Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Electoral College... huh??!?

It may just be me (but I really doubt it), but I really have learned SO MUCH since I started teaching! There's just so much knowledge out there about all kinds of things! Politics have always scared me, especially within a school setting; you have to be so careful about what you say, and how you say it. So, I want to start off this post with a disclaimer:

I NEVER tell kids which political party I associate myself with, nor which candidate I choose to vote for. It's personal. I push patriotism and our responsibility as citizens to vote, but I also push a right to make your own decision. 

(Steps off soap box)

That being said, the world of elections is a very confusing place until you "get it." I have to admit, I didn't "get it" until probably 3 years ago when I was first introduced to some books that explain the electoral college clearly. My favorite of these is Grace for President.



Seriously... invest in this one. So today I started out 7th/8th grade history class by reading this book aloud.
Next, We looked at the map of how electoral votes are divided, and we looked at a map showing how the votes have been reapportioned since the 2010 census.


Then came the fun part. I gave each student a slip with a state on it.

 Actually, I gave them 2, since I have 22 students and there are 50 states, plus Washington, D.C. I let some of the other middle school teachers vote, too.

I gave them a few minutes to find their states on the map and shout or moan about how many/few electoral votes they have. Then I break out the soda.

Yes. Coke vs. Pepsi. Always a winner. I ask them to cast their votes.
And while they enjoy sipping on their choice of beverage, we pull up the interactive electoral map and begin to tally the votes. The site has a setting where you can choose for the map to be entirely neutral (it looks tan and only shows the states' abbreviations and # of electoral votes). Then, by clicking on the state you can choose whether you want it to be red or blue. In a typical election, red would signify Republican and Blue, Democrat, but in our election, we made red COKE and blue PEPSI. And here was our result:

[EDIT: I've had several people ask how to manipulate the map above. The website is www.270towin.com. Under the map is a drop-down box marked "Select a Starting View." Simply select "Blank Map." The whole map should turn tan. From here, you can click on each state. The first time you click, the state will turn red. If you'd like to turn it blue, click twice. Hope that's helpful!!]

Coke for the win! It was a landslide with 334 electoral votes to Pepsi's 194. And most importantly, I think the kids got it! We finished up with a short video clip from History.com.

I only had about an hour to do this with my middle schoolers, but when I've done it with my 5th graders in the past I've done much more....Red, White, and Blue snack, etc. I think it's important to help kids understand the importance of voting, and that our country is a Democratic Republic, not a direct democracy. (You know, "To the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God..."). I think kids commonly have the misconception that we're a direct democracy, electing a president based on popular vote. But we're not! We're a democratic republic. 

What do you do for election day in your class?

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51 comments:

  1. I LOVE this! Makes me wish I were still teaching so I could use it! Way to make it accessible to them, Erin. I'm duly inspired.

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  2. Wow, what a great lesson! I just bought this book from the Book Fair to share with my kinders. I will definitely tell the fifth grade teachers in my building about this!
    Pam@Kindergarten Night Owls

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  3. WOW! Amazing!!! Basically I just mention election day, it a tough concept for my kiddos.

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  4. Hi Erin. I just found you via a comment you left on a Teaching Blog Addict post. Thanks for recommending this book...and I LOVE how you made the election concept meaningful to your students by using Coke vs. Pepsi!! Have a great day.
    Tina
    Good Morning Mrs Rubie

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  5. This looks like such a great unit!

    I also dropped by to present you with the Liebster Award for up and coming blogs.

    Head on over to my blog to find out the details!

    Happy Holidays and Happy Blogging!

    Patti White

    aseriesof3rdgradeevents.blogspot.com

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  6. Hi Erin. Just found this page and would love to use a Pepsi Coke vote with my 5th graders. Unfortunately the book does not come up for me, what is the title? Thanks Carolyn

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    1. Carolyn, THANKS for bringing that to my attention! I updated the picture, so hopefully it shows up now, and added the title of the book. It's Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio. Thanks for stopping by my blog! Happy election teaching!

