Sunday, October 5, 2008

A Quick Hitter Election Lesson Plan

You Be the Campaign Manager

If you are working with the Hippocampus AP curriculum, you are probably finished with political parties and starting the election section. With the Presidential election winding down to the last thirty days, the excitement is building at the perfect time. Are we good or what?

Here is a suggestion for a real quick presidential election assignment that makes the kids go beyond the facts into analytical thinking. For this lesson, I am using the CNN Presidential Election Map. This map is a great tool. It shows the CNN poll predictions using dark blue for a solid Obama state, a light blue for a state leaning toward Obama, a light red for a state leaning toward McCain, and a dark red for a solid McCain state. Yellow is for the battle ground states. Click on each state and you get the prediction for the electoral votes. At the bottom of the pop up box, you can click on the history and see how the state has voted in the last four presidential elections.

Take a look at the assignment I give the students:
1. Pick a candidate and you become the Campaign Manager!
2. Assume you have $30 million dollars to spend in the last 30 days.
3. Decide (and list) the top 10 states your candidate will campaign in and explain why you selected those particular states (battle ground states "yellow", historically favors your candidate, demographics are fitting your candidates message, number of potential electoral votes, etc).
4. For each state you list, describe the demographic group you will "court" and the issue(s) you will focus on. (for example, in Florida, Obama might target the retired population with his Social Security/Medicare plan)
5. Decide how much you will allocate for your selected states, assuming you will spend all $30 million in just these 10 states.
6. Predict the outcome of the election in electoral votes assuming your strategy is successful in all cases.

It can be an individual assignment or a group project in a classroom. You could choose to make this a much more complex assignment. I keep it simple. Even so, it forces the students to incorporate previous knowledge from the political party unit as well as information in this unit on the elections. It combines current issues, demographics, polling, and the electoral college. If you have a classroom, this can become an interesting discussion with "campaigns" challenging each other on strategy and decision making. At any rate, it does bring the election alive in the classroom. After November 4th, the kids will love to compare the real world results with their work.

With two more presidential debates and plenty of issues to watch, it should be a very educational year in teaching parties and elections. Until next time...

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