A presidential election is a vivid object lesson in democracy. Teachers who want to use it to inspire and teach their students have many options with which to do so. Classroom activities such as mock elections, debates or election "reporting" draw students into the excitement of the race and may inspire them to become politically active--or at least to vote--when they're old enough to do so.
Define Your Terms
Start by defining terms. The website TeacherVision recommends a game of Election Vocabulary Bingo. After giving your students a list of common election terms to study, test their knowledge by passing out chips and bingo cards that feature these same common election terms (see Resources). Read out the definition of these terms as the students search for the corresponding words on their bingo cards. When a student gets four across, diagonally or vertically, she yells out "Bingo!"
Define the Candidates
Early in the campaign, when there's still a wide field of candidates, assign your students the task of writing reports about them. Have them include printed news reports about a candidate's stand on various issues. Tell your students to add information about the candidate's party, as well as what that party stands for. Be sure to tell them it's OK to include information about the candidate's home, family and pets as well.
Hold a Mock Debate
Children learn by doing--so hold a mock debate. Divide the classroom into an "Orange Party" and a "Purple Party." Assign each party positions on important issues such as recess rules, lunch menus, official movies and music, and dress codes. Give each party a mix of both popular and unpopular stances. Allow them to vote for their own party leaders, and then hold a debate between the two candidates, followed by a class discussion.
Track the Race
The Gallopade International Elections for Kids website suggests printing out aids to involve children in the election excitement, including weekly ballots, so they can vote on issues such as their favorite president or White House pet, and a map of the country (see Resources) to track the changing numbers of the presidential race as it progresses.
- directional vote sign image by Pix by Marti from Fotolia.com