Election Collection

Why do we have presidential elections in the United States? What’s a constitutional democracy? What are the foundations of Government? These and many other questions are particularly relevant during an election year and PBS LearningMedia wants to help you engage your students in the political process. To get you started, we’ve compiled our favorite election-themed resources designed to enhance your lesson plans and spark discussion in the classroom.

16 for ’16 - The Contenders

PBS, in partnership with OZY Media, is proud to present 16 for ’16 - The Contenders, a documentary series that examines the most compelling and influential presidential campaigns in modern history. From Jesse Jackson’s groundbreaking 1984 and 1988 campaigns to Barry Goldwater’s 1964 launching of a brand of conservatism that influenced both Republican Ronald Reagan and even Democratic Hillary Clinton. The Contenders covers sixteen stories from the past 50 years of presidential election history. The series shows how previous elections are still influencing today in unexpected ways.

Grades 6-12

Take a Poll, Debate the Issue: Gun Policy Lesson Plan

Do you think Americans should have the right to bear arms? What restrictions should be placed on gun ownership? Find out where the presidential candidates stand on the issue of gun control. Students take a poll before and after they debate the gun policy to see if their views change.

Grades 7-13+

Take a Poll, Debate the Issue: Environmental Policy Lesson Plan

Where do the presidential candidates stand on environmental policy, including climate change? Find out using tools from the Election Central website. In this lesson plan, students will take a poll before and after they debate issues surrounding the environment to see if their views change.

Grades 7-13+

Decode the Electoral College and Predict the Next President – Lesson Plan

Let your students predict the next president with the Electoral Decoder, an interactive cartogram. Students will look at how the Electoral College has affected presidential elections throughout history by using the ‘Electoral Decoder’ from the PBS Election Central website. They will also make predictions as to how the electors will vote in the 2016 presidential election.

Grades 6-12

FRONTLINE: How Voting Laws Have Changed

Examine data about the voting rights laws that most impact Americans' access to the ballot box and how they’ve changed across the country in recent years, in this interactive from FRONTLINE: Ballot Watch. Voting laws influence who can vote and when and how they cast their ballots. This interactive provides a state-by-state analysis of voting laws as they pertain to early voting, felons, absentee voting, and voter ID requirements. It compares the situation in 2010, when many states began introducing more restrictive voter bills, to that in 2014. An update with data and analysis from 2015 is coming soon. This resource is part of the FRONTLINE Collection.

Grades 9-12

Letters to the Next President 2.0

Letters to the Next President 2.0 engages and connects young people, aged 13-18, as they research, write, and make to voice their opinions on issues that matter to them in the coming election.

Grades 7-12

Students Vote 2016 Toolkit

Newsela is working with educators, think tanks, civic groups, and news partners to implement a 9-month program that helps teachers and parents engage their students on the 2016 presidential election, “Students Vote 2016”. This toolkit reviews frequently asked questions and classroom election applications to engage students in this experience.

Grades 2-12

PBS Election Central 2016 - Full Collection

Voting and elections are an essential part of the U.S. Government. Learn more about the process and history of elections while staying up to date on the latest news in the 2016 Presidential Election.

Grades 3-12

Meet the Candidates

In this activity, you will meet the candidates in the 2016 presidential campaign. You can collect trading cards, create your own campaign poster, and watch videos, to learn everything an informed citizen should know about this year’s presidential election.

Grades 3-6

Repairing the Fabric of Democracy | Lesson Plan | Global Oneness Project

Students read a short article, "Five Habits to Heal the Heart of Democracy," by Parker Palmer who presents qualities of citizenship that are essential for sustaining democracy in troubled times. Palmer suggests that we must value our differences, draw inspiration and greater understanding from contradictions, and celebrate the power of community building to restore our democratic society. In this lesson, students discuss the values and efforts that contribute to a healthy democracy. Reflective writing prompts are also included for students to demonstrate their understanding of the story.

Grades 9-13+

You're the Campaign Manager | 60-Second Presidents

Building a successful campaigns is a mixture of selecting the correct candidate and highlighting their best attributes. In this activity from 60-Second Presidents, students will determine the best characteristics of a president in order to develop a campaign around these traits.

Grades 4-12

Personality or Politics Activity | 60-Second Presidents

Explore why presidential campaigns are often based around either a candidate's personality or politics in this activity from 60-Second Presidents. This activity helps students learn the important role that both personality and political platform have in shaping presidential elections by having students present on the different types of campaigns.

Grades 4-12

Working for the Party | 60-Second Presidents

Learn the role that political parties play in either helping or preventing a president from reaching their goals. In this activity from 60-Second Presidents, students will investigate how closely certain presidents were tied to their parties in order to determine the effects that their alignment had on their presidency.

