Lesson Plan

The Role of Political Parties

Using presidential debates to teach the role of political parties
Jennifer C.
Classroom teacher
Carson High School
Carson City, United States
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My Grades 10, 11, 12
My Subjects Social Studies

Students will be able to...

identify twelve key issues that divide the two major political parties

link the role of political parties to the media and public opinion as they watch the debate

determine where they agree and disagree with candidates on major issues within the debate

recognize the complexity of the political process

Social Studies
Grades 12
All Notes
Teacher Notes
Student Notes

1 Hook

Students will work in small groups to post their selected words and categories into Wordle to create word clouds representing their ideas. This will help students recall their initial work prioritizing terms from the text that describe political parties. All posters will be posted in different parts of the room. Students will gallery walk and review the work of other groups. Viewing the work of their classmates will motivate them to increase the quality of their work and will deepen their understanding of the concept.

2 Direct Instruction

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Following the gallery walk, students will return to their original small groups. Students will work together to create complex definitions of the concept of a political party. Each group will post their complex definitions on the class Padlet wall and take time to rank definitions in order of accuracy and quality.  The class will work together to create one final definition of political party.

3 Guided Practice

Activity: Investigating

Students will resume watching the "Debate" episode from the TV series West Wing. Students will identify the twelve different issues that common divide the two major political parties in the United States and determine each party's general position on each issue.

4 Independent Practice

Whole class will review the twelve issues covered in the debate. Students will use their learning guides to complete the Democrat and Republican party platform planks.

Students will visit the online Pew Research Center site and complete a political party identification quiz as a form of self-assessment. Students will then refer to their learning guides and plot themselves on the political spectrum.


5 Wrap-Up

Students will play iCivics:Cast Your Vote as a short reteach of the importance of the media and public opinion surrounding presidential debates. Students will be asked to note which issues arise in the game and challenged to identify the liberal or conservative responses.