12 U.S. election resources to use with students now

The presidential elections are a hot topic. These activities, sites and games will engage and inform your students. (Public domain image via Pixabay.com)

The presidential elections are a hot topic. These activities, sites and games will engage and inform your students. (Public domain image via Pixabay.com)

The 2016 U.S. presidential elections have been some of the most talked-about in a long time. Your students are likely talking about them, too, or have heard about them.

There are lots of ways to incorporate the elections into your curriculum, no matter what you teach.

One of my favorite resources for finding activities, games and information for students is iCivics.org. It’s a site founded by Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor to restore civic education to schools. It provides games, lesson plans, activities and guides for teachers and students for free. I mention several of its resources in the list below.

Here are 12 ways to pull the elections into your class now:

1. Presidential quotes video — This short video displays several quotes by former presidents. Students can discuss these quotes, comparing them to statements made by political candidates or analyzing the role of the president. Most grades could benefit from this video.

2. Understanding the voting process video — This 12-minute video by Scholastic is geared toward students in grades 4-6. It teaches students the importance of voting and that even kids get to make decisions.

3. The Road to the White House site — This interactive website lets students scroll through the entire presidential election process, from kickoff to election day. Students of most grades could benefit from this site.

4. Electoral process calendar activity — This activity lets students find and mark on a calendar the important dates in the election. I pulled the PowerPoint file from iCivics.org into a Google Slides file that students can interact with. There are other alternate activities in this file (also from iCivics.org). This would be great for elementary and middle school students.

5. Create a campaign poster activity — After learning about the roles of candidates in an election, students can create their own campaign posters. This activity utilizes Google Drawings but could be done in a one-slide PowerPoint presentation. Students can start with this pre-created template, or they could design their own posters from scratch. This activity is designed for students in elementary and middle school, but it could be scaled up to high school.

6. Win the White House game — This is my favorite election activity. This game by iCivics.org lets students take the place of a candidate for president and control all aspects of the campaign. They raise money. They talk about issues. They count electoral college votes. In the end, they see whether their efforts win them the White House or not. It’s leveled for elementary school, middle school and “high school+”. iCivics also provides a PDF game guide for teachers.

***EXTRA RESOURCE — California educator and #DitchBook Twitter Chat Ambassador Karly Moura and I pulled together a great HyperDoc activity to help students explore elections. It’s geared for students in grades 4-6, but it can be leveled higher or lower by adjusting some of the activities.

7. Cast Your Vote game — This is another iCivics.org game that focuses more on the voting process and less on presidential elections. Students watch a debate between two candidates and hear their statements on a variety of issues. Then, students vote for a candidate and justify their votes. This game can likely be used with students in most grades.

8. Mock election activity — Want to help your students participate in an election that matters to them? Host a mock election using this iCivics.org activity. Students become candidates and campaign for a new policy in your classroom, while the rest of the class votes. It’s fun and participatory! This game can likely be used with students in most grades.

9. Vote 411 site — Vote 411 is a non-partisan project by the League of Women Voters. It provides information about general and state elections and provides a one-stop shop on details and requirements for voting. My favorite feature: view candidates from all races (local and national) side-by-side to pick a favorite. It’s probably best suited for students in middle school/junior high and high school, but could be used with upper elementary.

10. Candidate report card activity –This iCivics.org activity helps your class apply their candidate evaluation skills. Students will select the issues and qualities they care about, then research candidates running for the office of your choice. Students will determine how the candidates rate, as they learn about the campaigns. Students in most grades could benefit from this activity.

11. Write a letter to the next president activity — This activity, geared toward students age 13-18, encourages students to research, write and make media to voice their opinions on issues that matter to them in the coming election. This activity is part of more election resources provided by the New York Times.

12. Citizens, Not Spectators site — This is a voter education program created to increase the voting rate among young Americans. Targeted to students in grades 4-12, it provides curriculum that’s hands-on and active. It uses actual voter registration forms and ballots to help students see how to register and cast a vote in a simulated election.

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