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December 8, 2015

What is social media’s role in Election 2016? – Lesson Plan


Government, U.S. History, Civics, Journalism

Estimated Time

One 45-90 minute period

Grade Level

Grades 9-12


  • Students will participate in a class discussion related to social media in the political process.
  • View a video clip related to the use of social media in politics and respond to questions using Facebook posts or Tweets as their format for presenting ideas.
  • Access candidate websites and discuss the role social media plays in each campaign.
  • Discuss the importance of appropriate responses that encourage positive democratic discourse.
  • Students will respond to candidate campaign posts using replies of their own and posting them in a classroom display area.


NOTE: This is a good opportunity to reiterate the permanence of posts made to social media sites. Remind students about the importance of appropriate posts and discuss the use of posts as a means of sharing opinions and ideas in a way that promotes democratic discourse. Check your school’s technology policy for additional information.

  1. Begin class by facilitating a short discussion about the use of social media using several questions, such as:
    1. How many of you regularly use some form of social media such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat, etc.?
    2. What makes using these sites fun and interesting?
    3. What are your feelings about candidates using social media as a means of advertising and sharing their qualifications and ideas with voters? Why?
  2. Distribute SOCIAL MEDIA VIEWING GUIDE and explain how to complete it. Then watch the PBS NewsHour video: VOTERS COMMUNICATE CAMPAIGN MESSAGES FOR 2012 ELECTION VIA SOCIAL MEDIA (once we have a good video for 2016, we will swap it in–still a little early in the election cycle!)
    1. As a class, discuss the video using comments and ideas students recorded on the Viewing Guide to determine how the students (and future voters) feel about the importance of social media in the election process.
  3. Access several candidate websites (national, state, or local) and look at each homepage to see how the candidates encourage people to interact with the campaign using social media.
  4. Conduct Internet research to find news articles discussing how candidates use social media to run their campaigns. Discuss how social media has changed the way campaigns are run.
    1. For example, what role has CROWDFUNDING played in this election? Bernie Sanders has amassed a number of SMALL DONORS (those who give less than $200) through a popular digital platform. Ted Cruz’s campaign created “CRUZ’S CREW,” awarding points to supporters who post pro-Cruz messages on social media while asking donors for important personal information in return.
  5. The New Fact Checkers in Election 2016
    1. Is fact checking what a candidate says during a speech or debate easier with the Internet and social media? Explain.
    3. What are the advantages of live blogging or tweeting both the Republican and Democratic debates? Disadvantages?
    4. Debates are stressful even for seasoned politicians. Do you think you would be able to tell if a candidate made a factual mistake by accident or on purpose? Do you think a candidate would lose some support if he/she made a factual error during a debate? Explain.
  6. Facilitate a discussion about Election 2016 and the role social media will play using questions such as:
    1. Would you use social media as a means for learning about and following your favorite candidates rather than traditional television advertisements or programming? Why?
    2. If a candidate did not use social media, opting instead for more old-fashioned campaign techniques, how would that affect your opinion of the candidate?
    3. Do you think the effective use of social media will give some candidates an advantage with specific groups of voters? Who and why?
  7. As a closing activity, work as a class to view the websites of two selected candidates from a federal, state or local election. Distribute 2 index cards to each student. View the two candidate’s most recent Twitter or Facebook posts. Print a page view of each candidate’s posts. Have each student write an individual response to the posts that were viewed for each candidate. Remind them that their ideas will be shared with the group.
  8. On a bulletin board or wall within the classroom, display the printed page view of each candidate’s posts. Call students up individually to share their responses to each post by reading them and then attaching them to the wall or bulletin board. If time allows, encourage students to discuss varying points of view presented in their responses to the candidates.

Additional Resources

About the author: Lisa Prososki is an independent educational consultant and instructional design specialist. She taught middle school and high school social studies, English, and technology courses for twelve years. This lesson has been adapted to include materials on Election 2016.

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  • The Materials You Need

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    • Computers with Internet connection
    • Index cards
    • Social Media Viewing Guide


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    Relevant National Standards:
      CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.6 Identify aspects of a text that reveal an author’s point of view or purpose (e.g., loaded language, inclusion or avoidance of particular facts).

      CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.8 Distinguish among fact, opinion, and reasoned judgment in a text.

      CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.6 Compare the point of view of two or more authors for how they treat the same or similar topics, including which details they include and emphasize in their respective accounts.

      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.

      McRel Compendium of K-12 Standards:
    • Standard 1: Understands ideas about civic life, politics, and government.
    • Standard 11: Understands the role of diversity in American life and the importance of shared values, political beliefs, and civic beliefs in an increasingly diverse American society
    • Standard 27: Understands how certain character traits enhance citizens’ ability to fulfill personal and civic responsibilities
    • Standard 28: Understands how participation in civic and political life can help citizens attain individual and public goals
    • Standard 29: Understands the importance of political leadership, public service, and a knowledgeable citizenry in American constitutional democracy

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