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August 19, 2016

2016 Presidential Election Classroom Resources

By John DePasquale
Grades 3–5, 6–8

    It's nearly impossible to escape the signs of the season. From the incessant bombardment in the headlines to the perennial I-approve-this-message television ads, make no mistake about it: a presidential election in the United States is in full swing. As these quadrennial seasonal signs become more apparent to me, I’m also aware of the classroom learning opportunities that abound. I’m excited to teach about the 2016 presidential election in the coming weeks so that my students can observe, firsthand, our democratic process in action. 

    Why do I teach about the presidential election?

    To put it simply, our process of electing a president in the United States is not a simple one. With primaries, political conventions, and the complexities of the Electoral College, I think the best way for my students to fully understand the intricacies of this process is for them to learn about it as it actually plays out before them. I’m also motivated by the realization that most of my students are only in school for just three presidential election cycles before they are legally able to vote. Combined with the fact that in recent years only about 60 percent of Americans vote in presidential elections, I’m overwhelmingly convinced of the value of teaching my students about this important process. I hope my students will become active and informed participants in our democracy when it is finally time for them to cast their ballots.

    I understand the apprehensions some teachers may have about using this year's presidential election as a case study to teach the electoral process. Political pundits use words like unconventional and unprecedented to describe the current situation. As a result of this volatility, some teachers might avoid addressing the race altogether. Teachers might avoid it in the classroom for other reasons. Some might be worried about maintaining objectivity and classroom civility when divisive and partisan rhetoric are dominant. These concerns are legitimate, and they should certainly be addressed.

    In light of some of these concerns, I recommend visiting Teaching Tolerance, a project of The Southern Poverty Law Center, for a collection of Election 2016 resources that teachers may consider using during this unique election year. These resources include tips and strategies to counter bias, lessons to teach about the political process, and guidelines that help to promote productive discussions with students — especially when there are strongly held and oppositional ideas expressed in the classroom. 

    Election 2016 Classroom Resources

    There are a number of fine resources available to teachers as they plan lessons related to the presidential election. Here are a few that I use with my students.

    Scholastic Classroom Magazines

    The various Scholastic current events classroom magazines are an excellent source of age-appropriate materials written especially for students. Many of the election related resources from the magazines are collected together at Scholastic News Election 2016. This interactive site provides students with the latest political news, candidate profiles, and polls.  Students can also journey on The Road to the White House, a step-by-step guide through the electoral process. Also, this fall your students’ voices can be heard when they have the opportunity to vote for president! The Scholastic Student Vote is a mock election that allows young people from across the country the chance to select the next president. I, for one, am very curious to see how the student vote this year compares to the actual election on November 8!

    Also, be on the lookout for students in your class whose interest in current events is piqued by your study of the presidential election because you could very well be teaching a future ace political reporter. These students might be a perfect fit for the Scholastic Kids Press Corps. Scholastic News is currently accepting applications for new kid reporters to join their ranks. Students interested in applying should not delay because Scholastic Kids Press Corps Applications must be postmarked by September 23, 2016.

    Additional Classroom Resources

    For the 2016 presidential election, PBS Learning Media launched Election Central, a one-stop collection of tools, resources, and lessons for educators. Election Central includes an interactive map, informative videos, and engaging lesson plan ideas that can help demystify the complicated electoral process for your students.

    There you will also find information about the 50 for 50 Contest for students in grades 6–12.  My students will participate in this contest by writing an open letter to the 2016 presidential candidates with ideas on changes that need to be made in government in order for more to get accomplished. As an added incentive, first place wins a student a trip to Las Vegas to view the final 2016 presidential debate with the media. If you’re interested in this contest, be aware the deadline to enter is September 21, 2016. 

    Additional in-depth primary source materials related to the different stages of the presidential electoral process are also found at Campaign 2016 from C-Span Classroom. There you will find video clips, discussion questions, and other resources for your students. While you’re there, be sure to sign up to receive a free 2016 Electoral College Map Poster for your classroom. 

    If you’re looking for more great ideas, check out the back-to-school issue of Scholastic Teacher magazine for additional election related resources that are perfect for any grade. 

    As you plan lessons for the first weeks of the school year, I encourage you to take advantage of this historic election season before the 2016 presidential election is one for the history books!

