The world has changed a lot since 1845. Do you think it still makes sense for people to vote on Tuesdays? Or do you think another day of the week would be better? Explain why.
According to the article, allowing individual states to set their own voting days led to several decades of "electoral chaos." What problems do you think this caused? Do you think this would be an even bigger problem today? Why or why not?
According to the article, Congress decided to hold elections on a Tuesday to accommodate church-goers and farmers. This seems like a pretty logical solution since most citizens at the time were farmers. Why do you think it took Congress almost 50 years to pick a standard day for elections?
Imagine that you were running for president. Which issues would you highlight during your campaign? What solutions would you propose?
- As a class, review the steps involved in the election process. Begin with the primaries and end with voting day. Go into as much detail as you deem necessary for the grade level you teach.
- Ask students how candidates try to influence people to vote for them. If necessary, point out that candidates have always given speeches and held town hall meetings. Advertising and other promotional materials also have a long history in the electoral process. In the current election, social media has taken on a prominent role, too.
- Guide the class as students hold a mock election. Identify the candidates and have students conduct research to learn more about their positions. Host a short debate as students present candidates' views to the class. Following the debate, have the class vote to determine the winner.
Following the election, encourage students to explain why they voted for a particular candidate. Challenge students to identify key reasons why the winner prevailed over the competitors.
CUSTOMIZE THE LESSON:
Prior to conducting this activity, select an issue for students to vote on. For example, students could vote on what color shirt everyone should wear on a set day. Divide the class into small groups. Assign each group a candidate. Instruct students to make a list of reasons why their candidate should win. Have each group present its list of reasons to the class. Hold the election. Discuss the results.
Prior to conducting this activity, select an issue for students to vote on. You may want to focus on the current presidential election. Or, students could vote on something simple such as what color shirt everyone should wear on a set day. Divide the class into small groups. Instruct groups to conduct research to learn more about their candidates. Challenge them to compose a list of reasons—not just opinions—for why their candidate should win. Invite the class to debate the issues. Then hold the election and discuss the results.
Divide the class into five groups. Assign each group a candidate from the current presidential election. (Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Gary Johnson, Jill Stein and Evan McMullin) Give students time to conduct research on the ideology of their assigned candidates. Encourage each group to create promotional materials and write a speech that outlines its candidate's views. Then have each group pick a volunteer to serve as that candidate. Invite the candidates to read their speeches during the class debate. Encourage audience members to debate the issues after all candidates have spoken. Then hold the election and discuss the results.
Lead a class discussion on the Electoral College. What is it and how does it work? Challenge students to find a way to create an Electoral College system for the class. Then divide the class into five groups. Assign each group a candidate from the current presidential election. (Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Gary Johnson, Jill Stein and Evan McMullin) Give students time to conduct research on the ideologies of their assigned candidates. Invite groups to debate the issues. Then hold the election and discuss the results. Did the popular candidate win or did the Electoral College prevail?
In this activity, students use websites to gather data about the people in their home state and those who represent them in Congress. Then they use an online tool to visually compare the data. Created by the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, this activity is ideal for younger students.
In this lesson from the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, students in grades 9-12 identify and analyze the effectiveness of propaganda, rhetoric and satire as they read George Orwell’s “Animal Farm.” Students campaign as one of the animals in the book and then cast their votes. After voting, each student writes a one-page reflection on the activity.
Introduce students to some of the events and issues that shaped the life of our first president, George Washington, with this teacher guide from the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.
A digital-savvy historian has been posting historic polls on his Twitter account. Read this Smithsonian article to learn about the surprising relevance these polls have to today’s politics.
Read this Smithsonian Magazine article to learn how one vote sent Thomas Jefferson to the White House.
Use this Smithsonian lesson to introduce students to the office of the presidency and the informal process of electing the president. Students will examine political campaigns, political parties and the Electoral College.