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  7. This is really fantastic! I can't wait to try it!

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  8. So much fun! I can't wait to try it and thanks so much for sharing! Pam @ Pj Jots

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    1. If you do try it, let me know how it goes and if you add/modify anything!

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  9. I am super excited. I only teach history one period a day and 5 periods of Language. This is going to be amazing with the group of kids I have this year! What are some of the other snacks you have used to go along with the Soda Convention in class?

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    1. It honestly has depended on the year, because I would usually ask a parent or two to send things in. They make those red, white, and blue tortilla chips, so you can do chips and salsa, or I had a parent make fruit kabobs with bananas (white), strawberries (red), and blueberries (blue). You can even google 4th of July snacks and see what you find! Let me know how it goes! So excited that other teachers are going to give this a try! :)

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  10. I LOVE this idea. I want to talk with my students about the election, but I definitely don't want to push any type of agenda on them. My school has a tough policy on that. I would love any other tips you have for 5th grade!!

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    1. I'm always VERY firm about respect. I routinely tell the kids that there's a REASON the voting age is 18... it's because as kids, they're going to defend what their parents think. Once they're older they will have the opportunity to make informed decisions like their parents do now. That's why I like doing a Coke/Pepsi type election, because it takes the emphasis off of the people in the election, and puts it on the actual PROCESS. There are lots of other books that are fun to read that day, too... Duck for President, Why is the White House White, etc. There have been years that I have done voting "stations"... coke/pepsi would be one, but I had others. Puffs vs. Kleenex, Lays vs. Pringles, Semi-sweet Chocolate vs. Milk Chocolate, M&Ms vs. Skittles, etc. The kids move from station to station to sample the products and cast their ballot. There are also voter registration forms you can download from online to show them what the process looks like.

      Hope that helps! Let me know what you try!

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  11. I love this idea! I am going to try this with my 6th grade in Philadelphia!

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    1. Thanks, Stephanie! Be sure to let me know how it goes!

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    2. It was fantastic! I did the lesson with three different groups. Instead of reading them the book (I didnt get it in time) I was going to have them watch the schoolhouse rock video on the electoral college and complete a missing lyric sheet, but there was at least one kid in each group who knew about the process, so they ended up doing the mini lesson part. Then we got into the fun part (we voted for popcorn- kettle vs cheddar) and they completed mini maps at their desk as we used 270towin. Having 22 students, some got more states than others, which some regarded as "unfair" at first, but then they realized that the number of votes per state mattered. The feedback was very positive, it was a fun lesson for both me and the students. Thanks!!!

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  12. Miss Anderson9/27/2012 4:41 AM

    I found this on Pinterest and I am so glad I did. I am a Secondary School teacher in Scotland and US politics can be tricky for some of our kids to get their heads around. I will certainly be using this to teach my Standard Grade and Higher Modern Studies (politics) classes.

    Thank you so much! It is excellent.

    Miss Anderson

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  13. This is absolutely fabulous! I can't wait to share it with my colleagues and do this with my 4th grade class. Thank you for sharing!!

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  14. What a terrific lesson! I will save this for next year . . . since we've moved on to Mespotamia!

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  15. I am really excited to share this with my 6th graders in the following weeks. I did go to the map, but I wasn't able to figure out how to make the make neutral?! I could make it blank, but couldn't figure out how to make it neutral so we could add in our own votes. Any suggestions?! Thanks!!
    Angela :)

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  16. Found this on pinterest and saved it for next week! Planning to try Coke/Pepsi and M&Ms/Skittles voting with a 3rd-5th grade group in an after school program!!

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  17. Thanks so much for sharing these fabulous ideas! I'm a homeschool mom and I"m going to use this lesson idea with our co-op on Wednesday! I will probably blog about it too...and will be sure to link back to you and your fabulous idea!! :) Thanks again!!

