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October 31, 2016

Decode the Electoral College and predict the next president – Lesson Plan

Let your students predict the next president with the Electoral Decoder, an interactive cartogram. Students will look at how the Electoral College has affected presidential elections throughout history by using the ‘Electoral Decoder’ from the PBS Election Central website. They will also make predictions as to how the electors will vote in the 2016 presidential election.

Subject

Social studies, U.S. Government, Civics

Estimated Time

One 50-minute class

Grade

7-12

Essential question

What role does the Electoral College play in deciding who is president?

Objective

To understand how the Electoral College works and the importance of swing states in presidential elections.

Materials

Computers, access to Internet

Overview

The Framers established the Electoral College in Article II of the Constitution and the term ‘electors’ are found in several amendments. The Electoral College is made up of 538 electors. Each candidate running for president has his/her own group of electors in each state. Electors cast their vote for president and vice president, which are then counted by Congress.

A majority of 270 electoral votes is needed to elect the President. How does each state end up with different numbers of electors? (Don’t forget that under the 23rd Amendment, the District of Columbia is allocated 3 electors and treated like a state for purposes of the Electoral College).

Students will look at how the Electoral College has affected presidential elections by using the interactive cartogram from the PBS Election Central website. They will also make predictions using the ‘Presidential Predictor’ as to how the electors will vote in the 2016 presidential election.

Procedure

Warm up activity

Check your (primary) sources! Click here to read all of the times ‘electors’ are mentioned in the Constitution and under federal law. Is the term ‘Electoral College’ used in the Constitution? Why did the Framers create the Electoral College?

Main activity

Have students visit the “Election Decoder” on the PBS Election Central website (preview the ‘Intro video’ during your lesson prep): http://www.pbseduelectioncentral.com/electoral-decoder

  • How many electors are in your state?
  • Which state has the most electors? Which states have the fewest electors?
  • What is the meaning of a swing state? What are some swing states in Election 2016?

Students should click through the presidential elections or use the scrub tool at the bottom of the page. Check out some of the more controversial elections relating to the Electoral College, including the Elections of 1800, 1824, 1836, 1876, 1888, and 2000 from Fair Vote-Center for Voting and Democracy, which also includes a list of third party candidates who have received Electoral votes.

Predict the next president!

Follow these steps to predict who the next president of the United States will be. Start off with a blank cartogram. Click through to choose Red (Republican), Blue (Democrat) or Orange (Third Party) for each state:

Presidential Predictor Image 2

Share your results over Twitter or Facebook and have your students check out how other classes have predicted Election 2016 (be sure to check your school’s technology policy).

Presidential Predictor Image 5

Extension Activities

Read the following articles from PBS NewsHour to learn more about the Electoral College.


by Victoria Pasquantonio, PBS NewsHour education editor, social studies and English teacher

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  • Standards

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    Relevant National Standards:
      CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.7 Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.7 Integrate quantitative or technical analysis (e.g., charts, research data) with qualitative analysis in print or digital text. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.7 Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.

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