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Back to Presidential primaries lesson plan

Getting to know the candidates: Analyzing their campaign ads


  • Arts & Humanities
    --Language Arts
  • Educational Technology
  • Social Studies
    --Current Events
    ----U.S. History


  • 3-5
  • 6-8
  • 9-12

Brief description

Learn about the candidates' positions by analyzing their campaign ads.


Students will

  • learn about the role advertising plays in presidential campaigns.
  • analyze one candidate's campaign ads (provided in text format) for such elements as major issues and themes, postivitity or negativity, fact and opinion, and the power of the ad to sell voters on their candidacy.


campaign, advertisements, ads, medial literacy, president, election

Materials needed [shop materials]

The following sites offer video of campaign ads launched during this year's presidential primaries or lessons on how to analyze campaign ads .

Lesson plan

This lesson requires Internet access. In the lesson, students review the candidates' campaign ads to learn what each candidate's main issues/themes seem to be.


This activity makes a good cooperative group activity; it can be completed in pairs or in small groups. It also could be completed by individual students.

Assign a candidate to each student/group or have students draw the name of a candidate from a hat. That will be the candidate whose campaign ads the students will review. The ads are available online. (See Materials Needed section above for links to campaign ads. Students will find additional resources on the site of the presidential candidate they are covering.) Decide in advance what you want students to analyze as they review the ads. Have them set up a chart with columns to fill in as they review the ads. Below are a few column headings they might use. If you are working on some special election or media literacy emphasis, you might want to include that among the ad elements/questions you ask students to consider as they review the ads.

Possible column headings

  • What theme(s) or issue(s) does this ad highlight?
  • In this ad, do you find more factual information or more opinion? (This question might be posed in two columns instead of one: What factual information do you find in the ad? What opinions do you find in the ad?)
  • What is the overall tone of the ad? Is it positive or negative?
  • Do you think this ad will help the candidate gain support? Why or why not?
  • Does the ad make the candidate seem presidential? If so, how? If not, why not?

When students have finished reviewing the ads of their assigned candidate, ask them to select the two ads they think best make the candidate appear presidential. Students then write a paragraph for each of the two ads; in the paragraph, they explain why they selected those ads. Use students' presentations as the starting point for a discussion about the candidates and the issues.

Additional resources