Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or outside of the US) for the past few months, you are no doubt aware that the U.S. Presidential election season is in full swing. Whether it’s political TV ads, email campaigns, or even old-fashioned billboards, it’s nearly impossible to miss these days.
Unfortunately, bias and “spin” come hand in hand with politics, so finding materials to educate students about politics and similar topics can be pretty darn challenging. To that end, I’ve been scouring the web (and my enormous list of bookmarks) for US election resources. Here are the best ones I have to offer, but if you have more that I missed, please let us know in the comments!
Ever thought about running for President some day? Now you can! (Well, in a simulation at least) This game from iCivics has students participate in a mock election where they have to handle all the things that real candidates do: raising campaign funds, polling potential voters, and even running media campaigns.
There’s a short teachers’ guide to the game (in PDF form) here, but you can also just dive right in and leave the tutorial on if you want to. One thing to be aware of: be sure to select the appropriate grade level for your students at the beginning of the game! Selecting the “High School+” option adds several controversial issues to the game that are probably not suitable for younger students.
Finally, iCivics includes a mock election lesson plan if the game isn’t enough.
CSPAN, if you don’t know what it is, is a TV channel that’s mostly known for broadcasting live footage from the Capital Building in Washington, DC. Their website has some other interesting content though, like free lesson plans! This particular one has your students pick a candidate and then research and write about their policy positions on key issues.
Students can watch speeches by Presidential candidates over at the Issues section of CSPAN’s campaign website. They can either choose one candidate and research all of their policy positions, or choose an individual issue and research both candidate’s positions on that.
Make sure you check out the other sections of their site too; they have pages on “The Road to the White House“, the Electoral College, and another that has more in-depth backgrounds on the presidential candidates.
Scholastic is a well-known educational textbook publisher, but they also have Internet-based materials as well. A subsection of their site, called Election 2012, is dedicated to the Presidential Race. They have an Electoral College game that, while not as in-depth as iCivics’ game, is probably easier for younger students to understand.
They also have a election timeline chart, vocabulary list, and a “Seven Hats Challenge Game” that shows kids how hard it can be to handle all the issues that a President might face on a daily basis.
The NYT’s Learning Network blog has rounded up quite a few good ideas for lesson plans. Each idea is drawn from previous stories run by the newspaper or information they’ve otherwise gathered. They have lessons on everything ranging from super PAC spending to campaign stump speeches.
The NYT also has this list of the top 10 ways to teach about election day that has even more ideas.
So although election season can definitely get annoying at times, you might as well take advantage of the fact that it’s happening and use it in your classroom as a prime example of how politics effects society. If you have any other great election-related lesson plans or election resources, let us know below in the comments.