Make Good Choices! Presidential Election

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Lesson At A Glance

This is the last lesson in a 6th grade unit on Democracy and Civic Virtue in which students make connections to modern U.S. representative democracy, of their learning in the previous two units on Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome. This lesson follows lessons on an analysis of Greek/Roman roots of democracy and representative republican government, Citizen’s Rights and Responsibilities, and a lesson on biased and persuasive speech.


  • Students will understand the electoral process and a citizen’s rights and responsibilities in it through carrying out a mock two-party primary election for presidential candidates.
  • Students will critically evaluate information used in decision-making.
  • Students will increase understanding of the methods and power of participating, as citizens, in a representative democracy.

Standards Addressed:

History Social Science

6.4.3. State the key differences between Athenian, or direct democracy and representative democracy.

6.7.2  Describe the government of the Roman Republic and its significance (e.g., written constitution and tripartite  government, checks and balances, civic duty)

6.7.8  Discuss the legacies of Roman art and architecture, technology and science, literature, language, and law

Historical and Social Sciences Analysis Skills

Chronological and Spatial Thinking -- Students explain how major events are related to one another in time.

Historical Interpretation -- Students explain the central issues and problems from the past, placing people and events in a matrix of time and place.  Students explain the sources of historical continuity and how the combination of ideas and events explains the emergence of new patterns

Language Arts

1.8  Analyze the use of rhetorical devices for intent and effect.

1.9  Identify persuasive and propaganda techniques used in television and identify false and misleading information.


1.5  Understand and explain "shades of meaning" in related words

2.6   Determine the adequacy and appropriateness of the evidence for an author's conclusions.

2.8   Note instances of unsupported inferences, fallacious reasoning, persuasion, and propaganda in text.

2.2   Write expository compositions (e.g., description, explanation, comparison and contrast, problem and solution):

Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects K-5

College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening K-5

Comprehension and Collaboration

1. Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.

Essential Questions/Issues:

1. Is citizenship a right or a responsibility?

2. How powerful is participation by citizens in their government?

3. Does social capital strengthen a republic?  How?



Students will be evaluated through informal checks for understanding and participation, and teacher observation during writing, artwork, whole class discussion, and small group debriefing.

Click here to download assessment tools


Activity Steps:

Click here to download activity steps

This lesson takes place over a two to three week period.

 Purpose  Teacher   Learner
2 – 5 minutes
 Play recording, or show collage of headlines via PowerPoint, or on interactive whiteboard, of current news stories.
2 – 5 minutes

5 – 10 min. / day over 4 days 

(Day 1)
1:  Ask what’s the most important issue for the planet today?  For the country?  For your neighborhood?

(Day 2)

2. Distribute Citizen Journals and first iteration of GRASPS. At this point, and throughout, emphasize the importance of doing their best work, and of making connections between discussions, and unfolding events, and Social Studies / historical information they have learned.  It might help to ask for connections in class discussions as you go along.

3. On board, post selected issues.

(Day 3)

3:   On pieces of construction paper, distribute 6 each labeled “mouth,” “nose,” “ears,” “eyes,” and “hair.”  Ask students not to share their work.

(Day 4)

4:    Place 2 small colored pieces of paper per student on their tables, one of each of two colors.  Admonish secrecy.

Collect papers, place in containers.  Still give no explanation.  This can lead to engaged anticipation!

(Day 5)
5.     Make 6 identical head shapes, differently colored.  Cut out body parts, or have a few students help with this task. 

“Cut and paste” the issues, pulling from the Citizen Journals so that you’ve randomly assigned a response to each of the issues to one of 6 piles.   Each of the piles will be the platform of a candidate.  Type each of them up into a candidate’s statement, making minimum changes to the language such as transitions, or introductions i.e. “My fellow Americans…”

Students find three small pieces of colored paper on their table on which to write the answers to these three questions.  The papers go into a container without further discussion that day.

Students do quick-write on rights & responsibilities of citizens.

Pair-Share discussions, 1 – 2 minutes per issue.  After each pair-share, students write a paragraph for each issue, detailing their opinions and solutions.

Students draw the body parts listed on the papers they receive, then put them in the container.

Students write a first name, male or female, not including the name of anyone in the classroom on one of the papers.  On the second, they write a last name, again not of anyone in the class. 

(Possible Writing Prompt:  Can you tell anything about a person by their name?  Do people make judgments about others based on their first or last names?)

(Writing Prompt:  Do people make assumptions about other people based on their appearance?  Give examples)


1-2 weeks

5:  Putting the candidate’s appearance together:  Select 6 gluers, and have the other students take turns drawing a body part and giving it to a gluer, until each head has all of its parts glued on.  The idea is to make this as random as possible, to avoid bias towards a candidate!


