time. The accompanying video can be found online at http://www.pbs.org/newshour/thenews/thevote.

Open or Download This File:


Letters to Our Next President


This is a National Writing Project outreach that encourages students to write a letter to the candidate of their choice expressing their concerns on issues facing the nation. It also teaches kids how to use the collaborative wordprocessor called Google Docs.

Political TV Advertisement Project


Overall, this project should take about 2-3 weeks, running concurrent with other units of study. This works well within a unit on politics, advertising, persuasion, elections, etc. The unit includes the following parts: Online tutorial (1 day), Introduction to project and storyboard writing (1 day), Writing a storyboard (2 days, part out of class), Filming and editing advertisement (1.5 weeks recommended), Group presentations (2-3 days, depending on number of students/groups)

Lasting Ideas & Results:

Students should gain an understanding of persuasive techniques in advertising. Through the practice of incorporating persuasive techniques, they will learn how to create effective persuasion. They will also learn to become more savvy and critical when encountering persuasive techniques in advertising.

Essential Question(s):

How do advertisers use persuasive techniques in political advertisements? How does this influence the audience's impression of a candidate?

Desired Learner Outcomes:

Students will be able to…Students will know…
write a storyboardkey persuasive techniques in advertisements
film and edit an advertisement 
incorporate persuasive techniques 
analyze persuasive techniques in advertisements 
evaluate the effectiveness of an advertisement 



Minnesota English Language Arts Standards:







Edit writing for correct grammar, capitalization, punctuation, spelling, verb tense, sentence structure, and paragraphing to enhance clarity and readability.


The student will speak clearly and effectively for a variety of purposes and audiences and actively listen to, view and evaluate oral communication and media.Sub-strand:


Benchmark:LA.9-12.III.A.2Deliver a speech in a logical manner using grammatically correct language, including vocabulary appropriate to the topic, audience and purpose.

Identify and understand essential elements, skills and implications of persuasion, argumentation, and debate as essential oral skills.

Standard:LA.9-12.The student will critically analyze information found in electronic and print media, and will use a variety of these sources to learn about a topic and represent ideas.


Make informed evaluations about television, radio, film productions, newspapers and magazines with regard to quality of production, accuracy of information, bias, purpose, message and audience.
Critically analyze the messages and points of view employed in different media, including advertising, news programs, web sites, and documentaries.LA.9-12.III.B.9Critically analyze and evaluate the strategies employed in news broadcasts, documentaries, and web sites related to clarity, accuracy, effectiveness, bias and relevance of facts.

Summative Assessment(s):

Describe Performance TasksExplain &/or Reference Criteria
storyboardrubric included in unit
final videorubric included in unit
group presentation (speech)rubric included in unit


Pre-Requisite Knowledge & Skills:

Each group needs a member who can use a digital video camera and video editing software, or teacher will need to provide direct instruction. Students should be familiar with political TV advertisements, but no in-depth knowledge is necessary.


  • Hand out the Holt Media Scope worksheet and have students complete the online tutorial (one 40-minute class period)
  • Give students 2 days to write and turn in a completed storyboard
  • Spend about 20 minutes reviewing the expectations for the group presentation (about 2-3 days before the presentations are due)
  • Student presentation times will vary, depending on the number of students and groups
  • Teacher will use the rubrics to grade the final video and the group presentation

Handouts for tutorial, group assignment, and rubrics (included in the unit collection), Computers with internet access (1 per student), Digital video cameras (1 per group), Computers with video editing software (1 per group), DVD player or LCD projector for student video presentations

Modifications, Adaptations, & Accommodations:

Students may choose to create a written or visual storyboard. Teacher may place students in groups so that students with special needs can be supported appropriately by classmates. Students can select group roles that fit their needs and abilities.


I found that it was important to be very clear with students which video filetypes would/wouldn't work on my computer. I will probably recommend that my students upload their videos to YouTube to prevent technical difficulties on presentation day. Overall, my students loved this project and I can't wait to teach it again!