Category Archives: election

What My Students Believe About Politics

This past week we finished “phase one” of the #MYparty12 election project. Students explored their personal opinions about political issues and the historical backgrounds of the two primary parties. Here I would like to share how students explored issues and then started to identify with different parties.

Our “entry event” was to have students write their name on a scale of 1-10 on a huge banner paper on two issues: healthcare and concealed weapons (click through to see how we framed the issues). We picked these two issues because of our students interests (guns) and we also wanted an issue that involved a belief in both the responsibility of government and budget issues (healthcare). We also picked our issues from the topics on the site After we described the positions students wrote their name on the spectrum where their position was.

Next students read the arguments and statistics at ProCon and discussed it in groups. Then students re-wrote their name if their position changed or circled their name if it stayed the same. This led to a discussion of changing your beliefs and also what your beliefs are based on.

We also were very deliberate to only use the 1-10 scale. We avoided the words “left,” “right,” “liberal,” and “conservative” because we did not want them to be biased according to what they thought they believed or had been taught by their parents.

The following class students brainstormed a long list of issues and then each group researched on in the style of In other words they had to find arguments and research that supported both sides of the thesis statement they created. Next students had three minutes to present both sides of the research and then every student got up and stood under the banner to represent their views. We intentionally had the “liberal” view on the issues go to the left side and the “conservative” view go to the right, but still avoided using these terms until after they were done.

Students stood under this banner to represent their views

Afterwards students reflected on how much they stayed in the same general spot with the different issues or moved around. We also had a big moment when I “rephrased” a student thesis. The original was “Illegal immigrants should not be allowed in the country.” Almost all students agreed with this statement in the “10” or  “conservative” side of the spectrum. I changed the wording to something to exempt children who have lived in the U.S. most of their life here and there was a large shift to the “left.” We talked about how pollsters frame questions to manipulate how people vote on issues.

We then spent a few days researching FDR’s New Deal and Reaganomics to understand the historical origins of the basic beliefs of the two majority parties. And finally students took the survey at I really like this site because student are matched to candidates based on their opinions about the issues. It lets a person rate how important each issue is to them and gives multiple nuanced choices for each question. For example on abortion instead of just Pro Life or Pro Choice you can choose things such as “not after the first trimester” or “only legal in cases of rape or when the life of the mother is at stake.”

The best part of the site though is that it matches you to minority party candidates such as Gary Johnson (libertarian), Jill Stein (Green), and Rocky Anderson (Justice). The students ended up pretty evenly divided between Obama, Romney, Johnson, and Green. Students were surprised by these answers and that led to some great discussions. Some were also upset and claimed that the site was rigged because they did not like who it said they were matched with. Many of these students scored high for both Obama and Romney and did not understand how that was possible. This lead to a nice discussion about what it means to be an “independent” who agrees with both sides on different issues.

All in all this was a great process that led to great conversations about both the issues and later the parties and candidates. After watching the first debate this past week students are starting to get excited about politics and the election! This week students will create their own political parties with names, logos, slogans, and platforms. Stay tuned…


Copyright by New Tech student Adrian Harris
I am part of a massive PBL project with the New Tech Network centered on the election this fall that I thought I would share with everyone. Joe Urschel and myself brainstormed the #MYParty12 project that asks students to not just follow the political banter this fall but to evaluate what they actually believe in themselves. Our main goals of this project include (but are not limited to):
  • Have students understand the history of political parties and the election process in the United States
  • Have students think about what issues are most important to them.
  • Show students how they can have a voice in this country.
  • Challenge students to develop persuasive arguments to support claims (Common Core)
  • Have students explore the civility of politics.

So we created a project that focuses on these points but is flexible enough for teachers and students to take in unique directions.

Every participating school will have students create their own political platform and then a 30 second video commercial. Schools will have primaries based on their own voting methods and the winning video from each school will be entered into a New Tech Network election. All of the schools’ entries will be narrowed down to the top five who will participate in an online debate leading up to the presidential election in November. On election day there will be a Network vote for the winning party.

But that is just the minimum requirements. Students and teachers can take this starting point and go in many directions according to their interests and class. We have made a Google Doc jam packed with resources that you need to get this project started and other suggestions of activities and how to implement it. Also check out the Election tab of my livebinder for other resources. Some of the suggestions include debates between different schools, having students develop their own civility rubric, skyping in state politicians and others involved int the election process, and having “debate parties” at school to watch the presidential debates live and tweet out thoughts with the hashtag #MYparty12.

Obviously this project is perfect for an American Studies (integrated U.S. history with ELA) or Government class, but is not limited to those subjects. This project could be completed in a stand alone ELA, digital media class, or adapted by any teacher. We are using the hashtag #MyParty12 to send out info. and to promote student work. 

I know that you may not be part of the New Tech Network of schools but feel free to follow our hashtag and watch the students commercials when they start to post them on the New Tech Network home page. Or better yet borrow from our ideas and set up your own collaboration with another teacher in another school.