Follow these steps to help your students get a great introduction to presidential campaigns and candidates.
Time Required: 1 week
- Pick two to three real candidates for the presidency who you wish to have 'run' against each other. They can be from any historical period including today.
- Pick seven or eight issues on which the candidates from number one have taken positions. Examples include abortion, gun control, and education.
- Investigate the positions that your chosen candidates took on each of the issues from step number two. Also fill out a brief biographical sketch on each candidate.
- Pick nondescript names for your candidates. Examples might include John Smith, Tom Jones, etc.
- Present the candidates to your classes in chart form, stating all of the issues along with a brief biography. Make sure to exclude information that might give away the identity of these imposters.
- Have students pick the candidate with which they most agree. Make a tally of this 'vote'.
- Place students on a 'campaign committee' in each class for the candidate they like the most. Students who have no preference can be placed in whatever group needs more people.
- Have each campaign create a platform for their candidate.
- Have each campaign make posters and commercials for their candidates to raise awareness. These can be positive and/or negative.
- Hold a multi-class election. If you wish, other teachers can participate in the election.
- Debrief the students by revealing who each candidate really represented.
- Encourage politicking between classes.
- Don't give your candidates ethnic names or choose a female candidate because students may not focus on the issue differences, unless you are going to reveal their names/sexes after the initial vote.