Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Vote for Me: Elections Unit Study: Week 3

Hello candidates! Welcome to your campaign! Isn't this exciting? We have a little over fifty days left until the election, and things are rocking and rolling on the national scene. Now that we've had our conventions, it's time to hit the campaign trail. This week we'll be developing our platforms, polishing our stump speeches, and planning a five city tour of the country. If you live in an area where you can get out to see the "real" candidates doing their thing at a rally, that would be very cool! We've seen Barack Obama once, and yesterday we meet a candidate for Senate, former Virginia Governor Mark Warner. We hope to see Sarah Palin on September 18th too. I would love to have the kids see all the main candidates in person, so we'll see how that works out! I will tell you that it's worth the effort to get out and experience some of this stuff first hand -- they learn a lot just from what they absorb in the situation, and it's way easier to show them than to tell them. Have fun!

Here is the PDF for this week's lessons: Vote for Me! Week 3: The Platform and the Stump

Thinking: Building a Platform
It’s important here to accept and encourage any issues and ideas that are truly interesting and important to your student. My guess is that they will not come up with health care and foreign policy planks in their platforms. It’s important that they care about their own issues so that they can make good stump speeches.

Writing: Writing a Stump Speech
The stump speech is a very basic five paragraph essay. I don’t believe in teaching a five paragraph essay in which the first and last paragraphs are a summary of the middle three. The introduction should truly be an introduction, not just a preview. The conclusion should truly be a conclusion, not a recap. There are added considerations when writing a speech, such as writing a great opener and a great closer. The best way for students to intuitively understand how to do this is to listen to and read some great speeches, readily available online.

Public Speaking: Delivering Your Stump Speech
The students will create before/after videos (or just do before/after performances for a very local audience) and in between they’ll learn some rudimentary principles of public speaking. Remember to lead by example — exaggerate your dynamics, your gestures, and don’t be afraid to be silly in order to break the ice for shy speakers.

Social Studies: Out on the Stump
This activity could be as involved as you want it to be. You could stop with considering a great choice of five cities to visit, finding them on a map and leaving it there, or you could get as detailed as per diem food allowances and finding places to entertain VIP donors. Go wild!

Thinking: Campaign Promises
This is hard to do without bias, especially when it comes to giving examples. Use whatever you believe in your own family to illustrate this lesson. What I want the students to take away is the struggle each candidate faces between being realistic and honest and pleasing people. Whatever our politics, that dilemma is universal.

Individual PDFs to download, in case you don't want the whole lesson:

Building a Platform Worksheet

Writing a Stump Speech

Delivering a Stump Speech

Out on the Stump: Planning a Campaign Trip

Campaign Promises

That's it! A lot to digest. Some pretty heavy thinking and writing going on, but keep it personal, keep it meaningful, and have fun with it!

Previous lessons:
Week 2: Unconventional Conventions
Week 1: Let's Get This Party Started
Prelude Class: What's an Election?

OR you can download the entire thing so far here: Vote for Me!


  1. Anonymous11:16 PM

    Glad you are doing this. It's great.
    A problem though, your links today are missing a "t" in little blue school and the links are working because of it.

  2. Anonymous11:17 PM

    sorry, I meant "not working".

  3. Thanks, Annette! I fixed it. I appreciate the heads up. :)

  4. I have really enjoyed reading your archives! I gave you an award on my blog today, just to show appreciation for your site!

  5. The closest we've come to candidates is Bill Clinton, also a former president. I took my kid out of school to see it. It was so exciting.

  6. Anonymous5:26 PM

    I love your study unit! I think there is so much to be learned through elections and civic engagement. Good luck and I'm following you through Nov. 4th!
    PS Don't know if this would be interesting, but after the election I wonder if kids would find it interesting to see how the President puts his cabinet and his government together? Just a thought. Again, GREAT blog!