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

Teachers' Edition: Grades 9-12 (Lesson Plans)

Download the supplemental materials for this lesson plan

Electing the President: How do you make up your mind?
This lesson can be four days, or two block schedule classes

Common Core Standards Correlation:
Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies Grades –12: standards 1–4, and 6–9
Writing Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies Grades 9–12: standards 1–9

HNN backgrounder (assigned for first day)
Walter G. Moss: "What is True Political Wisdom? A Primer for the 2012 Election" (HNN article)
Social Media: Politics 2.0 – The Power of the Citizen (YouTube video)
Leonard Steinhorn: "Give Students A Break—An Election Break" (HNN article)
Ron Paul stump speech (YouTube video)
Rick Santorum stump speech (NYT video)
Mitt Romney stump speech (NYT video)
"Mitt Romney's stump speech evolves over time" (NYT article)
President Obama AIPAC speech (NYT video)





  • Describe the ideal values and characteristics of a president




  • Understand how the media influences our perceptions of presidential candidates




  • Analyze how voters choose a candidate




  • Compare and contrast past presidents with our current presidential nominees




  • Evaluate the current political race for the presidency

    DAY ONE:

    Introduction (Bell Ringer):

    Using think-pair-share students should answer the following questions:




  • Why do Americans believe George Washington was the best president in history? Identify and explain the virtues and achievements during his tenure in office that make Washington so popular in our modern memory.




  • Move to a general review discussion of the HNN backgrounder and how various factors have influenced the way people choose to vote for a president: party politics, party platforms, the media and personal connection with the issues.

    Essential Question: To what extent and in what ways do Americans make up their mind in electing a president?


    Day 1: Do the candidates in the current presidential election have political wisdom?




  • Have students read Walter G. Moss: "What is True Political Wisdom? A Primer for the 2012 Election" and complete the Analysis Sheet

    Compare and contrast the values discussed in relation to George Washington with the values discussed in this article; then have students assess whether the current candidates possess these values.




  • How have we elected presidents throughout history?

    View the video "How to Pick A Candidate" and consider the following questions:




  • How do we consider a candidate we can trust?




  • How well are we informed about the candidates?




  • What is the voter’s responsibility in the process of selecting a president?




  • How would you describe the characterization “presidential”?

    Day 2: To what extent and in what ways does the media influence political awareness and participation?

    Have students watch the video clip "Social Media: Politics 2.0 – The Power of the Citizen" and consider the following questions




  • How does the use of social media influence democracy?




  • To what extent is learning politics through social media a viable information outlet?




  • Can voters make rational choices with only the use of social media?




  • How reliable are mainstream media outlets to provide objective political coverage of the election to help voters decide on the issues?




  • To what extent can social media increase the participation of young people in the presidential election?

    Have students actively read Leonard Steinhron: "Give Students A Break—An Election Break." While reading they should consider the following questions:




  • How does this article characterize the way young people participate in politics?




  • How is community service a key component to politicalization?




  • Can young people make rational choices? Should we consider changing the voting age to increase the participation of young people?




  • How would the increasing participation of young people influence the way we interpret the candidate’s resume?

    Day 3: How do campaign speeches influence the choices we make for president?

    Have students read the article "Romney’s Stump Speech evolves Over Time"




  • Working in groups, have students create a campaign stump speeches based on a past president that illustrates the qualities they would like to see in a president.




  • Have students research a particular president they believe exemplifies what is means to be “presidential.”




  • In their research, students should consider the political platform from their election, and different policies they advocated or initiated during their presidency




  • When students perform their speech, they should consider the song, slogans, etc. they would incorporate to persuade their potential constituents




  • The class/constituents would vote on the most effective stump speech.

    Day 4: Which candidate would you choose for president and why?

    Have students analyze the stump speeches of the candidates for president (Romney, Santorum, Ron Paul and President Obama)




  • Rick Santorum's stump speech (external link)




  • President Obama AIPAC speech (external link)

    Students should choose which candidate they would vote for, and defend their choice to the class, based on the criteria established from previous class discussions.

    Summary Question: Based on our societal value, the media and impact of speeches on public opinion, would George Washington be elected today?\

    Enrichment: Have students create a poster campaign of the candidate they support for President in the 2012 election.

    Enrichment Beyond the Classroom: Students can download and play The Political Machine, an educational computer game.

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