Search form

Presidential Election One Year Away




Arts & Humanities
--Language Arts

Social Studies
--Current Events
----U.S. History


Grades 2-up

News Content

Americans are in the process of narrowing down the list of presidential candidates. A lot has to happen between now and Election Day 2008.

Anticipation Guide

Write the following terms on a board or chart: political parties, primary, caucus

  • Ask students to identify what political parties are. You might ask them to identify the names of some political parties. Write those party names as students share them. If you teach young students, you might introduce them to the terms Republican and Democrat, which are the two major political parties in the United States.
  • Introduce the words primary and caucus. Explain that voters will help choose their presidential candidates by voting in primaries and caucuses. Students will learn more about primaries and caucuses as they read this weeks News for You article.

    News Words

    Next, write on a board or chart these additional words from the News Word Box and the students printable page: convention, ballot, major, narrow, and decision. Discuss the meanings of any of those words that might be unfamiliar. Then ask students to use one of those words to complete each of these sentences:

  • If you had to choose between apple pie and chocolate cake for dessert, which _____ would you make? (decision)
  • J.K Rowling is a _____ author of fiction books for children. (major)
  • Steve has to _____ down the list of things he would like to get for his birthday. (narrow)
  • Thousands of people will come to town to attend the organizations _____. (convention)
  • Voters had to choose from among six names on the election _____, (ballot)

    Read the News

    Click for a printable version of this weeks news story Presidential Election One Year Away.

    You might use a variety of approaches to reading the news:

  • Read aloud the news story to students as they follow along.

  • Students might first read the news story to themselves; then you might call on individual students to read sections of the news aloud for the class.

  • Photocopy the news story onto a transparency and project it onto a screen. (Or use your classroom computer's projector to project the story.) Read the story aloud as a class, or ask students to take turns reading it.

  • Arrange students into small groups. Each student in the group will read a paragraph of the story. As that student reads, others might underline important information or write notes in the margin of the story. After each student finishes reading, others in the group might say something -- a comment, a question, a clarification -- about the text.

  • More Facts to Share

    You might share these additional facts with students after they have read this weeks news story.

    As of Friday, November 2, 2007, the major parties candidates include those on the list below. Each name on this list links to the candidates official Web site:



    The list above is not a complete list of the candidates representing the two main parties. In addition, many smaller parties have candidates. Multiple candidates are running under the banners of the Green and Libertarian parties. Many others are running as Independents." And a handful of other parties are also presenting candidates. Altogether, there are more than 200 announced candidates for the office of president. Click here for one of the most complete lists of candidates.

    Next summer, the Democrats and Republicans will hold conventions at which time party members, or delegates, will select the candidate who will represent them on the 2008 presidential election ballot.

    Delegates are allocated to each state based on the states population. The number of delegates each state has shifts from election to election because population shifts. Click one of these links to learn more about the complexities of number and selection of Republican delegates and Democratic delegates.

    The process of choosing delegates to represent each state at the national conventions can differ from state to state. Some states use a caucus system and others use a primary system.

    The caucus system used to be the most common way for states to choose their convention delegates. Some states still use the system. Generally, any voter can show up at the state caucus of his or her political party. There, the assembled voters will choose (vote for) the delegates who will represent them at the convention. Some delegates might be committed to a specific candidate; others might be uncommitted. For additional information, see How Do Caucuses Work?

    The first primary was held in the early 1900s. In the years since then, primaries have come to replace caucuses as the most common way to elect delegates. In a primary, registered voters vote via secret ballot for their favorite candidate. Some primaries are closed primaries; only voters belonging to a political party can vote in their partys primary. Other states hold open primaries; a registered voter can vote in either primary, but they cannot vote in both primaries. A third type of primary, a blanket primary, is less common; registered voters are allowed to participate in all primaries. For additional information, see How Does the Primary Process Work?

    Some states hold both caucuses and primaries. The states caucus gathers for the purpose of supporting a particular candidate, but party members are free to vote their personal choice in the primary.

    Comprehension Check

    Revisit the Anticipation Guide at the top of this lesson. Point out the words primary and caucus and ask students to explain the difference between the two election processes.

    You might follow-up that activity by asking some of these questions:

    Recalling Detail

  • On what date will Americans next vote for president? (November 4, 2008)
  • How many candidates are running for president at this time? (Hundreds of people are running. Among them, eight main candidates are running from each of the two major parties.)
  • When will the final decision be made about who will run for president? (The decisions will be made at the party conventions next August and September.)
  • When is Super Tuesday"? (Tuesday, February 5)

    Think About the News

    Ask students why they think Tuesday, February 5, is called Super Tuesday." (Because so many primaries are being held that day. People might have a better idea who the presidential candidates will be after the primaries on that date.)

