In this lesson plan, which is adaptable for grades 3-12, students use BrainPOP Jr. and/or BrainPOP resources to explore the electoral process, including primary and general elections and the Electoral College. Students use an online game to identify the influence of the media in forming public opinion and participate in a simulation of the election process.
Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments
- Explain the electoral process, including primary and general elections and the Electoral College.
- Identify the influence of the media in forming public opinion.
- Analyze how parts of a whole interact to produce overall outcomes in complex systems.
Preparation:Download the Win the White House Teachers' Guide, which portions of this lesson have been adapted from courtesy of iCivics. Familiarize yourself with both the game and the Presidential Election Topic Page to plan how you'd like to adapt this lesson plan for your students. You may also want to explore the other related movie topics listed at the top of this page, and spread this lesson out over multiple days.
The objective of the Win the White House Game is for students to win a simulated presidential election. They can choose a level (elementary, middle, or high school) to differentiate the experience, and customize their candidate by choosing an avatar, campaign slogan, and political party. Students choose the issues that matter most to them. A full list of issues featured in the game can be found on the last page of the teacher's guide linked above.
At the start of the game, a primary debate doubles as a tutorial and acts as the foundation for students' national campaigns. They gain campaigning skills by spending time and resources in two early competition states, Iowa and New Hampshire. Once they've been selected as their party’s candidate, they must work to gain and keep momentum through targeted media campaigns and personal appearances, and also find funding in friendly states. Students' ability to poll will keep them in the know and help guide them to a presidential victory.
Prior to beginning this lesson, plan to divide students into groups of 3-4, and make one photocopy of the Activity page for each group. Cut apart the events listed on the page and put them in envelopes so that each group has one set. Also, make a class set of photocopies of the Graphic Organizer.
- Activate students' prior knowledge by dividing them into groups and passing out the envelopes you prepared according to the directions above. Challenge students to work collaboratively to put the events in the correct sequence. For an added challenge, don't reveal what process is being sequenced, and have students infer this information themselves.
- After each group has moved their slips of paper around so that they're in the correct order, talk about the activity as a class. What process was being sequenced? Are there any events that could happen simultaneously? Any that could feasibly occur in a different order?
- Ask students to identify which step of the presidential election process our country is currently in. If an election recently occurred, invite students to name the next steps and talk about the cyclical nature of elections, including how potential candidates begin preparing for the election many years in advance.
- Pass out the Graphic Organizer to students and collect the envelopes from them. Encourage students to work with their groups to write down any information they already know.
- Show the Presidential Election Movie. You may want to turn on closed captioning to aid students in comprehension.
- Give students time to revisit their graphic organizers and fill in additional information.
- Project the Win the White House Game and explain that they will have the chance to campaign for presidency through an online game simulation. Guide students through the introduction and instructions. You may also want to project the issues guide on the last page of the Win the White House Teachers' Guide and talk about it. Help students select issues that are important to them personally and talk about why they believe those issues should be key elements of their campaign.
- Allow students to explore the game individually or with a partner for approximately 20-30 minutes.
- Talk with the class about the strategies they used to be successful in the game. How do these strategies parallel the things that presidential candidates need to do in real life in order to win an election? How do candidates need to adapt their strategies for states that are not "friendly"?
- Give students additional time to play the game independently. They can write down new information learned in the graphic organizer. You may want to have them use the back of their papers to reflect on their understanding as a result of the game.
- To extend students' learning, visit The National Student/Parent Mock Election website. There are a number of high-quality lesson resources there to help you set up a mock election in your classroom or even as part of a school-wide effort. Students can participate in debates, issue forums, press conferences, candidate forums and rallies as part of the mock election in their schools and communities.
Extension Activity:Win the White House is one of many iCivics games that are featured on BrainPOP. You can extend students' understanding of government and civics by introducing them to:
Executive Command: Explore the roles and responsibilities of the president
Argument Wars: Take part in Supreme Court cases
Branches of Power: Control all three branches of government
Law Craft: Bring an issue all the way through the law-making process
Court Quest: Guide constituents to take cases to the appropriate courts
Supreme Decision: Explore how constitutional rights are interpreted
You can see the full list of related games in the Social Studies Games section of GameUp.
BrainPOP Movies:Political Beliefs (Activity Page Answer Key)
Political Parties (Activity Page Answer Key)
Political Party Origins (Activity Page Answer Key)
Presidential Election (Activity Page Answer Key)
Presidential Power (Activity Page Answer Key)
Primaries and Caucuses (Activity Page Answer Key)
- Government Functions Lesson Plan: Checks and Balances Game
- U.S. Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Powers Lesson Plan: Branches of Government Game
- The President! Lesson Plan: The Role of the President of the United States
- The Electoral Process Lesson Plan: Path to Be the President
- The Election Lesson Plan: Your Rights as a Citizen