PLAN: HOT ISSUES OF THE 2004 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
Subjects: Government, civics, social studies, current issues
Time: 2 to 3 class periods
These three activities are intended to help students get beyond the rhetoric of campaign ads, slogans, media "sound bites," and even most of the speeches presented by the presidential candidates. Students will identify and review some of the major issues facing voters in this election and discover important history and background information on these issues. Students will also research the candidates' policy positions on these issues and, using an analysis tool, will determine which candidate has the best solution to the issues they examine.
I: Warm-up Activity
1. Divide students into groups of three or four. Write on the blackboard the following statement: "What do you feel are the most important issues in this presidential election?" Give students a few minutes to individually write at least five on a piece of paper. Make sure students focus on the issues facing the nation and not on the personalities of the candidates.
2. Have students briefly review their topics with their small groups and tell them to arrive at a consensus of five in each group, in priority order.
3. Write up these topics from each group at the front of the class. Then have each group pick one of the topics they want to explore. Ideally, each group will have a different topic. If two groups are similar, have one group choose another one from their priority list.
Distribute HANDOUT #1 "Speech and Political Ad Review" to all students
and ask them to follow the directions on the handout. Students will go to each
candidate's Web site to examine speeches and/or television ads. They will then
review several speeches and make a list of statements made by each candidate on
their topic. If students don't have access to their own computers, you can download
and print off the speeches for them at:
At these sites they will find links to campaign ads and speeches. Tell students that each Web site is unique in its structure and some of the topics they are looking for might be found in several of the speeches listed. The speeches are presented to general audiences and contain a variety of topics, though there may be a main theme. Tell students that they can skim the speeches to find the topic they are exploring. If they are examining the speech on the computer they can use the "FIND" command (control F) to locate the topic faster.
5. Have students record what the candidates say about the topics they have chosen on HANDOUT #1's chart. Ask then to address the following questions:
6. In most cases, students will find the speech/media ad information falls short of clearly defining and addressing the solution. Tell students that the speeches and political ads are constructed more for the purpose of raising the emotions or a "live" audience or structured in a quick media ad format and are not intended to offer a forum for analysis and discussion. Tell students that to not only understand a candidate's position on an issue but to also feel confident in the candidate's position, they must examine the candidate's policy statements and put these through a process of analysis. The next activity has students do just that.
Part II - Analyze the Candidates' Positions on the Issues
this next section, students will have the opportunity to utilize an analysis tool
that helps identify, define, and examine complex issues in an easy and organized
way. Patterned after analysis models used in business and industry, students will
follow five basic steps of analysis for each candidate on selected issues. The
five steps are:
These steps can be used in other areas of study when trying to problem solve, project manage or analyze complex issues. The first activity here is structured to provide informational background for the students on the different issues they are examining.
2. Have students go to the NewsHour's Vote 2004 Issues Web site at http://www.pbs.org/newshour/vote2004/issues.html. If online computers are not available for students you may download and print the materials from the Web site.
3. Distribute HANDOUT #2, "Issue History and Recent Developments Analysis Guide" to all students. Tell them this first activity will provide some historical background and updates on the issues they are examining. Review the handout with students and tell them to follow the directions on the guide. As they read the Web page they can fill out the chart on the handout. After students have finished the chart, review the following questions with them:
students have some difficulty identifying the major sub-issues, tell them to look
in the reading at topics that affect the issue, such as costs, citizen preferences,
past laws or rights protections, public opinion, etc. Be sure to have students
record the sub-issues on their paper so they can use them in the next activity.
4. While students are in their same groups, pass out STUDENT HAND #3 "Issue Analysis Grid." Tell students this second activity is to help them dissect the issues and analyze the proposals of the candidates and arrive at a position where they can better determine which candidate's proposal is best suited to address the issue. Review the hand out with students and tell them to follow the directions on the guide. As they read the two candidates positions on the Web page they can fill out the chart on the handout. After students have finished the chart, review the following questions with them:
As a final activity combine all the groups issue analysis results in a giant grid
sheet and determine which candidate is best suited for the job of President of
the United States.
Correlation to National Standards
About the Author Greg Timmons is a teacher, curriculum writer and Executive Director of The Constitution Project in Portland, Oregon He has taught middle school and secondary Social Studies for over 30 years, wrote lessons and directed institutes on U.S. Constitution related issues. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Oregon Council for the Social studies.
To find out more about opportunities to contribute to this site, contact Leah Clapman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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