    Discuss the Think About the News question that appears on the students news page. You might use the think-pair-share strategy with students to discuss this question. If you use this strategy

  • First, arrange students into pairs to discuss and list responses to the question.
  • Then merge two pairs of students together to create groups of four students. Have them discuss and add to the ideas they generated in their pairs.
  • Next, merge two groups of four students to form groups of eight students. Have students create a new combined list of ideas.
  • Finally, bring all students together for a class discussion about the questions they would most like to ask the presidential candidates.

    Follow-Up Activities

    Social Studies - citizenship. Who can be president of the United States? In order to be elected, one must be at least 35 years old. Also, each candidate must be a natural-born U.S. citizen and have lived in the U.S. for at least 14 years. (If needed, see more detail.) Given those requirements, it is clear that some people can, and others cannot, be elected president in 2008? For example:

  • Could Daniel Radcliffe (aka Harry Potter) be elected president in 2008? (No, he was born in England and he is only 18 years old.)
  • Could the New York Yankees shortstop, Alex Rodriguez, be elected president? (He is a Dominican-American, born in the U.S., so he is a natural born citizen, which means he is eligible to run. But he cannot run yet because he will not be 35 years old until 2010.)
  • Could Californias governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, run for president someday? (Not unless they change the requirements. He is old enough, but he is not a natural-born citizen; he was born in Austria to Austrian parents.)
    If you teach older students, you might challenge them to make a list of people well known in the United States who could and could not run for president in 2008.

    History/Math election calendar. Have students work on their own or in groups to create a calendar that shows when the upcoming presidential primaries will take place. You might arrange students into five groups and give each group a calendar for a different month, January through May. They might use the resource State Presidential Primary and Caucus Dates as they create their calendars of primary dates. Do the calendars make it clear why February 5 is called Super Tuesday"? As the primaries approach, you might assign each student to track and report on the results in one of the state primaries.

    If you have a group of students who are visual learners, you might provide them with an outline map of the United States. They will need to choose a political party to map. They should assign a different color to each month, January to May, and color each state with the color that represents the month in which its primary election or caucus is scheduled to take place.

    Language arts election terminology. Have your students create a glossary of election terms or an ABC Book of Elections. Assign each student a word; older students might be given more than one word. Students will create a page for the book that explains that words meaning in the context of the upcoming election. In addition, students might include on their pages some kind of picture or illustration that helps convey the meaning of the word. As a source of election terms, you might use this Election Glossary or this Election Word List. As the election process ensues, refer to your glossary or ABC book whenever you might need to review a term.

    Citizenship learning about the candidates. Assign each student or a pair of student to learn more about one of the candidates. Students might use biographical information or information on the candidates Web site (see list above) to present a few facts about the candidates background and about his or her stand on a couple major issues.


    Use the Comprehension Check (above) as an assessment. Or have students work on their own (in their journals) or in their small groups to respond to the Think About the News questions on the news story page or in the Comprehension Check section.

    Lesson Plan Source

    Education World

    National Standards

    National Standards

    LANGUAGE ARTS: English
    GRADES K - 12
    NL-ENG.K-12.1 Reading for Perspective
    NL-ENG.K-12.2 Reading for Understanding
    NL-ENG.K-12.11 Participating in Society
    NL-ENG.K-12.12 Applying Language Skills

    MATHEMATICS: Representation
    GRADES Pre-K - 12
    NM-REP.PK-12.1 Create and Use Representations to Organize, Record, and Communicate Mathematical Ideas
    NM-REP.PK-12.3 Use Representations to Model and Interpret Physical, Social, and Mathematical Phenomena

    GRADES K - 4
    NSS-C.K-4.1 What Is Government?
    NSS-C.K-4.3 Principles of Democracy
    NSS-C.K-4.5 Roles of the Citizen

    GRADES 5 - 8
    NSS-C.5-8.1 Civic Life, Politics, and Government
    NSS-C.5-8.3 Principles of Democracy
    NSS-C.5-8.5 Roles of the Citizen
    GRADES 9 - 12
    NSS-C.9-12.1 Civic Life, Politics, and Government
    NSS-C.9-12.3 Principles of Democracy
    NSS-C.9-12.5 Roles of the Citizen

    SOCIAL SCIENCES: Geography
    GRADES K - 12
    NSS-G.K-12.1 The World in Spatial Terms

    GRADES K - 4
    NSS-USH.K-4.1 Living and Working together in Families and Communities, Now and Long Ago
    NSS-USH.K-4.3 The History of the United States: Democratic Principles and Values and the People from Many Cultures Who Contributed to Its Cultural, Economic, and Political Heritage
    GRADES 5 - 12
    NSS-USH.5-12.1 12.10 All Eras

    See recent news stories in Education Worlds News Story of the Week Archive.

    Article by Ellen Delisio
    Education World®
    Copyright © 2007 Education World