Lesson Plan

The Electoral College

An interactive exploration of the Electoral College
Jordan O.
Classroom teacher
Wyoming Girl's School
Sheridan, WY
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My Grades 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
My Subjects Social Studies, Health & Wellness

Students will understand the Electoral College process. 

Stidents will be able to describe how the President is elected. 

Students will be able to explain strengths and weaknesses of the Electoral College 

Social Studies
civic engagement
Grades 10 - 12
All Notes
Teacher Notes
Student Notes

1 Hook

Activity: Conversing
  •  Begin with the following statement, and wait for responses. 
    • ​"What if I told you that a person could win the Presidency without without winning the popular vote."
  • Explain the following. 
    • It has happened four times; 1824, 1876, 1888, and 2000. 
    • discuss the election of 2000, since it is the most recent.  

  • Close with the following. 
    • How could this happen?


Student Instructions

This is more of an informal discussion time. Depending on the class, you may have to prompt them to ask how this could happen.  

2 Direct Instruction

  • Show the following video from Khan Academy
    • http://goo.gl/maARuD
      • This is a concise, brief explanation of the Electoral College. 
    • A few places to stop and discuss may include:
      • 3:04- Ask if everyone understands what Sal said. You may need to elaborate on NE and ME, as they are not winner-take-all. If they have questions, tell them that it will explain in greater detail at 8:13. 
      • 4:00- Discuss the election of 1824. John Q. Adams won the election in the House of Representatives.
      • 5:50- Ask if students need clarification. 
      • 8:10- Discuss how electors are chosen. Generally, electors are chosen by their respective party at state conventions. 
      • At the end of the video, tell students to pay attention to the two maps, (money spent, and visits) as they will be applicable in later steps. 
  • Ask for students thoughts on the system now. Possible questions might include
    • is it fair?
    • Why do we have this system?
    • Do we need this system now?
Student Instructions

Another discussion session. 

3 Guided Practice

Guide students to the 270towin website.  Also have them open up a blank Google Doc (or Microsoft word Document if you do not have Google Drive). This is where they will be recording their information.  

On the top right hand side is page titled "states" Have students navigate to this page. They can click on each state and it will show the margin of victory for that state dating back to the 1996 election. 

  • From here they need to identify five(5) "swing states" and record those states in their Google Doc. 
    • The criteria for a swing state may differ, Basically what they are looking for are states with a large number of electors, and a close margin of victory in those recent elections. A good place to start may be with a 5% margin of victory in recent elections.  
    • Another possible criteria, even if the margin of victory is larger than 5% is if a state has gone back-and-forth between parties in recent elections.
    • Remind them to reflect back to the Khan academy video to guide them to states that may be considered "swing states"
  • Guide students back to the homepage, and make sure they have the 2012 actual results map showing.
    • Have students change the results for the 2012 elections in the "swing states"they identified in their Google Doc, and have them record what they found. You may want to have them answer the following questions.
      • Did the results of the election change? 
      • Why do canditates focus a large amount of time and money on these states?
    • Some further exploration may include students brainstorming or researching reasons why some states reliably vote Democrat or Republican, and why "swing states" are the way they are. 


4 Independent Practice

Time to put what the students have learned into action!!

  • Guide students to the Win the White House game. 
  • Tell them now it is their turn to become President.  
  • Remind students to reflect on 270toWin and KhanAcademy to guide them with their decision making in the election
  • You may have to circulate around the room to help students as they play the game. 

5 wrap-up

Google Drive
Free, Paid

To close the lesson, have students reflect on their journey to the White House. On the Google Doc have them describe what the most challenging part of the election was. Then have students submit their Google Doc (or Word document). You can have them share it with you via Google Drive or create a Google form and have them input the answers to organize the information a little easier.  If you use Edmodo or another LMS, they can submit it there as well.