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  18. How do you get the map to show both red and blue votes? I chose blank map but then it only will display one color. Any ideas on how to operate it to show their choice? I LOVE this activity. I cannot wait to try this next week with my class, but I wanted to do a run-through after school this week. Thanks for sharing such an awesome idea.

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    1. I edited the post to include instructions on 270towin. Hope that helps!

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  19. We are so excited about this activity! We teach 5th Grade in Kansas and had been looking for something to simply explain the election process. Our school does go to the lab to vote and the district lets us know who "wins." In the past, that is about all we've done. Now, we are excited to actually do this lesson. We are going to have a whole afternoon over the election and include a writing activity also. Thanks so much for sharing!

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  20. Just did this lesson today with my fifth graders! Amazing! Thank you so much for posting it! (We did have to make a modification...we are not allowed to bring in unhealthy snacks so we did blueberries and raspberries...kids still loved it!)

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  21. There's just so much knowledge out there about all kinds of things! Politics have always scared me, especially within a school setting;

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  22. My kids and I tried this today! I have a second grade class, but they are ALL very high ability! They ate this up! Of course they would NOT stop asking who I was voting for today! We had a lot of fun! Only difference in my lesson was that I did not being in Pepsi and Coke to drink, I was not sure how my kids would do on that amount of sugar! :)
    Great lesson! I had a blast teaching this!

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    1. How encouraging! We just did this in our 4th grade classes today, and really had a great time. I found even a few more things to add, so I'll be adding a new post later this week about this year's election lesson. So glad so many teachers are able to use and enjoy this!

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  23. Your lesson plan gave me a great foundation to work from that really helped my students understand the electoral college and get excited about casting their own votes. Thanks for a great idea!

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  24. I did this activity with my 6th grade kids yesterday (Election Day 2012) and they LOVED IT!!! I loved it just as much! They really got into the information. Thanks so much for sharing this great activity!

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  26. Grace for President is an awesome book. It was just recommended to me this year by another teacher. It really helped my 5th/6th grade students understand the Electoral College a little more. Can't wait to try the Coke/Pepsi voting for the next election.

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  27. This is a brilliant idea, I will be following your progress. Good luck and hope to hear great things!
    Paper Writing Services

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  28. Great lesson plan; however, a point of clarification is needed. A republic is a form of a democracy.

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  29. it's great to see the plan like this thanks for the explanations.. Assignment Writers

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  35. This is such a great lesson! The electoral college is very difficult to understand in the first place; but by taking it out of the political context, it's a bit easier to understand. Thanks for the lesson idea!

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  36. this is great! i am looking for ways to help my kids understand the coming election year and this is perfect!

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  37. Wonderful idea! Thanks for sharing. I certainly agree that many do not realize we actually live in a republic rather than a democracy. I certainly go over that with my students every year!

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  38. I stumbled upon your website looking for ways to make the electoral college meaningful to my 5th grade students. Thank you!

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  39. I love this lesson. I taught it during the 2012 election and I am preparing to do it again with the classes I have right now and then again in the fall with my next year's classes. Thanks so much for sharing. I'm glad I have this pinned and am able to easily access it 4 years later. :)

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  40. Great lesson! I am teaching electoral college to gifted kids now. One question about interactive map: can it be manipulated to Coke/Pepsi at top rather than Clinton/Trump?

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  41. As teachers, we shouldnt use junk food to teach anything....Coke vs. Pepsi! REALLY?

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    1. I understand your feelings about "junk food." I believe, however, that it's important to teach moderation. Currently, I happen to teach in a school that allows us to use food and drink (peanut-free) to teach concepts. I pour only a couple of swallows into each cup, and I let the kids know ahead of time that they don't have to drink any if they don't want to. There are usually a couple who don't. If you don't want to use Coke and Pepsi, feel free to substitute two other products in its place. My goal is to teach effectively and engage the students.

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