THE CHOICE 2008 Teacher’s Guide home page


About the Film

The Choice 2008 is a two-hour examination of the rich personal and political biographies of John McCain and Barack Obama that goes behind the headlines to discover how they arrived at this moment and what their very different candidacies say about America.


Watching the Film

Ideally, teachers will assign the film for viewing as homework or show the film in class. Suggested discussion questions are provided. The lessons and activities in this guide can be used in the classroom regardless of whether or not the film is viewed.


A Note to Teachers

The Choice 2008 is a comprehensive FRONTLINE biography studying the character, experience and worldviews of Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama. These teaching activities are designed to help students become more familiar with the candidates in the 2008 presidential contest and to explore the political cultures that shaped their careers and that support their candidacies.

For classes in Social Studies, Language Arts, Current Events and History; grade level 9-12.


Discussion Questions:

Questions for students to discuss after viewing The Choice 2008.


Featured Lesson Plan:

Candidate Narratives
Students will become more familiar with:

  • The biographies of Sens. McCain and Obama
  • How the campaigns are turning these biographies into narratives in campaign 2008
  • The benefits and limitations of candidate narratives in campaign discourse
  • How the candidate-created narratives compare to the FRONTLINE documentary


Additional Lesson Ideas:

Public Financing of Campaigns
Students will debate the benefits and costs of public funding in campaign 2008.

Voter Mobilization
Students will create nonpartisan youth-mobilization campaigns.

First-time Voters
Students will create educational materials for first-time voters.

The Vice Presidency
Students will learn more about the vice presidential selections in campaign 2008.


Purchasing the Film:

The Choice 2008 can be purchased from Shop PBS for Teachers. Also, teachers and students can watch the program streamed in its entirety on FRONTLINE's Web site.



This teacher's guide was developed by Simone Bloom Nathan of Media Education Consultants. It was written by Dr. Sharon E. Jarvis of the University of Texas at Austin and the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Participation. Advisers were Greg Timmons, curriculum writer and educational consultant; Ellen Greenblatt, The Bay School, San Francisco; and Debra Plafker Gutt, Stuyvesant High School, New York.

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