Electing the President: How Do You Make Up Your Mind?

Teachers' Edition: Grades 3-6 (Lesson Plans)

Download the PowerPoint for this lesson plan
Download the President Detective worksheet for this lesson plan

President Detective- When you are voting for a President what factors should you consider?

Key concepts:

Duration:  Multiple activities are provided depending on which activities you choose the lesson may be one 45-minute session to two 45-minute sessions.


Students will understand that choosing a President will require thoughtful analysis of their personal preferences, who is telling the truth, complicated issues and their willingness to look for answers.

Objectives: Students will be able to discuss issues, understand their personal preferences, compare and contrast different opinions based on facts, and match candidate’s platforms with their own priorities.

Essential Question: How does a student decide which Presidential candidate best matches their prioritization of issues?

Common Core Standards:

Key Ideas and Details

  • RH.6-8.1. Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.
  • RH.6-8.2. Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions
  • Craft and Structure

  • RH.6-8.4. Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies
  • Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity

  • RH.6-8.10. By the end of grade 8, read and comprehend history/social studies texts in the grades 6–8 text complexity band independently and proficiently
  • 21st Century Skills


    The Choosing a President PowerPoint contains multiple resources and activities so you can pick and choose according to your class, which items would be most appropriate. Depending on your choices, you can complete the lesson in one session to two sessions.

    Pre-work for Session One: :  (Analyzing student preferences- Stereotypes )

  • Check to make sure you are able to access the Choosing a President PowerPoint’s links from your school’s computer system.
  • Session One:  (Analyzing student preferences- Stereotypes )

  • The very first activity is for students to draw the “Perfect President”.
  • They will then compare and contrast their drawings using the chart.
    If you have a SmartBoard you can have the students go up to the board to list their answers.
  • Prompt the students. Have them consider visual clues such as male versus female, ethnicities, age- young versus old, clothing- formal versus informal, etc. If time allows, ask about non-visual clues such as education, speech, etc.
  • Students will be introduced to the concepts of stereotypes (examples given are disabilities, political parties and age)
  • Students will use math to look at the age bias of US Presidents. They will use data to create a spreadsheet chart or use graph paper to plot the elected ages of presidents. Students will be asked “What stereotypes do you think come into play that we have not elected many very young (35-45) or many very old (65-75) presidents?”
  • The concepts of identity and likeability are discussed. People may choose a candidate based on which “group” they wish to belong, based on “Who they would like to go to lunch with?”, based on “Who they think has the most in common with them?”, or “Who their friends are voting for?”  Students will write a paragraph about why these methods may NOT get the best President?
  • Pre-work for Session Two: : ( Deciding who is telling the truth? and Understanding complicated issues )

  • Check to make sure you are able to access the Choosing a President PowerPoint’s links from your school’s computer system.
  • Print out Pipeline for and against worksheet if there is not a SmartBoard available.
  • Print out the  “Be a President Detective- Which issues are most important to you?” worksheet
  • Session Two: ( Deciding who is telling the truth? and Understanding complicated issues )

  • A reality game analogy is used to advise students that just like reality shows are not always true to life, many political ads stretch the truth.
  • Homework assignment: students watch television, surf the Internet or read a newspaper to find a political ad and then fact check it. This can be a class assignment if the teacher makes copies of the political ad.
  • Ground rules are established before political issues are discussed. Students are reminded that the issues they choose as important may not be the same as the student sitting beside them. Students are advised to be respectful and to listen to different opinions.
  • Students are advised that they will need to prioritize which issues are the most important to them.
  • The Keystone XL extension pipeline issue is used as an example that issues are complicated (factors to be considered are environmental issues, job creation issues, economic issues and national defense)
  • Looking at all sides of the issue, students will list reasons for and against the pipeline and then based on how they prioritize which issues are most important to them individually (environment, jobs, economy or defense) write a four paragraph newspaper editorial explaining their choice.
  • Students review issues and decide which are the most important to them and write about their decision.
  • Materials Needed:

    Non-tech: paper, poster board or drawing paper, colored pens and/or pencils for “Drawing the President” assignment.


    Teacher needs to have computer access to Internet.
    Links are provided on the PowerPoint if students have access.
    If students do not have access, teacher will need to make paper copies.


  • Apathy- lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern.
  • Identity- the distinct personality of an individual.
  • Peer pressure- influence from one's friends.
  • Point of view (POV)- a particular way of seeing things.
  • Preferences- liking something.
  • Prioritizing- deciding what item is most important.
  • Reliable- trustworthy.
  • Social Media- internet, Facebook, etc.
  • Stereotype- a widely held but oversimplified belief.
  • Additional Reference Links:

  • Red state, blue state, rich state, poor state- Why Americans Vote the Way They Do” by Andrew Gelman especially pages 16, 26, 84, 139, 140, 145, and 168
  • Young people and voting influenced by their parents
  • Additional Lesson Plan Links:

  • Lesson plans from PBS
  • Voting on a few issues  
  • Identifying Major Issues- In this lesson, students will analyze major issues in the current Presidential campaign. Additionally, they will identify individuals or groups affected by each issue and compare candidates' political stances. identifying major issues
  • CSPAN video kid contest
  • Script idea lesson and PDF
  • Political ads lesson plan

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