This lesson may be used to introduce students to the system of primaries and caucuses by which candidates for U.S. president are nominated by their parties. It will take 1 - 2 class periods. It may be used in any social studies class in which current events are discussed but it is especially relevant in a U.S. government or civics course.
1. Begin by giving your students some background on the nominating process and primary season in the race for U.S. president. You may wish to refer to or have your students read the following article.
2. Give your students the HANDOUT and have them complete it individually or in small groups. Students will need government or civics textbooks and/or computers with Internet access.
3. Having gained a basic understanding of the nomination process, you may now have your students discuss, debate, and analyze the following issues. You may wish to do this in small groups, as an entire class, or by having your students select one issue and write about it.
Think about the process of nominating a party's candidate for president. How has this process changed over the last 40 years? Why? What impact have these changes had on nominating conventions? What do you think of these changes?
Explain the impact of frontloading. What special importance does the primary schedule give to states with earlier primaries? To candidates who organize and fundraise early? What has happened to the effective length of the primary season?
Compare the primaries and caucuses to the general election for president in terms of participation. What percentage of the population votes in primaries? How does this differ from the general election for president? How else do those who vote in the primaries differ from the electorate as a whole? Analyze the implications of these differences.
Have your students learn more about and even get involved in your state's primary/caucus. What is the history of primaries and/or caucuses in your state? How do the parties differ in the rules they set for the primary or caucus in your state? How would an interested voter get more involved in the process? What special role, if any, is your state's primary or caucus likely to have in this year's presidential primary season? Who do you expect to do well in your state and why? Students may get more involved by working on the campaigns of particular candidates, helping to inform voters by volunteering for nonpartisan organizations such as The League of Women Voters, or by "poll watching" on primary day.