Let’s face it. Keeping students engaged during the last few days of October can be a difficult task. Why not take advantage of the holiday excitement AND learn about elections at the same time?
I’m all about simulations of the real world. It makes a lesson richer and more engaging, and it’s easy to answer the “Why are we doing this?” questions that come up in your students’ minds (as well as your own).
When I began creating this simulation, I had primary children in mind, but with a few changes, it can definitely work for any age group.
I chose to use candy because of the season; it's easy to find right now — and on sale and in smaller sizes — and it's on the minds of students. Also, children seem to have very definite opinions and feelings about candy: they know what they like and what they don't like!
In part one, I will explain how I set up the lesson, build background knowledge, and begin the simulation.
Next week, in part two, I will take us through a simplified version of a presidential election.
Learn students' prior knowledge through discussions or a KWL (know, want to know, learned) chart.
Read a book about presidential elections and discuss vocabulary together. I like Duck for President by Doreen Cronin. Students are familiar with Duck from other books, and Cronin uses the election vocabulary I need my students to become familiar with.
Explain the basics of presidential elections including parties and their selection of candidates, polls, primary elections, campaigning, debates, general elections, the electoral votes for states (our states will be our five pods of three to four desks each), and the inauguration. I usually end up drawing a diagram as I talk, but there are many good resources available that explain the process.
Select two big groups of candy. I chose chocolate and fruit flavored because there are so many choices.
Divide students into two groups (referred to as "candy crowds" in my room). I choose groups by drawing names from a hat.
Have groups decide on a name for their crowd that relates to their chosen type of candy. We have Chocolate Kingdom and Gummies as the names of our crowds this year.
Allow the two groups to brainstorm a list of five to eight possible candydates that fall under their type of candy.
Hand out the candydate data sheet and ask each person in the crowd to copy down the same list onto their own paper. Download my candydate data sheet.
Have students poll other students from their own crowd about their top three favorite candydates and record the data on the tally column of the candydate selection sheet.
Organize students into concentric circles with one crowd sitting in a circle facing out, and the other crowd in a circle with each facing a member of the first crowd. Now they poll the other crowd, outer circle rotating clockwise until they have spoken with everyone.
Have students count and analyze the data they collected through the tasks at the bottom of the sheet.
Have each student look at their own data and record the three candydates with the most tallies on three separate sticky notes. Put all sticky notes together and sort. Find the top three or four by number of sticky notes with that candydate’s name.
Discuss as a class how they might go about picking the best candydates from the list. Have them look at their data and ask the following questions:
Who is most popular according to the data?
Who has a good chance of winning against the other crowd’s candydate?
Will we be happy if this candydate wins?
Will there be a downside? What?
Hold a primary election for each crowd to find their candydate for the general election. Download the primary election ballots.