The units focused on the process of becoming president - qualifications and duties, candidates, campaigning, conventions, voting, election day, and inauguration. All had very nice visuals and worksheets to go with them, so we didn't have to make any of my own to use. Bonus!!
We saw a few units on TpT that dealt with candy bar elections. They were pretty good, but we wanted to make some changes and take things a step further. We started out by choosing two parties of six candy bars. We tried to balance out the more popular ones, and then we stuck in one or two that were less popular or even unknown by the students. Students then decided with which party they most aligned.
The next day we held caucuses. That's what we do in our state, and every other unit suggested a primary. Caucuses are more fun for the kids, anyway, because they get to move around. I hosted one party's caucus, and the other social studies teacher hosted the other party's caucus since we both had third, fifth, and seventh hour classes. That allowed students to mix with other classes. They were able to see what it was like when they were the only one supporting their candidate or what it felt like to be part of the majority. Students chose one delegate for every four students for their candidate.
The following day was the national convention, where we were able to gather all 120ish kids at the same time for a few minutes. We divided back into our parties and the delegates came up front to announce for whom they cast their delegate vote. Luckily, both candidates got the majority of their party's delegate votes. Our presidential candidates were Kit Kat and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.
After national convention, we went over the electoral college with a game from one of the TpT units. We announced how we would apply this to our candy elections. The "states" would be the first letter of the students' last names. We posted each letter and how many students had that last name. So if thirteen kids had last names beginning with D, whichever candidate got the most votes in their "state" would get all thirteen electoral votes. Their minds were blown! So then we talked strategy, like doing polls to see if they had to waste time on a certain letter or not. How would they handle groups that only had one person because their vote would count automatically? What if your group has an even number, like two? It would be in your best interest to vote the same as each other or your vote wouldn't help either candidate.
We had two days of campaigning, and we referred to the list of ways that we had seen political candidate get their names out this year. We figured out what we could do in our school, and what we probably couldn't pull off. They actually came up with some surprising ways that they could do those things as well.
Halloween, aka Election Day, arrived, and the excitement of the election overshadowed the holiday, especially since our school Halloween mixer was last Friday. We set up a couple of voting booths in our rooms by using stand-up desks and privacy shields. They had to show us their voter registration cards for which they applied earlier in the week. We checked them off and coded the ballot with the first letter of the students' last names. They did their voting thing and we gave them a cute little I Voted sticker (and I forgot to turn off the gridlines before printing - d'oh!). As the votes came in throughout the day, we updated the electoral votes from "states" where everyone had voted.
Out of the three-week election unit, the candy portion lasted about seven days. I think that this is the hardest that I've worked on a unit in a long, long time, but the lessons my students learned made it worth the effort. I feel pretty good that they'll somewhat understand what is going on next Tuesday and how those candidates got there.
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