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Teaching about the 2012 Elections

Need help teaching the election? NCSS has put together a list of our materials, as well as links to free websites, all of which can help you in your classroom.

I. Election-Related Articles in the September 2012 Social Education,
(Only NCSS members have access to these online PDFs. Read about membership at

“Demystifying the Electoral College: 12 Frequently Asked Questions” The key facts outlined here will help simplify a complex electoral system for students and stimulate greater interest in the election process.

“Teaching Critical Thinking by Asking ‘Could Lincoln Be Elected Today?’” Lessons using the parody campaign video ads from a political literacy website will help students learn to detect bias and propaganda and consider how to evaluate presidential candidates.

“Flip-Flopping, Presidential Politics, and Abraham Lincoln” Using the example of Abraham Lincoln’s views on slavery, students will explore the complexity of political decisions and reflect on the value of evolving beliefs in a democracy.

“Campaign Documentaries: Behind-the-Scenes Perspectives Make Useful Teaching Tools” Selected documentaries offer students insider views of high profile political campaigns and convey the complex issues related to electoral politics.

“Teaching about the 2012 Elections Using the Internet” Fred Risinger’s column highlights websites with resources and lesson ideas for teaching about the election from a civics standpoint.

The following article appeared in the March/April 2012 issue of Social Education “The Keys to the White House: Prediction 2012”
See what a historically accurate prediction system forecasts as the outcome of the popular vote this presidential election.

II. Election Related Articles in the September 2012 Social Studies and the Young Learner (a selection),
(Only NCSS members have access to these online PDFs. Read about membership at

“Scaffolding Classroom Discourse in an Election Year: Keeping a Cool Mood in a Heated Season”

“If You Invite the Candidates, They Will Come: Special Guests Visit the Classroom”

“A Class Museum of the 2012 Election: Government of the People, by the People, for the People”

“Teaching and Learning about the U.S. President: Activities for an Election Year”

“Kindergarteners’ Concept of Voting: Five Scaffolded Lessons that Build Understanding”

III. Helpful, Free Websites

A) Voter Education, Registration, and Turnout

KidsVoting USA,
Kids Voting promotes voting experiences for students that replicate adult voting.

National Student-Parent Mock Election,
Voting in the Mock Elections begins on October 25, 2012. This national-voter education program for students and their parents gives young Americans the chance to make their voices heard in the electoral process.

Rock the Vote,
This organization aims to turn out the youth vote; it provides information on how, where, and when to vote, and offers programs to boost voter turnout.

Our Time,
Our Time is dedicated to encouraging every eligible 18-year-old to vote, and offers information on deadlines and election issues, as well as a FAQ section.

League of Women Voters,
Since 1920, the LWV has been educating and registering voters, and providing data about elections, voter turnout, what’s on the ballot, and campaign finance. LWV has offices in every state.

Project Vote Smart,
This nonpartisan resource provides information on the voting records, positions, and interest group ratings of elected officials, state ballot measures in the upcoming elections, and links to information on campaign finances.

Vote: The Machinery of Democracy,
This website of the Smithsonian Museum of American History provides images of artifacts and a pictorial history of voting in the United States.

What is the Electoral College?
This National Archives webpage explains the Electoral College and offers many links with FAQs, history, and an “Electoral College calculator.”

The Democracy Project, This PBS Kids website has lesson plans with online activities that are designed for students in grades three to six.

The Living Room Candidate, This website has video clips of presidential campaign TV commercials, 1952–2008. Lessons analyze the material, but also invite students to create an ad of video, images and sound using ADMAKER.

Play the Election,
Rand McNally’s game-based learning website is free (but you must register), and it challenges students to think critically about government and the electoral process.

B) Issues and Financing

Public Agenda,
Public Agenda’s Citizens’ Solutions Guides are nonpartisan resources to help students and citizens think through a difficult issue in alternative ways, weighing and evaluating values, priorities, pros, cons, and tradeoffs. Issues include immigration, the federal budget, health care, and jobs and the economy.,
ProCon summarized candidates' perspectives on more than 60 public issues. The group aims to provide resources (including lesson plans) for critical thinking and to educate without bias., aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics. A project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, monitors the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases.

Open Secrets,
This is the website of the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan, non-profit organization that tracks financial contributions to politicians.

The Federal Election Commission,
This agency of the federal government, created in 1975, discloses campaign finance information, enforces limits and prohibitions on contributions, and oversees the public funding spent on Presidential elections.

The U.S. Elections Project,
The mission of the project is to provide timely and accurate election statistics, electoral laws, research reports, and other useful information regarding the U.S. electoral system. Associate Professor Michael McDonald at George Mason University created the website.

C) Surveys and Predictions,
This nonpartisan website offers an up-to-date record of nationwide presidential election polls that is also a valuable archive of opinion polls on important issues.

Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball,
University of Virginia Professor Larry Sabato offers regular analyses of political contests and predictions of trends in the popular and electoral votes on his Crystal Ball site.

The Rassmussen Market Predictions,
Some economists place their faith in predictions based on a market system in which participants "bid" on the chances of different candidates. This website will interest those who want to explore that perspective.

D) Electoral College Calculators

As the election draws near, classes will want to evaluate the likely outcome in the Electoral College and not just review the nationwide opinion polls. Some sites offering Electoral College calculators and predictions:

PBS News Hour,

New York Times,

Nate Silver’s Political Calculus,

E) History of the Presidency

The White House,
Presidential portraits and photos and background can be found at the website of the Office of the President.

Presidents USA,
This website claims to be “the most comprehensive website about the Presidents of the United States and the U.S. presidency.” It has historical information on campaigns and past election results and a listing of campaign slogans from presidential elections 1840-2004 that will interest classes.

IV. Election-Related NCSS Journal Articles from Previous Years (Only NCSS members have access to these online PDFs. Read about membership at )

"Making Choices: An Exploration of Political Preferences" (2008),
“Teaching about the Electoral College” (2004),
“Teaching the Election Process in Ten Days” (2004),
“The Presidency and Presidential Elections in the Elementary Classroom” (2004),

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