Political Spectrum Lesson Plan

Instructor: Dana Dance-Schissel

Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.

Shake up your instruction on the political spectrum with a fun and provocative in class activity. A video lesson prepares students with the essential points related to political ideologies.

Learning Objectives:

Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • explain the nuances of a political spectrum
  • define and identify various political ideologies


30 minutes to 1 hour


  • 11x13 white paper
  • Colored markers

Curriculum Standards


Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary describing political, social, or economic aspects of history/social science.


Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources.

Key Vocabulary

  • Political spectrum
  • Radicalism
  • Liberalism
  • Moderatism
  • Conservatism
  • Reactionism


  • Begin by asking students what it means to be liberal. Write their ideas on the board.
  • Now ask students what it means to be conservative. Again, write their ideas on the board.
  • Have students choose one of the terms that most closely represents their belief system (liberal or conservative). Create a tally on the board representing the number of students who identify as liberal and those who identify as conservative.
  • Next, play the video lesson Types of Ideologies Along The Political Spectrum, pausing at 0:59.
  • Pass out the white paper. Have students turn it sideways and draw a horizontal line. This will become their political spectrum. Next they should add five evenly spaced tick marks along the line of their political spectrum. This will represent the placement of the various ideologies along the spectrum.
  • Play the video lesson and pause it at 2:33.
  • Instruct students to select a colored marker and use it to add radicalism to the extreme left of their political spectrum. Underneath the term they can jot down a few words to summarize what radicalism is, based on what they learned in the lesson.
  • Play the lesson, pausing at 3:52.
  • Instruct students to select a new color to add liberalism on the next line on their political spectrum just to the right of radicalism, adding a few words to define it.
  • Play the video lesson now, pausing at 4:59.
  • Have the students select a third color to add moderatism to their political spectrum on the line just to the right of liberalism. They should add a few words to describe what it is.
  • Play the video lesson once more, pausing at 5:57.
  • Ask students to select a fourth marker color to add conservatism to their spectrums, to the immediate right of moderatism, including a few words to describe it.
  • Now play the remainder of the video lesson.
  • Have students add reactionism to the remaining spot on their political spectrum with a fifth color of ink. Again, have them write a few words beneath the term to describe what it is.
  • Next, have students brainstorm a few hot topics in terms of current politics (e.g. healthcare, taxes, and so on). Write these on the board.
  • Finally, have students add the different perspectives that the five ideologies listed on their political spectrum might take on these issues. For example, if healthcare is the political hot topic, what perspective would the radicals take on it, etc.? Discuss these as a class and relate it back to the initial discussion on liberalism and conservatism. Did any students' positions change on how they identify?

Discussion Questions

  • Can an individual be placed at multiple points on the political spectrum? How? Why?
  • Is it possible for someone to disagree with all of the political ideologies? If so, what would that look like in terms of beliefs?


  • Have students rank local political candidates along their political spectrums.
  • Ask students to research the political spectrum throughout history. Has it changed? How? Why?

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