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It's About Time

A presidential election year is a busy time! In this activity, students use a time line of major election–year events to understand the electoral process.

Duration: about 30 minutes

Students will be able to identify important events in a presidential election year.
Students will be able to read and interpret a time line.

Materials: It's About Time (PDF); computer(s) with Internet access

Set Up and Prepare: Print out and copy the PDF .


  1. Before distributing the time line, invite students to name some of the steps in the presidential election process. Depending on when you are teaching this activity, students should know several steps from reading the election coverage at Scholastic News Online. Student responses might include: campaigning, primaries, conventions, the debates, and so on. List students' responses on the board. Then, challenge students to number the steps in chronological order. Ask: Which of these things happens first? What happens next?
  2. Explain that although people think of the election as taking place on Election Day (November 4, 2008), the election of a new President is actually a long and complicated process. It begins when candidates decide to run—as early as two years before Election Day. Explain that you are going to take a look at the many important steps that lead up to the inauguration of a new leader.
  3. Distribute the PDF and ask student volunteers to read the time line entries.
  4. Have students work individually to answer the questions about the time line, circulating and offering assistance as needed.
  5. When students have completed the activity, review the answers together (answers are listed below).
  6. Have students use a highlighter to mark on the time line how much of the election process has already taken place. Then, display one time line on a bulletin board or other easy-to-see spot and continue to mark progress with a highlighter as time passes.

Supporting All Learners
You can easily adapt this lesson to support kinesthetic and interpersonal learning. Simply cut out the entries from the time line or rewrite them on separate slips of paper. Break students into small groups and assign each group one time line entry. Instead of reading the time line, have students create a "human time line" by moving around and comparing their entries with those of other groups. By checking dates and months, students will be able to figure out where to position their entry. Wrap up by having each group read aloud its entry. Were the groups able to assemble in order?

Lesson Extensions
Have students add on to their time lines. They can add other events (campaign rallies, endorsements, public-opinion polls, etc.) specific to the 2008 election season as they read about these events at Scholastic News Online.

Assess Students
Use the answer key provided below to assess students' work.

Answer Key: 1. Answers will vary depending on when you are doing this activity; 2. Democratic National Convention, Denver, Colorado; 3. televised debates; 4. 10 months; 5. February 5, the day when many states have their primaries and caucuses; 6. Answers will vary.

Scholastic Kid Reporters are on the campaign trail. Keep up with the latest election news in this special report. 

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