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Lesson Plans

Monitoring the midterms: Do midterm elections matter?

November 14, 2017

An elections official demonstrates a touch-screen voting machine at the Fairfax County Governmental Center in Fairfax, Virginia, U.S. on October 3, 2012. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo – TM3EC980XQB01

Full Lesson


Help students gain an understanding of midterm elections and discuss reasons why voter turnout remains low.


Civics, social studies, U.S. government, U.S. history, English Language Arts

Estimated Time

One 50-minute class period

Grade Level


Warm Up Activity

Explain the basics of the elections in the House and the Senate.

  • The House elects every two years and the Senate elects every six years; therefore, there are seats that are up for election between every presidential election.
  • The midterm elections are often connected to how the public feels about the president as well as presidential job approval ratings.
  • Ask your students what made these midterm elections have a historic (do you agree with the characterization ‘devastating’) place in history by listening to this NPR story, “The devastating history of midterm elections.”

Main Activities

2. 2018 midterm elections

  • Check out the website 270 To Win to find out what midterm elections are taking place in your state in 2018.
  • Let your students know they will be following a midterm race of their own choosing. However, races that are considered to be close will be more interesting to track.
    • Ask students to research and choose three to five websites about the 2018 midterm elections. (Use media literacy skills! For example, what makes 538 blog and USA Today reliable sources of information?)
  • Students should track the race leading up to the election. Make sure students know the issues being debated but ask them to examine one of the issues in greater depth.
  • Students should provide brief weekly updates to the class on their race at least one month leading up to the election.
  • Report the results back to class the day after Election Day, which is on Tuesday, November 6, 2018. Were they surprised by the results?

Extension Activities:

  • Have students should read the PBS NewsHour article about the midterm elections held in 2014 to see if any concerns about voter turnout may apply to 2018 elections.

By Stephanie Schragger, history teacher at St. Ann’s School in Brooklyn, NY.