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Lesson plan: Understanding political parties



obama cameron share a beer
British Prime Minister David Cameron exchanges beer bottles with President Obama, settling a wager on the England-U.S. World Cup match.
  • Social Studies
  • Civics
  • Government



Brief description

A simulation activity (mini election campaign) introduces students to the concepts of political parties, platforms and differences in parties.


Students gain an understanding of political parties, election campaigns and the importance of voting.


Election, political, candidate, campaign, voting, political party, platform

Materials needed

Lesson plan

Begin by asking students what they think a political party is. Is it like a birthday party? Or something else? Tell them that in this case, “party” means a group of people who believe similar things (kind of like a birthday party celebrates a person that partygoers all know).

Explain that political parties nominate candidates for office. Then an election is held, and people vote for their favorite candidate. (You may want to reference any voting activities you’ve done in class.) If elected, the candidates are expected to represent the party “platform,” or beliefs, in office.

Political party activity:

This activity can be completed over a week, using a little time each day.

Day 1
Divide the students in the class based on a common opinion. For instance, you could ask students who loves strawberries. Students who say “yes” become the Strawberry Love Party and students who say “no” become the Strawberry Dislike Party.

Explain to the children that they are in a “party” based on their common interest. For older students, you can compare their class party’s beliefs to key beliefs that have been highlighted in the news and that reflect the differing opinions of Republicans vs. Democrats.

Next, ask students who likes strawberry ice cream. While keeping them in the same two parties, divide them on the ice cream issue. Explain that within parties, some people will have differing opinions on issues, but that the bigger issue is what binds them together.

Day 2
Have students come up with a cheer for their party, focusing on their common interest. Kids practice the cheer and then perform it for the whole class. Vote on whose cheer is more persuasive. You may want to compare the cheers to the political advertisements that run on TV.

Day 3
Ask each “party” to nominate one person to be its “candidate” for class office. Explain that the candidate will have to talk about why his/her party’s opinion on the issue is right for the whole class.

Day 4
Help students create campaign posters that illustrate their platform and encourage others to pick their candidate. Display the posters around the room. You may want to compare the posters to the political lawn signs that kids may see in their neighborhoods.

Day 5
Give the parties a little time to talk about what candidates should say during their speech. Then, give each candidate a chance to talk about why their party and position is the right one for the class. You may want to compare class speeches to the political debates kids may see on TV.

Once both candidates have spoken, take a silent ballot. Have the kids all put their heads down and raise their hands to vote for one candidate or the other. Explain that they don’t have to vote for their party’s candidate but can choose whoever they think is better for the whole class.


Once the activity is complete, talk about what was learned. Here are some suggested discussion questions (you may need to adjust the wording for the age of the students):

  1. Does belonging to a party mean that a person believes everything their candidate supports?
  2. How did each party select its candidate? What should American voters look for in local, state and national leaders? What makes a good leader? What qualities should candidates have?
  3. Did anyone in the class choose to vote for the other party’s candidate? Why?
  4. Did everyone in each party agree about the cheer? The poster? The speech? How were disagreements handled? How are disagreements between parties and candidates handled in the United States? (You may want to point out to older kids that candidates are not always polite in political advertisements.)
  5. Tell students that like the two parties created in class, there are two main political parties in the United States: the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. Also, explain that like their class parties, sometimes party members don’t believe everything a party or candidate does.
  6. Explain why it is important that there is more than one political party in the United States (i.e., because it reflects our American value of allowing people to express their opinions and peacefully disagree).
  7. Talk about how voting is a key way that Americans can participate in government and ensure that their opinions and beliefs “are represented” (have someone looking out for them).

If desired, finish the lesson by reading a book about elections, such as one of the books mentioned in Using Children’s Books to Teach about Elections.


Assess students' cheers, posters and speeches in terms of the following:

  • Reflection of party beliefs and values
  • Persuasiveness
  • Creativity

Lesson plan source


Submitted by

Sarah W. Caron, Education World Social Media Editor

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