Last week I shared the first part of my election unit with you. To begin the unit, students nominated favorite book characters to run for president based on character traits. After some zealous campaigning and a persuasive speech, the time has come to continue the march to the White House.
After discussing the American primary system, students take part in a primary election, which narrows the field to four candidates, two from each party.
Distribute ballots you have prepared with the names of your candidates and allow students to vote, reminding them that no one may vote for themselves. You can set the rule that they only vote for one character, or allow them to vote for two characters to widen the field.
I set up a part of our room as a polling place where a clerk takes names, marks them off the roster, and hands them a ballot before they go to a private location to vote.
After all the ballots are in, tally the votes and announce the top two candidates from each party. This will leave several students and their candidates out of the running, but only momentarily.
Four candidates are nominated for president, and now they will need running mates. Go over the duties of a vice president, then explain that all the candidates that did not win the primary are available to become running mates.
To choose a running mate, each candidate’s team can interview the potential vice presidents. This year I had all my presidential and vice presidential candidates write two questions they wanted to ask prospective running mates. Students interviewed each other, rotating every three minutes (think speed dating!).
Following the interviews, each group ranked the characters they would like to be their running mate. I did my best to match the presidential and vice presidential candidates based on their preferences. Because I had eight groups running, every single student was now part of a new team.
Once a vice president was selected, we were in the home stretch. Money from the vice presidential candidate’s coffers could combine with that of their partner and more advertising could take place.
What’s a presidential election without a debate? Students each write two important open-ended questions they would like to ask the candidates. Writing questions that will not result in a yes or no answer often needs modeling with younger students.
Normally I will act as a moderator, but you may have one of your students do that job. Questions are randomly picked out of a hat, and students are given twenty seconds to answer. After every candidate has answered three questions, the debate is over!
On Election Day, students visit the ballot box just as they did during the primary. Everyone shows their voter’s registration card that includes their regional designation. The editable ballot below has a space for students to write in their region before they cast their ballots.
Our election process would be oh so easy if all we had to do was count up the votes. However, students wrap up their election unit by learning how the Electoral College actually decides our president. You might want your children to play The Electoral Challenge from Scholastic Magazines. We plan to use this in our classroom after the "real" election.
Next, I tally votes each candidate received per region. The entire region’s electoral votes go to the candidate who won the popular vote in that region. I explain to students that the presidential candidate who gets 270 electoral votes wins, and for our election purposes, the student with the most electoral votes overall is declared the winner.
For the last election, we had patriotic pretzels, and this year two of my former students who are now in middle school asked if they could make red, white, and blue cupcakes for the election. Of course I said yes!
This year our school’s theme was Learning Across America with a red, white, and blue color scheme. Below are some of the things I created for the theme that you may be able to use as part of your election or Presidents' Day activities.
I created this Mad Lib-style activity as a patriotic twist on the Get to Know Me sheets most teachers do at the beginning of the year. Students complete a fill-in-the-blank sheet that lists all of their “favorites.” Next, they get a Mad Lib-style letter on which they enter all their answers, in sequence. The result is a silly, fun-to-read letter about why everyone should vote for the student.
Use this template to put your students outside the White House gates. You can crop and insert your student's picture into the photo or simply cut out your student’s picture, glue it into the scene, and laminate.
I hope you found one or two things you might want to add to your election repertoire. Please check out the election posts of my other blogging friends at Top Teaching to get some terrific ideas you can use for the upcoming election and other patriotic days throughout the year.