Teaching Elections After Election Season

November 05, 2014

Now that election season is over and mass media has returned to presenting commercials about cereal instead of candidates, take the time to organize lesson plan resources that might not be available during the off-year election season.  There are a variety of ways to introduce students to election campaign materials within a compare and contrast format while also allowing them to show their creative side.

Possible Curricular Question:  Are political campaigns today different than in the past?  Many people feel that the negativity around campaigning continue to get worse each year, but is that true?

Curriculum Solution: Using Google news (https://news.google.com/) and Google newspaper archives (http://news.google.com/newspapers) have students research how campaigning was and is reported by different newspapers throughout the years.  This focus of this assignment starts out with working on the skills associated with archival research and can branch out in a variety of different ways to have students analyze the documents.

Possible Curricular Question:  During election season, the amount of news concerning politics can be overwhelming.  Is there a way to sort through and organize this?

Curriculum Solution:  Not only can Google be used for their archives, but they also house their own politics and campaign website that organizes the information that is out there.  Using https://www.google.com/elections/us/ students and teachers can search for what candidates and questions can be found on their local ballot (or any ballot) in order to help see what part of the election will take part in your own world.  The Google Politics and Elections page also organizes video clips, media and political organizations, has a calendar of election related events and also helps to keep track of the daily news that can be organized by topic.

Possible Curricular Question:  Now the election is over (or in a year when there are no major elections), how do I look at election campaigns without anything in current events?

Curriculum Solution:  Primary source documents serve as a great way to bridge the gap and provide real campaign material for analysis.  The National Archives houses an extraordinary collection of political cartoons (http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/running-for-office/) that are organized by the many steps that it takes to run successfully for office.  The site also includes the downloadable PDFs of the primary documents that they focus on during their presentation.  If you want students to see campaign commercials dating back to the 1952 presidential election, check out the Living Room Candidate (http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/running-for-office/) where students also have the opportunity to take what they have learned about campaign commercials and work to create their own commercials right within the website itself.  There are a variety of places where students can create videos, but within the Living Room Candidate there is already a collection of appropriate audio and video clips already collected and organized for you.

Of course, these resources are just a small collection of what is available.  Make sure you check out the free election resources and games available through iCivics as well.  Play Win the White House and Executive Command in the meantime!


Joe (@madisonteacher) is currently in his tenth year of teaching and is a dedicated life-long learner that works to support social studies teachers in his district.  He is looking to change the world one student at a time, and continue to look for ways to connect students and classrooms to the world around them through a variety of learning experience.