Regardless of the age of your students, teaching about the election is always an important topic. For younger students, they may host their own election nominating a class president while learning in an age-appropriate way who is running to be the next United States President. As students get older, many become more interested in learning who the candidates are and how an election is run. One vital topic to include during a presidential unit involves the electoral college.
Teaching about the electoral college is essential in any presidential unit because it allows students to know exactly how the president is elected. As with any information, it is important to make the lessons engaging and hands-on in order for students to truly understand the content. Stations are a great way to accomplish this goal!
Creation of the Electoral College
The first step (or station) to a solid unit on the electoral college involves why it was created. If students do not understand this, it may be very hard to understand why the popular vote is not used to determine who the president is. While there is so much history behind the decision, it can be broken down into simple parts in student-friendly language.
The first station will go beyond why the electoral college was created and allow students to learn how the electoral votes are decided, what decisions are at the state level, such as selecting electors, how election day works, and how someone may have more popular votes but fewer electoral votes. Students are going to travel through history to learn about the formation of the electoral college and be able to truly understand what is going on during the day of the election.
If you have taught through a presidential election before, you may have been asked, “Why do we see blue and red everywhere!?” Students may know they are colors on the flag but question the symbolism behind them during an election. Students will now be investigators and see which states are represented in blue and red. This portion will also allow students to see the number of electoral votes each state receives, which will also help students see the difference between the electoral and popular vote.
Regardless of what you’re teaching or how you’re teaching it, students will always learn in different ways. While some students like to work with their hands, others like to read or listen. Embedding a video into your lesson is a great extension to ensure your students are hearing the content in multiple ways. While your activities or stations may explain the information, a video is another excellent tool to help students absorb the content. Depending on your lesson and preference, you may even start the video as an introduction to the unit, during the unit for an overview, or after the unit as a review!
How does the electoral college work?
A unit on electing the president may be set up in a variety of ways. However, there may come a time when questions consistently begin with the word how. For example, How is the president elected? How does the electoral college determine the winner? How do states receive a different number of votes? One excellent resource to include focuses on some type of comprehension activity. Students will personally find answers to their questions, which will allow them to think deeper and interact with the text.
Since students all learn in different ways, it is important to incorporate a variety of activities. Some students learn best through discussion, others through reading, and others through examining visual aids. When teaching about the electoral college, political cartoons can provide a strong way for the visual learners to see how complex the system works. This incorporation will allow students to take the words that are being read and discussed and see what they mean in a visual way, allowing them to understand the content deeper.
While the steps above include a format to teach the electoral college, there is no right or wrong way. As with any content, the format will depend on the teacher and students. However, the stations above incorporate a variety of learning styles in order to reach the variety of students in each classroom. The electoral college is a complex topic for students to understand but engaging activities will allow students to think deeper while truly enjoying the unit!
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