Grades 4-12

U.S. Presidential Elections: 1992-2012 | Historical Photo Collection

Follow along on the path to the presidency with these primary source images of United States presidential elections from 1992 to 2012. Learn about the front lines of the campaign trail as each image gives valuable insight into the elections and candidates. As you look at these images, think about the political environments and history of the time. These photographs can also be used to supplement activities and discussions related to civics and social studies curricula.

Grades 5-12

Campaign Strategy

In this video, students will learn how candidates who wish to run for office create a campaign strategy to convince voters that they are the best representatives of their beliefs. Students will understand the various tactics of a political campaign: branding ads, political messaging, campaign finance and how candidates raise and spend money, the role of PACs, SuperPACs and the Federal Election Commission (FEC), and the impact and importance of grassroots strategies.

Grades 6-12

Getting the Nomination

In the United States, there are a lot of people who want to be president. But when we vote, there are usually only a few names on the ballot. This video will help students to understand the nomination process for political parties. They will learn how primaries and caucuses help determine the candidate that will best represent a party platform, the role of delegates and super delegates in the election process, and the impact of "Super Tuesday."

Grades 6-12

Public Speaking and Persuasion - Improve Your School!

Students will watch two videos from China depicting public speeches. Afterwards, they will create and give presentations of their own. During these presentations they will describe ways in which they would like to improve their school and try to persuade the audience to agree with their ideas. 

Grades 6-12

The History of the Iowa Caucuses

In 1972, the Iowa Caucuses became the first major electoral event for the nomination process for President of the United States. Since that time, the event has drawn increasing media attention and has become a test of candidates’ ability to attract and organize their campaign, and ultimately win the support of their political party for the nomination. This segment from Iowa Public Television’s Caucus Iowa: Journey to the Presidency documentary includes archival footage and contemporary interviews with politicians, campaign staff and journalists of the era.

Grades 6-12

Meet the Presidential Candidates in Election 2016 – Lesson Plan

In the lesson plan, "Meet the Presidential Candidates in Election 2016," students will get to know the candidates running for president and where they stand on important issues.

Grades 7-12

What is Social Media's Role in Election 2016? - Lesson Plan

The purpose of the lesson plan "What is social media's role in Election 2016?" is for students to examine the different ways candidates use social media, including Instagram, Facebook and Twitter in their presidential campaigns.

Grades 7-12

Hosting a Presidential Debate - Lesson Plan

The purpose of the "Hosting a Presidential Debate: Lesson Plan" is to analyze campaign issues, practice formal debate procedures and to understand elements of logic.

Grades 7-12

How Has Technology Changed the Way Candidates Run for President? - Lesson Plan

The purpose of the lesson plan "How Has Technology Changed the Way Candidates Run for President?" is to examine the role of the Internet as a political campaign tool using reason, facts and examples.

Grades 7-12

U.S. Presidential Elections 1992-2012

Explore this series of historical photos capturing informative, memorable and fun moments in United States Presidential elections from 1992 to 2012. Each of these images was individually selected from Getty Image's collections for PBS LearningMedia teachers and students to help tell the stories of the election seasons.

Grades 9-12

Woodrow Wilson - Win the Election of 1912

Understand the election of 1912 by defining your own political party. Learn more with this interactive from American Experience: "Woodrow Wilson."

Grades 9-12

The Elections of 1896 and 1900: Interactive Map | A Biography of America

The elections of 1896 and 1900 both featured the same presidential candidates, Republican William McKinley and Democrat William Jennings Bryan. In 1896, the big issue was the monetary standard, while by 1900 imperialism had taken over as the key national issue. This interactive map from A Biography of America you can compare how these key issues influenced geographical patterns in both presidentials and congressional election results.

Grades 9-13+

Lesson Plan | Making Civics Real: Electoral Politics

This lesson plan collection contains links to standards, context to the lesson, assessment, materials, and resources to replicate the instruction seen in the one hour video workshop.

Grades 9-13+

Presidential Power | Crash Course Government and Politics

Learn what the powers of the president of the United States are, as defined in the U.S. Constitution. From appointing judges and granting pardons, to vetoing laws and acting as the nation's chief diplomat on foreign policy, the commander in chief is a pretty powerful person, but actually not as powerful as you might think. The constitution limits presidential powers to maintain balance among the three branches of government.

Grades 9-13+

Presidential Powers 2: Crash Course Government and Politics

Learn about the presidential powers that are not found in the constitution-the implied or inherent powers of the presidency. We'll talk about how the president uses his or her power to negotiate executive agreements, recommend legislative initiatives, instate executive orders, impound funds, and claim executive privilege in order to get things done.

Grades 9-13+

Elections: The Maintenance of Democracy | Democracy in America

Explore the political campaign and election process in the United States, then determine how you would vote in a mock election based on politicians' stances on certain issues, in this Democracy in America interactive activity from Annenberg Learner.

Grades 12-13+