Lesson Plans

Campaign Finance

By the People: Campaign Finance Simulation

Role play politicians and special interest groups in a simulation of how the two groups interact with one another. Analyze the decision-making relationships between direct democracy, interest, and the influence of money in modern American politics.

NOW: Campaign Finance Reform

Examine finances used in political campaigns, and review internal documents to determine if wealthy contributors "buy" government influence. Assess the pros and cons of campaign finance reform, and devise realistic plans for achieving reform.

The Campaign Trail

Independent Lens: Vote Democracy! Video Modules and Educator Guide

Learn about the mechanics of political campaigns, from key personnel to political skills and tactics. (PDF)

KQED Education Network: Back to Basics: The 2008 Presidential Election

Learn basic terminology and background information about elections and voting in the United States and investigate the electoral process, the 2008 presidential election and the different issues in the campaign. Note: This lesson is designed for use with ESL students. (PDF)

KQED Education Network: Campaigning for Change

Select a school issue of importance to students, faculty and administrative staff and devise a proposal for mounting a campaign around the issue. Note: This lesson is designed for use with ESL students. (PDF)

NewsHour Extra: A Race to Watch: Campaign 2008, the Role of Technology and the Internet

Explore the role of technology and the Internet in political campaigning in the 21st century and determine the effectiveness of a specific presidential candidate's use of technology as a campaign tool.

NewsHour Extra: Covering the Campaign Trail: Technological Progress or Temporary Chaos?

Examine the methods used today for covering political campaigns, compare and contrast the technologies used today and those of the past and evaluate the effectiveness and merits of current methods of coverage.

By the People: Identifying Major Issues

Analyze major issues in the current presidential campaign, identify individuals or groups affected by each issue and compare candidates' political stances.

By the People: Presidential Campaign Policy

Understand the importance of viable policy positions in a campaign and brief statements on the issues from candidates. Identify the role of major issues in a presidential election by holding a mock campaign staff meeting.

By the People: Presidential Campaign Stop

Plan a campaign stop in Anytown, USA, a mid-size fictional city. Select where the candidate will appear and with whom, how to handle the media, and what the candidate will say during the visit to best reach that city's potential voters.

Civic Engagement

Access, Analyze, Act: Asking Questions That Make a Difference

Learn to think like journalists whose purpose is to ask good questions. Examine different types of questions, identify examples of these types and rewrite ineffective questions. Then, submit original questions to an election-related social media site. (PDF)

Access, Analyze, Act: Changing Media, Changing Campaigns

Explore how media technologies have played a role in presidential campaigns throughout history; research how media has been used in the 2000, 2004 and 2008 elections; identify key events and compile information, photos, and videos illustrating media use during these campaign years; and create timelines using an online timeline tool. (PDF)

Access, Analyze, Act: Connecting Politics to Everyday Life

Compare people's knowledge of celebrities to their knowledge of politicians, learn about your local, state and national representatives, and recognize important links between political issues and your everyday life. Then gather information about the views of your Congressional representative(s) as they relate to political issues that affect you. (PDF)

Access, Analyze, Act: Create an Advocacy Video

Choose a political issue and design a short persuasive video that demonstrates your knowledge and position regarding the issue and encourages viewers to take action. Then post your video online. (PDF)

Access, Analyze, Act: Debate with the Devil's Advocate

Use an online devil's advocate tool to expand your thinking about key issues in the 2008 election. Learn how people interpret issues differently, identify persuasive techniques, and determine what information is missing. (PDF)

Access, Analyze, Act: Express Your Views in a Vlog or Podcast

Choose a campaign issue and develop a persuasive extemporaneous speech that you record as audio or video files and share online. (PDF)

Access, Analyze, Act: Identifying Genres and Persuasion in Political Discourse

Learn about six genres of political discourse in the media and three persuasive appeals based on Aristotle's classical rhetoric, then find and analyze examples of the genres and persuasive techniques on the Web sites of the 2008 presidential candidates. (PDF)

Access, Analyze, Act: Let's Get Political

Read about civic engagement and take an interactive quiz that measures your political personality. Then discuss quiz results and the different ways that people participate in the process of citizenship. (PDF)

Access, Analyze, Act: Linking Youth, Politics and Social Media

Read about the participation gap among young people in the political process and learn about the role that social media can play in promoting civic engagement. (PDF)

Access, Analyze, Act: Listening in on the Election Process

Learn about the political process by exploring various formats of radio programming. Explore election-related issues and evaluate the authority and authenticity of various types of programming. (PDF)

Access, Analyze, Act: Welcome to the Blogosphere

Create your own blog to share your views on political issues, candidates and campaigns, develop a network of interested commentators and activists, and reflect upon your learning. (PDF)


Independent Lens: Vote Democracy! Video Modules and Educator Guide

Consider the qualities of democracy and how different people define democracy. Explore democratic governments in different countries, including burgeoning democracies and more established ones. And discuss and research prominent women who have influenced the ideas and practices of democracies around the world. (PDF)

The Electoral College

By the People: Is the Electoral College Out of Date?

