The Teacher's Guide to the U.S. Election: Election Activities

teachers

Make learning about the elections fun and memorable for students using the discussion questions and activities in this guide! Students will enjoy learning as they master elections concepts.

Election Resources for Teachers

Use the below discussion questions and activities to help engage students in elections lessons. They'll enjoy getting to further explore elections and it will help them retain the information you're teaching them.

Electoral College Discussion Questions

Whether you teach elementary, middle or high school, there are a variety of discussion questions you can use to spark some interesting conversations about the electoral college with your students.

Elementary School

  • The electoral college means that each state is given a certain number of votes in presidential elections. How is the number of votes determined? Do you think each state is given its fair share of votes based on this system? Why or why not?
  • In some races, the popular vote and the electoral vote can be different. For example, the number of individuals who voted for candidate A can be more than for candidate B. However, because of the electoral votes, candidate B could still win the election. Do you think that the elections should be decided differently in these cases? Why or why not?

Middle School

  • When the Constitution was created, the electoral college system was intended to solve the problem of whether Congress or the American people should elect the president. Do you think that this system was an effective way to solve the problem?
  • If it was decided that the electoral college should end, what system would you want to replace it? Share an idea you have for how presidential voting should happen in the United States.

Students attend an online class

High School

  • In the 2000 election, Gore won the popular vote and Bush won the electoral vote. Florida conducted a recount. However, Congress ended the recount and declared Bush the winner. What does this election reveal about the effectiveness of the electoral college? Do you think the decision made by Congress was the correct one? Why or why not?
  • How does the census affect the electoral college? What issues may impact the accuracy of the census? How do these potential inaccuracies affect presidential elections?

Voting & Elections in the United States Activities for High School

These voting and elections activities can help your high school students get an even better understanding of important topics.

Absentee Voting

For this exercise, ask your students to imagine they live overseas and presidential elections are coming up. Your students should do an Internet search for what they must do to vote while overseas. It is best not to give out the answer, such as 'how to request your absentee ballot'. Each student would individually report by writing the steps they have to follow to vote while overseas. Collect the sheets and, after review, make sure to review with the entire class the correct steps for absentee voting.

Letter to Candidates

This project involves the awareness high school students should have regarding the dynamics between candidates during elections. For example, students would be aware of accusations between candidates or passive aggressive comments they make about each other. Each student's task is to write a letter to the candidates telling them about the positive behavior they should display as they run for a governmental position. You could select the most compelling letters and exhibit them outside the classroom for others to read.

The Role of Media in the Elections

For this activity, you would assign your students a TV news clip from a past election, which you can find on the Internet. The news topic can be a candidate, the campaign, etc. Each student would watch the clip you assigned and then would write a short analysis of how the news presents the facts. Your students can receive guidelines such as the following:

  • Discuss the wording the reporter uses. Is it objective and fair?
  • Did the news give you the impression it was biased? How?
  • How would you have worded the report if you had been in charge? Why?

Use engaging activities to teach students about the elections

Electoral College Classroom Activities

These electoral college activities let elementary, middle and school students five even deeper into this concept. They'll also have fun while doing it!

Electoral College Simulation (Grade Level: 3-5)

Procedure:

  • Chart paper will be divided into 3 sections labelled red, blue, and green.
  • Students will be divided into groups of 3-5. Groups of 3 and 4 will be assigned 1 electoral vote. Groups of 5 will be assigned 2 electoral votes.
  • Each student will choose their preferred color (red, blue, or green) sticky note.
  • Each group will determine which color was most popular for their group and select either 1-2 craft sticks (depending on group size) to represent their electoral vote.
  • Students will place their sticky note in the correct location on the chart paper to create a bar graph of the most popular color.
  • Groups will place their electoral vote choices (craft sticks) in the pocket chart.
  • Students will compare the popular vote to the electoral vote.
  • Students will create a T-chart that lists the advantages and disadvantages of using the electoral college.

If there are not enough students to divide into small groups, students may be assigned 'states' with a pre-set number of votes to compare popular and electoral votes.

Interactive Map (Grade Level: 6-8)

Procedure:

  • Students will find an interactive electoral map simulator on-line.
  • Students will identify red, blue, and purple states.
  • Students will examine polling data to determine which states are most likely to be swing states in the next presidential election.
  • Students will choose to represent either the generic Republican or Democratic candidate as a campaign manager. The campaign manager will choose 1-3 states to target to win the election.
  • Students will create a slide show to explain their campaign targeting ideas to the candidate.

Electoral College Debate (Grade Level: 9-12)

Procedure:

  • Students will research elections in which the popular vote and the electoral vote yielded different choices.
  • Students will create a graphic organizer that identifies the best arguments for and against maintaining the electoral college to choose the President and Vice President of the United States using specific examples.
  • Students will choose a side and engage in a friendly debate about whether or not the electoral college is in the best interest of democracy.
  • After listening to all sides of the debate, students will write an essay to propose solutions to issues associated with the electoral college.

More Election Resources for Teachers

Access our other guides for election lessons and ESL resources.

Study.com has a large library of resources and features designed just for teachers! Learn more about how our teacher membership can support your students.

By Jessica Lyons
October 2020
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