Connecting Language Arts and Research Skills to Civics
Students choose a candidate that they would like to follow individually, in small groups or as a class (depending on the age of the students). Students engage in a research project to find as many campaign items as possible, used to publicize their candidate. Students assess strengths and weaknesses of their candidates. (Note: this lesson plan should be taught anywhere from 2 weeks to month prior to an election date).
Grade Levels: 4th Š 8th
Time: 3 class sessions over a period of at least 2 weeks (approx.)
Follow the County Campaign Trail worksheet
Current San Mateo County VoterÕs Pamphlet
Collection of campaign propaganda
Large manila envelopes used to hold campaign materials
1. Introduce the lesson by asking students if they have noticed any signs advertising candidates in their neighborhoods or around town. Ask if they can think of any of the names of the candidates. Share the local county voterÕs pamphlet with the class and show students the various government positions for which the candidates would like to be elected. Talk about the roles and responsibilities and note how many candidates are interested in the various positions of government.
2. Inform students that this will be an important election for them because they will be choosing a candidate to follow closely for an elections research project. (For very young children, you may want to choose a few candidates to research as a class. Older children can be assigned to work in teams of 2-3, or on their own.)
3. Once students have decided which candidate to follow, introduce the Follow the County Campaign Trail worksheet. Show students examples (when possible) of campaign propaganda. Inform students that they will be collecting similar items that they will keep altogether in a large envelop during the election campaign. As they collect a new item they will check it off their worksheet until they have found samples of each item (or almost all of them). Note: Stapling the worksheet to the manila envelop will probably work best for organizational purposes.
4. Take students into your computer lab (or use computers in your classroom) and introduce them to the Smart Voter site. Encourage them to find as many items as possible on their worksheet, making sure to print or write down the information so that they can place it into their envelopes. Some items may be hard to find online, but once students have the candidateÕs campaign headquarter information, they can request information by calling, writing or emailing the candidate. It will be important to first model how to do this and as a class, by creating a script for phone calling or brainstorming the essential components that a letter should contain (introducing self, grade level, teacherÕs name, school, project working on, etcÉ).
5. Once students have gathered most of their items, have a discussion about their various candidates. Have students identify the items that they have gathered and talk about if it has been easy or difficult to find information about the candidate. Inform students that they will be presenting their candidate to the class by preparing and delivering an oral presentation, and that they will use the information that they have gathered to share as much as they know about their candidate. They will also have an opportunity to say if they would vote for the candidate given what they have learned (or not learned) about him or her. Note: All presentations should be given before election day!
6. Once students have made their presentations and election day has passed, have students write a reflection about the campaign and how successful they think their candidate was. Encourage students to offer suggestions about ways they would have improved the campaign, as well as stating what they supported and didnÕt support about the candidateÕs platform.
7. Discuss the research project with your students. Ask them if they felt more informed about the campaign after participating in the project. Ask them if they talked bout what they learned with their parents or other adults that were eligible to vote. Did their increased knowledge make a difference? Make sure to point out (if it doesnÕt come out in the discussion) how important it is for voters to take the time to be informed about the various candidates before they vote.
8. Rubric Assessment: Before teaching this lesson, you should determine how your rubric will be designed so that you can share the elements that youÕll be evaluating with your students. You may already be using rubrics as a grading method, or you may be new to this method of evaluation. Regardless of your level of experience, the Rubistar website (http://rubistar.4teachers.org) is a wonderful resource and tool for all teachers.
Grades 4th: Listening and Speaking Strategies Students listen critically and respond appropriately to oral communication. They speak in a manner that guides the listener to understand important ideas by using proper phrasing, pitch, and modulation.
Grades 4th: Speaking Applications (Genres and Their Characteristics) Students deliver brief recitations and oral presentations about familiar experiences or interests that are organized around a coherent thesis statement. Student speaking demonstrates a command of standard American English and the organizational and delivery strategies outlined in Listening and Speaking Standard 1.0.
Grades 4th: Writing Strategies Students write clear, coherent sentences and paragraphs that develop a central idea. Their writing shows they consider the audience and purpose. Students progress through the stages of the writing process (e.g., prewriting, drafting, revising, editing successive versions).
Grades 5th-8th: Speaking Applications (Genres and Their Characteristics) Students deliver well-organized formal presentations employing traditional rhetorical strategies (e.g., narration, exposition, persuasion, description). Student speaking demonstrates a command of standard American English and the organizational and delivery strategies outlined in Listening and Speaking Standard 1.0.
Strategies Students write clear, coherent, and focused essays. The writing
exhibits the studentsÕ awareness of the audience and purpose. Essays contain
formal introductions, supporting evidence, and conclusions. Students progress
through the stages of the writing process as needed.
Follow the County Campaign Trail
You can find out what elections are coming up by going to the website http://www.smartvoter.org. You'll need to enter your zip code (if you're not sure, ask your parents or your teacher). The website will tell you who is running for what office. Pick a candidate and find as many items from his or her campaign listed below. Check the box to the left of each item you find. See how many you can get!
Running For: ___________________________________________
c The address and phone number of the campaign office I FOUND IT!
c The website for the candidate or if no website exists, a website that mentions the candidate
c The candidate's information on http://www.smartvoter.org I FOUND IT!
c A brochure about the candidate I FOUND IT!
c A news story about the candidate I FOUND IT!
c The candidate's position on an issue I FOUND IT!
c A sign or bumper sticker for the candidate I FOUND IT!
c Another news story about the candidate I FOUND IT!
c A photo of the candidate I FOUND IT!
c A biography of the candidate I FOUND IT!
c The candidate's position on another issue I FOUND IT!
c A list of endorsements for the candidate I FOUND IT!
c Another news story about the candidate I FOUND IT!
c The candidate's position on another issue I FOUND
c The election results I FOUND IT!
Did the candidate win? __________________________
Talk with someone else about what you think worked and did not work in their campaign.
What things about them did you like? __________________________________________________
What didn't you like? _______________________________________________________________
If you were running for that office, what would you have done differently? _____________________