Attach first & last name combos to a completed head.  Now you have your candidates which you can post on a board, wall, window, etc., along with their statement.

Present 2nd (Election) GRASPS.

Announce that these are 6 candidates running for office in a presidential primary.  Check for understanding about primaries, election process, etc.  Use Power Point slides and review previous learning. Access web or written information on primaries and caucuses.

Discuss the “two party system” in the U.S., and introduce the classroom “two party system,” represented by the Gummycats and the Rubberpelicans.   

Arbitrarily assign 3 candidates to each.

Read aloud, or have a student read, one of the compiled candidate’s statements, attaching it to one of the candidates on the wall.  Do the same with the remaining statements. Post the statements next to the candidates for continuing perusal.

6:    Each day post or introduce new information about the candidate.  This can include fliers, copies of “news reports,” biographies of the candidates, celebrity endorsements, candidate debate dialogue, attack ads.  These can be teacher or student generated.  Discussion and journaling should take place daily to encourage critical thinking about the issues, information, persuasive or propaganda writing. 

Emphasize discussion about responsibilities and power of citizens to seek information, interpret its value, and be involved in making choices of representatives.

 Discuss what happens if choices aren’t careful, or if citizens don’t participate, thereby allowing others to make the choices for them.  Make connections with ancient Greek, Roman systems, tying to previous learning.

Students take turns drawing body parts from containers.

6 selected students glue body parts to heads.

Student(s) draw 6 first names and last names.

Whole class discussion

Writing:  Students reiterate day’s learning about election process. 

Selected students may read candidate statements to class.

Discussion / Writing:  How is understanding, & looking into candidate statements, part of active participation in the democracy?

Students read new information, discuss, and journal on a daily basis.


1 hour + time (homework / in-class) for final writing assignments & self-evaluation

7. Hold the election.  You may opt to have them vote for one of each party, or have them join a party and vote for their own candidate slate.

Prompt journal writing: What influenced them either positively or negatively.  How important (do they feel), is their one vote?

A twist on the election process:  Pass out election “ballots” which are folded in half and sealed.  Inside each is a message letting them know, after they’ve voted, whether their vote counts.  For example, the message might read:  “Electronic voting machine error.  Your vote not counted.”  Or, “On average, only 52% of the population votes in a general election.  You are not part of that population.”  Count only the votes with messages that read

“Congratulations!  You participated in your representative democracy.”  

8:  Announce winners.  Lead class discussion about process.

9.   Give writing prompt: Write about the election process and the outcome; Make connections with the Greek, Roman legacy.  

10.  Give reflection question to wrap up journal, “How important is active participation in a democratic process?”
Include “what if there is little or no participation?”

11. Have students write a self-evaluation based on GRASPS.  Did they meet the learning criteria?  What could they have done differently?  What did they do well? 

What important connections to Greek and Roman history can they make?

Students vote for candidate of their choice.

Journal writing on how and why they made the choice they did.

Students participate in whole class discussion about the process.

Students write in journals.

Student writing.

Students respond to final reflection question in journals.

Students complete self-evaluation based on GRASPS

Special Needs of students are considered in this lesson: 

This lesson easily lends itself to participation by all on a number of levels.  Understanding of concepts is supported through multiple modalities including discussion, oral presentation, on-line technology and in-class visuals, and written materials.  Based on need, writing may modified, or done with word processing.  GATE students may take on some of the “propaganda” writing as an additional challenge.

Extension Ideas:

  • Letter to parents describing the activity and inviting their participation i.e.: coming in to read posted candidate information, as well as at-home discussion with their children about real-world issues, candidates, and decision-making.
  • Continued connection with elections going on in the real world through current events presentation and discussion.
  • Fictional narrative writing about what happens if one or another candidate takes office.  Turn that into a play and perform it.
  • Research and writing about one of the issues.
  • Students write political speeches from one or the other candidate and carry out Presidential Election.
  • Classroom elections.

Materials and Resources Needed: 

  • media materials – newspapers, news magazines, internet access, created “Citizen Journals” construction paper
  • drawing materials, scissors small pieces of paper, different colors, collection containers for papers (paper bag works fine in a pinch)
  • CD or I-pod recording of news from radio or webcast
  • CD player or I-pod speaker system and/or interactive white board.


  • History/SS Framework
  • Candidate’s websites
  • Various television, newspaper, magazine, internet editorials and advertisements, as well as mailed political propaganda
  • -- Nickelodeon’s websites for a kid’s presidential primary – includes information on the primary process at a kid level.  Also links to more teacher information.
  • information on the electoral system 
  • Education for Democracy – California Civic Education Scope & Sequence; Center for Civic Education, published by Los Angeles County Office of Ed 2003


Student Handouts:

Download student handouts here