The Teacher's Guide to the U.S. Election: Teaching ESL Students About the Elections


The elections offer a lot of learning opportunities for ESL students. Use the two lesson plans in this guide to help them master elections vocabulary and understand the process in the United States.

Teaching ESL Students About the Elections

Students who are learning English as a second language may be hearing terms they've never heard before during election discussions. The two lesson plans below can help ESL students learn about the elections process and related vocabulary.

ESL Election Lesson Plan

This ESL election lesson plan takes 60-90 minutes to complete. Students will learn about election vocabulary, how to register to vote and the use of paper ballots.


  • Develop a presentation, such as a PowerPoint presentation, with a selection of the election vocabulary. Include images that represent the terms and present the terms in sentences. A sample presentation slide might look like the one included here.

Sample presentation slide

  • Format the presentation so that in addition to presenting the words, it explains the voting process, such as:
    • registering to vote
    • selecting a political party
    • listening to a debate
    • going to the polling place
    • using a voting machine
    • understanding a political platform
    • using a paper ballot
  • Have the students repeat each word as it is presented and encourage them to ask questions about the presentation as they arise.



  • Provide students with voter registration forms.
  • Walk the students through the process of completing the forms.
  • Discuss the selection of a political party, using terminology from the presentation.
  • Provide each student with a sample paper ballot.
  • Read the directions for the ballot and walk the students through the process of completing the ballot, following the given directions.
  • Encourage the students to ask questions, using the election terminology introduced

Finding Vocabulary

  • Pair students.
  • Provide several short newspaper articles about a recent election and have the students read them.
  • Give pairs a highlighter and have them highlight the target vocabulary terms in the articles.


  • Watch a short video clip of a political debate.
  • Discuss debate procedures and terminology with the students.

Complete a voting activity with your ESL students

ESL Presidential Election Lesson Plan

Using the ESL presidential election lesson plan, your students can learn how the president of the United States is elected and the role of political campaigning in the election process.


  • Begin with a brief discussion of the American government.
    • Who is the leader of the government in the United States?
    • What does the President of the United States do?
    • What doesn't the President of the United States do?
    • How does someone become President? Who is eligible for this position?
    • Who is the Vice President? What does this person do?
    • How are political leaders selected in students' countries of origin?
  • Explain that Americans select their president through the process of election.

Election Activity

  • Explain that, although it is not required, most people campaign before the election. Inform students that presidents and vice presidents campaign together in the U.S.
    • What does it mean to campaign?
    • What do we call someone who has entered into the presidential race but has not been elected? (A candidate)
  • Ask students what sort of issues they think candidates campaign about. What would matter to the students as voters? Depending on the skill level of your class, you may have to introduce vocabulary terms like 'taxes,' 'healthcare,' etc. Write their ideas on the board.
  • Divide students into pairs. Each pair is a team running for president and must put together a campaign. Write the following on the board, and ask each pair to copy it, discuss it, and fill in the blanks.
    • Our presidential candidate is _____. Our vice presidential candidate is _____. Our campaign motto is _____. The main issues of our campaign are _____, _____, and _____. If elected, we promise to _____. Vote for Presidential Candidate's Name and Vice Presidential Candidate's Name!
  • Once students have completed their forms, have each team present their campaign to the class.
  • Ask everyone to close their eyes and vote on their favorite candidate. Tell students they may not vote for themselves. Announce the winner and proclaim them president and vice president of the classroom.

More Election Resources for Teachers

Access our other guides for election lessons to share with your students as well as discussion questions and activities to use in class. 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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