     

     

    You can follow me on Twitter @johndepasquale_.

    It's nearly impossible to escape the signs of the season. From the incessant bombardment in the headlines to the perennial I-approve-this-message television ads, make no mistake about it: a presidential election in the United States is in full swing. As these quadrennial seasonal signs become more apparent to me, I’m also aware of the classroom learning opportunities that abound. I’m excited to teach about the 2016 presidential election in the coming weeks so that my students can observe, firsthand, our democratic process in action. 

    Why do I teach about the presidential election?

    To put it simply, our process of electing a president in the United States is not a simple one. With primaries, political conventions, and the complexities of the Electoral College, I think the best way for my students to fully understand the intricacies of this process is for them to learn about it as it actually plays out before them. I’m also motivated by the realization that most of my students are only in school for just three presidential election cycles before they are legally able to vote. Combined with the fact that in recent years only about 60 percent of Americans vote in presidential elections, I’m overwhelmingly convinced of the value of teaching my students about this important process. I hope my students will become active and informed participants in our democracy when it is finally time for them to cast their ballots.

    I understand the apprehensions some teachers may have about using this year's presidential election as a case study to teach the electoral process. Political pundits use words like unconventional and unprecedented to describe the current situation. As a result of this volatility, some teachers might avoid addressing the race altogether. Teachers might avoid it in the classroom for other reasons. Some might be worried about maintaining objectivity and classroom civility when divisive and partisan rhetoric are dominant. These concerns are legitimate, and they should certainly be addressed.

    In light of some of these concerns, I recommend visiting Teaching Tolerance, a project of The Southern Poverty Law Center, for a collection of Election 2016 resources that teachers may consider using during this unique election year. These resources include tips and strategies to counter bias, lessons to teach about the political process, and guidelines that help to promote productive discussions with students — especially when there are strongly held and oppositional ideas expressed in the classroom. 

    Election 2016 Classroom Resources

    There are a number of fine resources available to teachers as they plan lessons related to the presidential election. Here are a few that I use with my students.

    Scholastic Classroom Magazines

    The various Scholastic current events classroom magazines are an excellent source of age-appropriate materials written especially for students. Many of the election related resources from the magazines are collected together at Scholastic News Election 2016. This interactive site provides students with the latest political news, candidate profiles, and polls.  Students can also journey on The Road to the White House, a step-by-step guide through the electoral process. Also, this fall your students’ voices can be heard when they have the opportunity to vote for president! The Scholastic Student Vote is a mock election that allows young people from across the country the chance to select the next president. I, for one, am very curious to see how the student vote this year compares to the actual election on November 8!

    Also, be on the lookout for students in your class whose interest in current events is piqued by your study of the presidential election because you could very well be teaching a future ace political reporter. These students might be a perfect fit for the Scholastic Kids Press Corps. Scholastic News is currently accepting applications for new kid reporters to join their ranks. Students interested in applying should not delay because Scholastic Kids Press Corps Applications must be postmarked by September 23, 2016.

    Additional Classroom Resources

    For the 2016 presidential election, PBS Learning Media launched Election Central, a one-stop collection of tools, resources, and lessons for educators. Election Central includes an interactive map, informative videos, and engaging lesson plan ideas that can help demystify the complicated electoral process for your students.

    There you will also find information about the 50 for 50 Contest for students in grades 6–12.  My students will participate in this contest by writing an open letter to the 2016 presidential candidates with ideas on changes that need to be made in government in order for more to get accomplished. As an added incentive, first place wins a student a trip to Las Vegas to view the final 2016 presidential debate with the media. If you’re interested in this contest, be aware the deadline to enter is September 21, 2016. 

    Additional in-depth primary source materials related to the different stages of the presidential electoral process are also found at Campaign 2016 from C-Span Classroom. There you will find video clips, discussion questions, and other resources for your students. While you’re there, be sure to sign up to receive a free 2016 Electoral College Map Poster for your classroom. 

    If you’re looking for more great ideas, check out the back-to-school issue of Scholastic Teacher magazine for additional election related resources that are perfect for any grade. 

    As you plan lessons for the first weeks of the school year, I encourage you to take advantage of this historic election season before the 2016 presidential election is one for the history books!

     

     

    You can follow me on Twitter @johndepasquale_.

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