Your American Politics Resource Center: Social studies activities for the classroom
March 16, 2018
We’ve created a resource center to help educators and students through the primaries, special elections, and political headlines of the near future.
The following exercises are created with social studies classrooms of all levels in mind and work best when paired with Britannica LaunchPacks: Social Studies. Contact your school librarian to see if your institution already has access, or claim your own LaunchPacks Free Trial.
Filled with shocking rhetoric and escalating controversy, the 2016 election season was a doozy to weave into the classroom in productive and respectful ways. It did, however, offer plenty of inspiration for creative approaches to relevant and engaging topics, current events, and historical connections.
In addition to Britannica content, sources like Common Sense Media and the American Library Association are excellent guides for further lesson planning, while sites like BallotReady and Ballotpedia are up-to-date, comprehensive references for the local candidates and issues that affect where you live.
The following shortlist of LaunchPacks: Social Studies resources is broken out by grade range, but many of these time-saving, expertly compiled packs are available for multiple levels.
LaunchPacks for Grades PreK-2
LaunchPacks for Grades 3-5
- Branches of the U.S. Government
- The Cold War
- Human Rights: Civil Rights
- The United States Presidents
LaunchPacks for Grades 6-8
- The Amendments to the U.S. Constitution
- The American Civil Rights Movement
- Human Rights: Migrants and Refugees
- International Trade
- The Women’s Suffrage Movement in the United States
LaunchPacks for Grades 9-12
What role does voting play in a democracy?
The United States is a democracy: What does that mean? Is the right to vote essential to a democracy? Make a claim and back it up with reasons and evidence.
What are the requirements to be eligible to vote in the United States? Have the requirements changed over the course of history? Which groups of people, initially excluded, are now eligible? What amendments were made to our Constitution?
Compare The Candidates
In every American election, there have been at least two sides to choose from. Pick an election from history and map out the differences and similarities between the candidates. What did they stand for? What did they believe? What did they have in common? Which one would you have voted for?
Create your own political party!
What is your platform? What issues do you care about? Make a campaign commercial. Create a campaign slogan and hashtag. Create a text thread between you and an undecided voter using What questions will they ask you? What do they care about?
True or Fake? Digital literacy and news judgement
It can be really difficult to filter out propaganda from each candidate’s message or platform during the campaign leading up to each election. What is the best way to judge whether or not the information you are gathering is really a good and reliable source of information? How can we help students to determine for themselves what makes a good resource or a bad resource? Use this website evaluation infographic and chart to help guide students to the best resources out there!
How do social issues shape elections?
Research a historical figure and explore public policies and social movements during a past election. Compare the social issues of that time to the issues influencing today’s elections. To do this, choose:
- A past presidential election
- A historical figure from that era
Who would your historical figure endorse and what are the social issues going on during the elections of their time? Who would they support now? How would they feel about the social issues of today? For an example, use the graphic organizer to build a profile of someone from the 1950s. Investigate how The Cold War and the nuclear arms race affected the 1952 and 1956 elections.
Explore history through primary sources
How does the Seneca Falls declaration reveal the gap between America’s stated values and the realities of its past and present? Based on George Washington’s Farewell Address, how did he feel about political parties? How did Frederick Douglass’ appeal to Congress for suffrage reveal the hypocrisy of freedom for African Americans?
Have students read the many original sources like these available throughout LaunchPacks to “meet” their authors and time periods.
Try this with your class? How did it go? Tweet us feedback to @BritannicaLearn.
Become an expert in minutes! Watch this two-minute video on how to use LaunchPacks annotation features.