PBS: By the People, Election 2004
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[an error occurred while processing this directive] For Kids, Parents and Teachers


The lesson plans listed below are organized by grade level and topic. All are designed to tie to state and national standards for civics, history, math, and language arts. You may find more information about state standards matches for any of the lessons listed below by visiting
the Search and Standards Match section of PBS TeacherSource. In addition to the lessons listed below, educators may find useful content on the NewsHour Extra! For Students Web site which is updated every week with articles, video segments, columns by student journalists, and more.


The Campaign Trail
All Aboard
Plan a "whistle stop" campaign train trip across the United States. Create slogans, songs, speeches. Use measurements of time and distance.

Political Cartoons
Smart Art
This activity asks students to examine and practice the art of political cartoon-making by focusing on how and why they are so effective in making a political point.

Political Parties
Donkeys, Elephants, and Voters Oh My!
Learn about political parties by creating new political parties and issue platforms. Plan for a mock convention.

The President/Congress
Dear Presidential Diary
In this creative writing exercise, students develop five first-person diary entries exploring the duties and privileges of the presidency.

If I Were President
Make a class book about what your students would do if they were president.

Painting Presidential Portraits
Redesign U.S. paper currency to recognize six U.S. presidents and describe their significant accomplishments.

The Perfect President
Identify the legal requirements, previous experiences, and personality traits that equip someone to be a successful president. Write a job description and a newspaper article. Evaluate how selected past presidents measure up to the criteria generated by students.

Budget Making
Introduce students to budgets, expenses and savings; learn about government services and basic expenses; and create pie charts representing government spending priorities.

Graphically Speaking
Explore the relationship between congressional representation and state population by graphing current statistics and taking a historical look at the Constitution.

To Vote or Not to Vote
Examine the history of voting rights in America, explore the current-day problem of low voter turnout, and create community surveys to evaluate different ways to improve voter registration and voter participation.

Why Vote?
Learn about the important public services that government provides, and by extension, the importance of voting in local, state and federal elections. Create a public service campaign to encourage adults in your community to vote.


Campaign Finance
Campaign Finance Simulation
Students role play politicians and special interest groups in a simulation of how the two groups interact with one another, learning about how their relationship shapes the contours of campaign finance.

Campaign Finance Overview
Students can analyze the role that campaign donations may or may not play in helping a candidate win and affecting his or her vote once in office.

The Campaign Trail
Covering the Campaign Trail: Technological Progress or Temporary Chaos?
Students will explore how technology has affected political reporting and debate the merits of these changes.

Identifying Major Issues
In this lesson, students will analyze major issues in the current Presidential campaign. Additionally, they will identify individuals or groups affected by each issue and compare candidates' political stances.

Presidential Campaign Policy
With this lesson students will learn to recognize the relationships among candidates, the major and minor parties, and special interest groups, and understand how these relationships shape the public agenda. Students will further evaluate the kinds of viable position choices a candidate may take.

Presidential Campaign Stop
Students are to plan a campaign stop in Anytown, USA, a mid-size fictional city. They will select where the candidate will appear and with whom, how to handle the media, and what he or she will say during the visit to best reach that city's potential voters.

Speeches and Debates
Debating Our Destiny
With this lesson students will understand the impact presidential debates can have on a campaign.

Great American Speeches
By studying famous political speeches, students will gain an understanding of the difference between logical argument and emotional appeal, and when each technique might be effective and when it might not.

Persuasion and Political Debate
This lesson gives students a chance to participate, observe and discuss the rhetorical strategies that best suit a presidential debate format.

Writing a Political Speech
Students practice the writing process in small groups while researching the platforms of political parties for speeches to be made in the same venue. Each group creates its own standard for assessing its political speech, which is, in turn, used by an audience to assess that group's speech and to corroborate the instructor's assessment of that speech.

The Presidential Debates
This activity will help students focus on what candidates say during a debate and then look at how the media covers the debate and the consequent effect on public opinion.

Electoral College
Is the Electoral College Out of Date?
In this lesson, students investigate the history, purposes, and tradition of the Electoral College, as well as determine whether the current electoral system should be maintained, revised, or scrapped altogether.

Political Advertising
Analyzing Political Ads
Students will view current political ads and learn how they make use of various commercial ad appeals. Students will also develop familiarity with basic videography terms.

Political Commercials: Leading or Misleading Voters?
Students analyze commercials and look for logical fallacies. They then use a storyboard template to make their own commercial for a fictitious candidate, using the techniques and fallacies they've learned.

Creating Video Public Service Announcements
Students will identify ways increased voter participation could impact the issues of concern to their communities and write, shoot, and edit a 10-30 second public service announcement on the importance of voting.

Political Parties
Presidential Campaign Policy
With this lesson students will learn to recognize the relationships among candidates, the major and minor parties, and special interest groups, and understand how these relationships shape the public agenda. Students will further evaluate the kinds of viable position choices a candidate may take.

The First Measured Century: The History and Use of Sampling Methods
Students learn about sampling by tracing improvements in sampling procedures over the twentieth century. Scientific inquiries involving flawed sampling are illustrated and discussed using the Literary Digest poll in 1936 and the Gallup presidential poll of 1948.

Political Polling in Your Community
Students read about how polls are written, conducted, and used by candidates, and about problems inherent in political polling.

The President/Congress
The Inauguration and the Constitution
Students will investigate how the Constitution outlines the basis for the presidential inauguration.

The President: Politician in Chief
In this lesson students will examine the formal and informal powers of the President as well as the political skills required to win a presidential election. They will also assess the personal qualities needed to win office and carry out the powers of the Presidency. Using criteria they have developed, students will compare current contenders for the office.

The Evolution of Congress
This lesson focuses on the evolution of Congress from 1800 to the mid-1970s and the prominent congressmen who both characterized and produced changes in the national legislature.

The Structure of Congress
This lesson will introduce students to the structure of Congress and its legislative process. Students will begin to understand the roles played by the Democratic and Republican parties, congressional leaders, committees and other groups to which members of Congress belong, as well as the formal process of lawmaking and differences between the House and Senate.

The Presidential Nominating System
This lesson will introduce students to the system of primaries and caucuses by which candidates for U.S. president are nominated by their parties.

The Primary Process and Political Parties
Students will review the system of primaries and caucuses leading up to the nominating conventions and consider the benefits and drawbacks of the two-party system.

Steps in Selecting a President
In this lesson, students will create a flowchart to analyze the steps in the election process.

Bringing Out the Vote
Students will acquire information about voter turnout, analyze why Americans don't vote, and promote citizen activism through creating community publicity about the 2004 Presidential election.

By brainstorming, developing, and implementing an action plan for boosting local voter registration or participation, students can analyze voter participation statistics and make inferences for why voter participation has decreased.

Get it on the Ballot
In this real-life, hands-on activity, students will research referenda/ballot initiatives in their areas, choose something to put on the ballot, and compose a petition and gather signatures.

Voting Rights: What Age is Too Young?
Students will construct a timeline of voting rights in the US, perform biographical research on someone important to voting rights, and finally write a letter to their US Representative taking a position on lowering the voting age to 16.

Political Humor
Political Satire
Students get to take a serious look at a funny subject and understand better how political satire is used during an election.

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