Learn about the issues that led to the creation of the Electoral College and formulate and defend a position regarding the future of the system. As a class, convene a "constitutional convention" to propose amendments and create a feasible system of electing the president.

NewsHour Extra: The Electoral College

Define, analyze and debate the pros and cons of the Electoral College system.

The Issues

FRONTLINE: Al Qaeda's New Front

Investigate the new front in the war on terror as Muslims relocate in European countries. Explore the issues related to balancing ethnic tolerance with national security from various perspectives, and describe the role the U.S. government is playing.

FRONTLINE: Key Consitutional Issues of the Abortion Debate

Explain the balance of power that is at the heart of our federalist system. Using the question of the legality of abortions as a springboard, evaluate which level of government, state or national, should have authority over social and legal issues.

KQED Education Network: What's at Stake for California? Tuning in to the 2008 Presidential Election

Learn about the presidential candidates' views on issues important to young people, use a variety of media sources to assess the state-level implications of proposed policies, and compare and contrast media coverage to evaluate bias and balance. This lesson is available in both English and Spanish. (PDF)

NewsHour Extra: Analyzing U.S. Policy in Iraq

Compare President Bush's U.S. strategy in Iraq with ideas suggested by the Baker-Hamilton Commission, evaluate the suggestions made by these experts and work in groups to create your own policy.

NewsHour Extra: The Big Picture: Economic Security in the Country and Your Community

Formulate questions and concerns related to local economic issues, conduct research about these questions and concerns, and create posters that include facts, reasons, and examples to support conclusions drawn about the economic security of one's local community.

NewsHour Extra: Debate the U.S. Government's Role in Providing Health Care

Gain the knowledge and background necessary to engage in a meaningful debate about the following resolution: Health care is a fundamental right; the government has an obligation to secure this right for all Americans.

NewsHour Extra: Debating Immigration Reform

Learn about current legislation related to immigration reform, and create a role play that illustrates a specific point of view on immigration. Compose a letter to your senator describing your views about immigration reform.

NewsHour Extra: Exploring Alternative Energy Sources

Calculate the cost of heating homes and fueling cars in light of rising energy costs. Investigate alternative renewable and non-renewable energy sources that can be used to decrease America's dependency on fossil fuels.

NewsHour Extra: The Uninsured in America

Understand the multiple problems faced by those without health insurance. Consider who the uninsured are, why they do not have insurance, the government programs available to them and possible solutions to the problem.

NOW: Foreign War and Domestic Freedom: A Delicate Balancing Act

Review the concept of Civil Liberties and examine examples in American history in which rights were restricted. Investigate key arguments between those who seek to restrict liberties and those who do not.

NOW: Global Warming

Explore different perspectives in the global warming debate, take a position on global climate change and support this viewpoint with reasons, facts, and examples. Then create a project that supports this point of view.

P.O.V.: What Matters Most?

Learn how fellow citizens feel about key issues in the 2008 presidential election by exploring user generated commentary on the P.O.V. Web site. Then create an original commentary reflecting personal beliefs, experiences and ideas related to a key issue and post it online.

Political Advertising

By the People: Analyzing Political Ads

Study the persuasive techniques utilized in political commercials and the effects they have on viewers. Enhance knowledge of media literacy and videography terms and create political commercials for fictitious candidates.

NewsHour Extra: Political Commercials: Leading or Misleading Voters

Analyze commercials and identify logical fallacies. Then use a storyboard template to create original commercials for fictitious candidates, using the techniques and fallacies studied earlier in the lesson.

Political Humor

NewsHour Extra: Analyzing Election Cartoons

Identify symbols and caricature in political cartoons and how they portray a message, opinion or point of view. Compare cartoons with editorials. Select a current political cartoon and create an original cartoon in response to its message.

NOW: Political Analysis through Satire

Take a serious look at a funny subject to better understand how political satire is used during elections.


The First Measured Century: The History and Use of Sampling Methods

Learn about sampling by tracing improvements in sampling procedures over the twentieth century.

NewsHour Extra: How the Media Uses Polling Data in Presidential Election Coverage

Explore the field of journalism and discover reasons for including polling data in media coverage of presidential elections. Research and analyze recent examples of the use of polling data in journalism.

