AN ELECTION YEAR provides the perfect opportunity for teachers to incorporate civics into the curriculum. Through the election process, teachers can implement citizenship lessons and at the same time provide a model for the democratic system in the classroom. (1)
In the 2000 election year, I created and used the below lessons with my fifth grade students. For the month of October, my classroom was inundated with campaign memorabilia. Students diligently watched campaign speeches, brought in articles, marked maps, and even attended rallies. We held a school-wide election the day before the real presidential election, and in our election George W. Bush won. The book we used, The Kid Who Ran for President by Dan Gutman, created the illusion that it might be possible for an ordinary kid to become president. (2) In the book, Judson is elected president but realizes that he is not the right "man" for the job, so he resigns. My students loved the book, and after our election study, many expressed the wish to be president themselves someday.
The following ten lessons and culminating activity on the election process teach students about political parties and campaigns, about how citizens can shape politics, about the powers of local, state, and national governments, and about the rights and responsibilities of citizens. Gutman's book is written for ages nine to twelve and fits well into a fifth grade American history classroom. In the story, which takes place in the 2000 election year, a young boy named Lane convinces his best friend, Judson, to run for president of the United States. My students found the hilarious antics of the two boys--with their creation of the Lemonade Party and promise to abolish homework--very appealing. Aside from its comical aspect, the book is informational, presents the steps to the presidency, and ties in well with the daily lessons.
Although these lessons can be taught anytime, I believe they work best in an election year--whether it be the year of a presidential, congressional, or even school district election. The culminating activity allows teachers to parallel the election process with the election of class officers. In addition, teachers implement a strategy plan for classroom management by establishing officer responsibilities. Class officers can handle many of the daily tasks of a teacher, such as checking attendance or checking homework. The teacher is then able to spend more time on planning and implementing instruction.
The lessons are easily adaptable to state mandated standards and would fit well into any American history classroom for grade levels five through eight. The officer responsibilities presented here work well in a self-contained classroom; however, they could easily be adapted for multiple classes. Because these lessons integrate language arts, math, and social studies, extended time is expected for the presentation of each lesson. Assessment activities are included with each lesson plan and the unit ends with ideas for a mock campaign.
Teaching the Election Process in Ten Days
The student will:
1. explain how the powers of the government are distributed, shared, and limited by the U.S. Constitution;
2. identify the rights and responsibilities of citizens and explain their importance to the individual and to society;
3. communicate the importance of knowledge for competent and responsible political participation and leadership;
4. describe the organization and major responsibilities of local, state, and national governments;
5. analyze the importance of political parties, campaigns, and elections in the American political system;
6. explain the essential ideas and historical origins of American constitutional government as well as describe the many ways by which citizens can organize, monitor, and help to shape politics and government at …