Subject Areas: secondary current events,
social studies, political science, and communication arts
Two to three 45-minute class periods
Grade Level: 9-12 (lesson can
be modified for lower grades)
1. Work as a class to create a flow chart documenting the steps a candidate must
take to be elected to the presidency.
2. Participate in a class discussion
about the number of candidates, the reasons people seek to be president, and the
3. Utilize research skills to create a profile of a specific
candidate and his/her qualifications, point of view on various topics, and presidential
4. Present their candidate profile projects to classmates.
Monitor the progress of the presidential candidates and participate in classroom
discussions about the success of the various campaigns.
to National Standards
Profile worksheet (printer-friendly PDF)
to Internet and library resources including the Online NewsHour Vote 2008 coverage
- One poster board for each student
- Assorted art supplies and access
to word processing/desktop publishing software (optional)
A multitude of candidates are hoping to win their party's nomination for the 2008
presidential election. Between now and election day, many candidates will enter
and leave the race for a variety of reasons. Eventually, each party will use its
convention to choose the candidate they will endorse and those nominees will battle
it out until one is elected as our next president. This lesson examines the political
process, the candidates and their platforms, and the ultimate outcome of the 2008
1. Explain to students that running
for president is a multi-step process that requires a candidate to invest a significant
amount of time, effort, and money. To help students see and understand more about
this process, work as a class to create a flow chart that outlines the process
that a presidential candidate will go through on the road to being elected to
Some of the major steps included in this chart could be:
Step 1: Formation of Presidential Exploratory Committee
Step 2: Announcement
of intention to run for president based on findings of exploratory committee
Step 3: Fundraising and gathering of support and endorsements from the general
public as well as other politicians, special interest groups, corporations, etc.
Step 4: Campaigning early, particularly in states where primaries are especially
important (i.e. Iowa, New Hampshire, home state, etc.)
Step 5: Continuing
to campaign to beat out all other opponents from within your own party.
6: Attending your party's National Convention and securing the nomination of the
Step 7: Campaigning nationwide against your opponents from other parties
Step 8: Winning the election and securing enough electoral votes to be named
the next president.
2. Once students understand the
process candidates go through to become president, facilitate a short discussion
related to the selection of candidates using questions such as:
president is a long, difficult, expensive process. Why do you think so many candidates
from each party are willing to attempt this process in order to become the next
- How does having a large number of candidates for each party
complicate the election process?
- In what ways is having a large number
of candidates to choose from a positive thing for U.S. citizens?
responsibilities do voters have when it comes to selecting a candidate to represent
their political party?
- Do you think it is important to elect the president
based on his/her political platform? Prior experience as a leader? Ability to
connect with and understand the average American? Which of these is most important
3. In an election where 20+ people have already announced
their candidacy, it is difficult to know and understand each candidate's platform
and position on important political issues. To help students get a better understanding
of the candidates who are running, distribute the Candidate
Profile worksheet to each student. Randomly assign students in the class
to research one of the presidential candidates.
NOTE: Early in
the election process, there will be many candidates. As the field narrows and
candidates leave the race, it may be beneficial to have students work in pairs
or small groups to conduct their research about a specific candidate. As additional
candidates enter the race, if you have already completed this activity, work as
a class or allow students to complete additional candidate profiles for extra
credit so that all candidates can have displays throughout the classroom.
Encourage students to use Online Newshour stories along with other Internet and
primary source materials to gather information about the candidate they are researching.
6. After the Candidate Profile worksheet and project are completed,
have each person/pair/small group present their candidate profile project. Post
these in a prominent place in the classroom. As candidates leave the race and
the parties select their candidates at their national conventions, make note of
who has left the race by marking it on the Candidate Profile project.
As candidates leave the race, take time to discuss specific things that allowed
certain candidates to advance while others withdrew or were forced out of the
race. This could also be done as a written response activity to be completed by
each student. Address questions such as:
- Was there a specific issue,
incident, or point of view that caused this candidate to be unsuccessful in his/her
bid for the presidency? If so, explain.
- Throughout the course of his/her
campaign, did this candidate stand by his/her political platform, or did s/he
make changes along the way in an attempt to win voter support. Explain.
you have supported this candidate in his/her attempt to become president? Why?
Compendium of K-12 Standards Addressed:
19; Understands what is meant by "the public agenda", how it is set,
and how it is influenced by public opinion and the media
Standard 20: Understands
the role of political parties, campaigns, elections, and associations and groups
in American politics
Standard 27: Understands how certain character traits
enhance citizens' ability to fulfill personal and civic responsibilities
Standard 1: Uses the general skills and strategies
of the writing process
Standard 4: Gathers and uses information for research
Standard 5: Uses the general skills and strategies
of the reading process
Standard 7: Uses reading skills and strategies to understand
and interpret a variety of
Listening and Speaking
Standard 8: Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes
Standard 1: Contributes to the overall effort of a group
Standard 4: Displays effective interpersonal communication skills
Standard 1: Understands and applies the basic principles
of presenting an argument
1. As the election
process moves forward, there will be debates between candidates and lots of information
about each one's plans for leading the country. Create a display area near the
candidate profiles where students can bring in newspaper, magazine, or Internet
news articles that explain how the candidates are addressing various campaign
issues and topics. Encourage students to share their articles with the class and
then post them in this display area.
2. Using what they have learned about
the candidates from completing the candidate profile, have students design a campaign
item for a particular candidate. This could be a button; bumper sticker; print,
radio, television or Internet ad; billboard or pamphlet. Have students share their
campaign items and then post them near the candidate profile projects.
Lisa Prososki is an independent educational consultant
and instructional design specialist who taught middle school and high school social
studies, English, reading, and technology courses for twelve years. Prososki has
worked with PBS Teachers and has authored and edited many lesson plans and materials
for various PBS programs over the past ten years. In addition to conducting workshops
for teachers at various state and national meetings, Prososki works as an editor,
creates a wide range of educational and training materials for corporate clients,
and has authored one book.
To find out more about opportunities to
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