P.O.V.: What Do People Want from Politicians?

Describe the role of media reporting and polling data in the outcome of elections and develop skills to analyze and evaluate media information in order to make an informed decision at the polls.

The President & Congress

By the People: The President: Politician in Chief

Examine the formal and informal powers of the President as well as the political skills required to win a presidential election. Assess the personal qualities needed to win office and carry out the powers of the Presidency. Develop criteria for comparing candidates and apply them to the current presidential hopefuls.

Ken Burns American Stories: The Congress: The Evolution of Congress

Learn about the evolution of Congress from 1800 to the mid-1970s and the prominent congressmen who both characterized and produced changes in the national legislature.

NewsHour Extra: Analyzing the Candidates in the 2008 Presidential Election

Outline the steps a candidate must take to be elected to the presidency. Create a profile of one candidate, including his/her qualifications and point of view on various topics, and monitor the candidate's progress and success in campaigning.

NewsHour Extra: The Structure of Congress

Learn about the structure of Congress and its legislative process. Explore 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.

Primaries & Caucuses

NewsHour Extra: The Presidential Nominating System

Learn about the system of primaries and caucuses by which candidates for U.S. President are nominated by their parties.

Washington Week: Election 101

Review the system of primaries and caucuses leading up to the nominating conventions and consider the benefits and drawbacks of the two-party system.

Speeches & Debates

By the People: Persuasion and Political Debate

Explore the role of rhetorical strategies in developing persuasive messages within political campaigns or speeches and the difficulties in trying to advance arguments in the face of partisan opposition.

By the People: Writing a Political Speech

Examine the process of researching, writing, and presenting an effective and convincing political speech to various political groups. Research political party platforms and write, present, and assess speeches based on these platforms.

NewsHour Extra: The Presidential Debates

Investigate media coverage of presidential debates, and discuss how viewers are influenced by factors beyond the issues being debated. Explore techniques that can help viewers focus on what the candidates say rather than how they look and act.

NewsHour Extra: Holding an In-Class Presidential Debate

Research the history and view examples of presidential debates. Explore and practice formal debating skills and techniques of persuasion, and then apply them to look for failed logic in classmates' mock debates.


By the People: Get It on the Ballot

Research referenda and ballot initiatives in local elections, design a locally-oriented proposal to put on the ballot, compose a petition and gather signatures.

By the People: Voting Rights

Gain an appreciation for citizen participation in politics by reviewing past movements to extend the right of suffrage. Write effective and persuasive letters to leaders concerning a fictitious amendment to lower the voting age.

KQED Education Network: Creating a Student Voter Guide

Research key political issues and arguments and create a state and local Student Voter Guide. (PDF)

NewsHour Extra: Analyzing Free and Fair Elections

Examine the qualities of a "free and fair" election, compare them to the U.S. Department of State criteria and evaluate the 2007 elections in Nigeria to determine if they were free and fair.

NewsHour Extra: Bringing Out the Vote

Acquire information about voter turnout, analyze why Americans don't vote, and promote citizen activism by creating community publicity about the presidential election.

NOW: Voting

Examine the government's influence in everyday life, analyze a report focusing on a democracy reform effort and predict the impact. Strategize a way to overcome a perceived obstacle to voter participation locally, develop an action plan and implement it.

P.O.V.: Creating Video Public Service Announcements

Identify ways increased voter participation and other methods of political activity could impact issues of concern in your community and use visual storytelling techniques to encourage voting age peers to vote.

P.O.V.: Improving Elections

Determine how the voting process varies from place to place in the United States and then develop a position paper that addresses the question: How well does the U.S. election process achieve the nation's democratic ideal of free and fair elections?

Access, Analyze, Act: Let's Get Political Quiz

Learn about the various components that make up our political personalities and measure your own style of civic engagement with an interactive quiz. Students can print their results to share with their peers, teachers and parents.

American Experience: The Presidents

Connect today's election issues with the past by selecting a guiding question and watching clips from a range of presidential biographies. You can also watch full biographies of select presidents and listen to podcasts in which historians and political experts discuss the current campaign and compare it to previous elections.

NOW: Election 2008 'Toon In

Write captions for NOW's original election-related political cartoons, and read captions submitted by others. NOW editors will select qualified submissions to appear on the Web site.

SCETV: Ready to Vote Quiz

Take an interactive quiz to determine how much you know about government, political advertising, and voting rights and responsibilities.

Visit the Tools section to explore a collection of interactives appropriate for use with middle and high school students.