In just five days, American voters will elect the 45th President of the United States. Everywhere we turn, the media bombards us with the latest campaign news, polls, and political advertisements. Our students also want to take part in the fervent discussions taking over our country, but they are still too young to actually cast a ballot.
Especially in this year’s controversial election, discussing politics in the classroom is complicated by the need to respect the different beliefs of all students and their families. How can you, as an educator, healthily and productively teach students the knowledge needed to become responsible citizens?
A great way to address the current campaign in the classroom is to turn back into history. The Hameray Biography Series features the stories of three American presidents: George Washington, Ronald Reagan, and Barack Obama. Reading past and current presidents’ stories will circumvent heated debates about the 2016 candidates while still providing students the opportunity to learn about the U.S. Presidential election.
Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan’s biographies devote multiple chapters to their presidential campaign. Each book also includes a glossary that allows students to familiarize themselves with this informational text feature.
Using the glossary and relevant chapters in the book, ask students to create a list of election vocabulary and their definitions. Underneath each word, have them write examples about how the vocabulary word relates to Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan.
Example: Campaign- the competition between political candidates.
Ronald Reagan talked about the danger of the Soviet Union during his campaign.
Barack Obama began his campaign in February 2007.
This exercise will help students draw connections between two historical figures through specific information in the text (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.5.3). The two biographies also include the following election vocabulary words:
In a follow-up class discussion, ask your students about the current election using their newly learned vocabulary: Who are the candidates? When is Election Day this year?
Encourage your students to watch the news with their family on November 8th. They’ll appreciate how classroom literacy directly relates to important current events happening in the country!
Click the image below to download the Teacher's Guide for Ronald Reagan and for Barack Obama.