The campaign going on in my classroom may not be as “presidential” as the one happening in the real world at this time, but in so many ways, it feels just as authentic as that one. My 2nd grade students are campaigning with as much zeal and enthusiasm in the Candy Campaign as their real world counterparts in the presidential election!
Simulations are very effective for teaching complicated concepts. This campaign has proven that fact again and again.
In part one, which appeared last week, we ended where my class had at the end of the first week, just after the primary election. Now we are ready to move into "campaign mode."
Choose the running mate. Once the candy crowds (what we call our political parties) have chosen their "candydate" through a primary election within their crowd, have the students put the rest of the possible candydates’ names in a sack and have them draw one for the running mate. (We have to stray slightly from the way a candidate would choose a running mate because of the fact that candy can’t make that important decision for itself.)
Explain the process of a campaign, from the primary election to the general election, to the class.
Give each student a fun-size candy of whatever their crowd elected in the primary election. Ask children to make a list of descriptive words and phrases to describe their candydate. Create a Venn diagram to compare the two. Ask them to think of reasons why their candy is better than the other crowd’s candy.
Crowds work on their campaigns in a variety of ways. Possible projects might include posters, bumper stickers, campaign buttons, display boards, debates, presentations, slogans, pictures, videos, and more. (This part can last several days.)
Hold a debate or invite some school adults in to hear presentations by the crowds. This year we did presentations and invited several teachers and principals in to listen and ask questions.
Advance voting: We had one student who knew they would be absent on Election Day. We provided her with an early voting opportunity!
Explain the Electoral College. Make a map of the classroom and divide the class into groups by their location in the room. The groups will represent states. We have five groups of desks with three to four students per group. We set electoral votes as one for every two residents.
Next, download my candy ballots.
Election Day! Groups vote and post their results on the board by state. Figure the popular vote.
Electoral votes are figured by consulting our electoral map and then adding up to get the winner.
Inauguration Day! I bring candy for everyone, and we hold a little ceremony before eating. Students can decide what should take place during the ceremony.
When I happen upon a simulation that truly works, I have a hard time resisting the urge to jump in with both feet. Usually, I give in and take the plunge because the benefits for my students are wonderful!
The issues my students dealt with through the process are amazing. It is far beyond what I would have discussed with them in a traditional setting.
Here is a partial list:
For more of my reflections on our experiences with this activity and some examples of the issues listed above, visit my blog reflecting on teaching.
Simulations can feel messy and a little out of control if a teacher isn't used to teaching with them, but, if you can make it past those feelings, it is a very rich way for students to learn.