With just three weeks until Election Day in an unprecedented election year, you may still be doing some debating of your own… How much of the election should I be discussing in class?
In a typical election year, government and the election process play a big role in most social studies or civics lessons. This year, maybe more than ever, students may be bringing opinions or misinformation about the candidates, that they hear at home, on the bus, or on social media, into your classroom. If you’re having a harder time staying impartial when discussing the 2016 presidential election in your classroom, you are certainly not alone.
Discussing the Election with Students: Do I or Don’t I?
An online survey of 2,000 K-12 teachers, “The Impact of the Presidential Campaign on Our Nation’s Schools,” shows that this year’s election has many teachers walking a fine line on teaching or even discussing the election in their classroom.
- 43% of K-12 teachers stated they were “hesitant to teach about the presidential election”
- Broken down further, this represents 37% of high school teachers and 50% of elementary teachers
If addressing this year’s election head-on and in-depth gives you pause, there are still ways to teach the election process as a whole and its important role in our country.
Introducing President Snickers!
If you’re having trouble getting enthused about this year’s candidates, give your students something they can get excited about… candy! The week-long election lesson plan outlined below allows you to teach the presidential election process from to start to finish, with this sweet and simple exercise that allows your class to hit the voting booth and elect their “Favorite Candy Bar.” We’ve even included some fun election printables for you to use.
MONDAY – Primary Season
- Students cast a vote for their favorite candy, choosing just one from the multiple candidates running in the primary elections.
- Instead of the Democratic and Republican parties, candidates will run in the Chocolate and Gummy parties.
- The write-in element allows you to teach another component of the election process.
TUESDAY – Campaigning
- The final candidates from each party are announced!
- To campaign for their candidate, students can create posters, flyers, or commercials for their favorite candy to display in the classroom.
WEDNESDAY/THURSDAY – Debates
- On the first day, have students write argument papers debating the pros and cons of each candidate.
- On the second day, students can read their debate papers for the class.
FRIDAY – Election Day
- Get into the spirit! Decorate your classroom with balloons and streamers to set the election-day mood.
- Create designated voting booths in your classroom and collect each ballot in the official ballot box.
- Announce the winner at the end of the day and reward each student with a sample of the winning candy!
Additional Election Activities for Students
For Younger Students
Use your Guided Reading time to introduce your students to past presidents, our founding fathers, and symbols of our nation with leveled readers like Presidential Pets, Betsy Ross’s Refrigerator, and Flags on High.
For Older Students
The election offers so many writing prompts that you can incorporate into your lesson plans. Students could compare and contrast the candidates’ debate styles, the election in 2016 versus the election from 1984, or how technology and social media have changed election coverage.
For students of all ages, PBS LearningMedia provides an Election Collection, a series of videos and classroom activities broken down by grade level.