/educators/lessons/grade-5/Election_Process_and_Campaign_Trail

US Presidential Election Process and the Campaign Trail

By planning an election campaign and writing a campaign song, students learn the election process and develop a campaign platform

Overview

Key Staff

This lesson will be straightforward for the social studies or US history teacher to use in the classroom. It may be helpful if a music teacher works cooperatively for this lesson.

Key Skills

Creative Thinking: Creativity and Innovation, Communication and Collaboration
Global Connections: Connecting to History and Culture

Summary

Students will create an original political campaign song for a fictional presidential candidate. The campaign song will be created after learning how to use political terms appropriately through research and classroom discussions. Research will include the basic processes of the electoral college, the importance of campaign tours, and the historical importance of campaign songs.

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Learn about and use political terms appropriately.
  • Understand the political process relevant to elections through research and discussion.
  • Research the basic processes for state and national elections, and learn about the role of the electoral college.
  • Learn about the historical importance of campaign train tours, and research railway lines in different geographical areas in the U.S.
  • Develop a campaign train or bus tour, estimate distances using mileage keys, plan itineraries, and schedule events for the tour.
  • Learn about the historical importance of campaign songs and write a campaign song, using simple music notation, for a fictional presidential candidate.

Teaching Approach

Arts Integration

Teaching Methods

  • Discovery Learning
  • Hands-On Learning
  • Guided Listening
  • Reflection

Assessment Type

Portfolio Assessment

Preparation

What You'll Need

Materials
Resources
Required Technology
  • 1 Computer per Classroom
  • Speakers
  • Printer
Lesson Setup

Teacher Background

Teachers should have a basic knowledge of the following:

  • Music and music theory. You may look in to the integration of this lesson with your school’s music teacher.
  • The U.S. presidential election process and the electoral college.
  • The historical influences of the U.S. railroads.

Prior Student Knowledge

Students should have a basic knowledge of the following:

  • Basic Computer Skills
  • Basic Research Skills
  • Basic Knowledge of Music and Music Theory and Appreciation
  • Previous knowledge of how the U.S. presidential election process.

Physical Space

  • Classroom
  • Computer Lab
  • Rehearsal Space

Grouping

Small Group Instruction

Staging

Have the following materials arranged and ready to use:

  • Have research resources available to students.
    Use links provided within this lesson.
  • Have at least one computer available for every small group of students.
    Each computer should have audio capabilities and Internet access.
  • Have a map of the U.S. available.
  • Have a color printer available during the lesson.

Instruction

Resources in Reach

Here are the resources you'll need for each activity, in order of instruction.

Engage
Build Knowledge

Engage

1. Ask the students to list four important facts about the last presidential election in the U.S. Call on individual students to share their answers with the class. The students' responses will provide some indication of their background knowledge and help to guide the lesson.

2. Generate a classroom oral discussion. Begin the lesson by asking the students broad questions about the election process: How is the U.S. president is elected? Have they heard of the electoral college? How many political parties are there in U.S. presidential elections? How are political campaigns organized and run? Ask students if they have ever created an itinerary for completing a task or for taking a trip. As the students discuss these questions, have them create a list of sources where they can find answers to these questions. (Books, encyclopedias, textbooks, websites, computer software, photographs, and works of art are some of the sources that should be on their list.) Write the sources on the board or collect and display them on an interactive whiteboard.

3. Discuss the basic process for electing the U.S. president and vice president. Provide background information on the primary season and the nominating process. Distribute the Vocabulary Handout, located within the Resouce Carousel, and complete the activity with the students. You may want to have the students visit the following sites for information to read.

Build Knowledge

1. Review the list of collected information sources. Assemble the list of sources that students compiled in the beginning activity. Write on the board or display on an interactive whiteboard. Direct students to additional resources that may have been overlooked.

2. Divide students into groups for research assignments. Students should be divided into four groups. Provide each group one of the four 'Topics' handouts. Each handout contains research questions the students will answer and are available within the Resource Carousel.

Students should work in small groups to complete the handouts, answering the questions by using the resources which they identified.

3. Provide an oral report to the class. Each group will report to the class on the specific topic noted in the handout. Allow time for general classroom discussion during the presentations.

4. Assess the students’ overall comprehension of the information presented. After the presentations and discussions, ask questions to check for understanding. Students should now have a basic understanding of the state primaries and caucuses, the national conventions, the November general election, and the electoral college.

5. Introduce students to the idea of using a campaign train or bus and a campaign song. Allow students to visit sites that have information on former elections that used trains on the campaign route, such as the Truman 1948 Whistle Stop Tour.

Explain to students that the U.S. had numerous railways that spanned from north to south and coast to coast. Allow them to view some of the maps showing routes used long ago by using the Library of Congress Railroad Map Collection. In small groups, have students choose one railroad and map a route for a campaign train. Students should use these railroad lines: Union-Pacific, Norfolk & Western, Baltimore & Ohio, Santa Fe, Illinois Central, and Erie Railroads. Discuss that, historically, many presidential candidates used trains for their campaign travel and today, many use buses or other types of transportation. Explain the historical significance of trains and railroad lines in the U.S.

6. Review with students the basics of music composition. Review should include bass and treble clef, note values (whole, half, and quarter), time signature, and tempo. You may wish to spend more than one class period on this review and, if available, team up with the school’s music teacher.

7. Students will write their own campaign song. Print blank copies of staff music paper for students to write their music. You may choose either the blank or piano version. Have these sheets available for the students to use. Students should use a keyboard or piano to assist in writing their music composition.

Apply

1. Brainstorm ideas. Brainstorm ideas on how students would get voters to join their political party and vote for the candidate their party supports. Discuss methods for how this could be done (mail, Internet web sites, newspapers, radio, television, etc.).

2. Introduce the use of political campaign songs. Then introduce students to the idea of using a campaign train and campaign song that they create and compose. Allow students to visit websites that have information on former elections that used trains or buses on the campaign route, such as the Truman 1948 Whistle Stop Tour.

3. Explain the historical significance of campaign train and US railways. Explain to students that the U.S. had numerous railways that spanned from north to south and coast to coast. Allow them to view some of the maps showing routes used long ago by using the Library of Congress Railroad Map Collection.

4. Divide students into small groups for research. In small groups, have students choose one railroad and map a route for a campaign train. Students should use these railroad lines: Union-Pacific, Norfolk & Western, Baltimore & Ohio, Santa Fe, Illinois Central, and Erie Railroads.

Students can print a map of the U.S. and develop an itinerary for the route their train will follow, selecting the best locations for a campaign speech and for encouraging citizens to vote. Have students draw the route on the map and mark where each stop will be.

5. Create a campaign schedule and route. Using a mileage key, have students estimate the number of miles between the stops for their campaign trip. Make sure that when a time zone is crossed that groups allow for the difference in their schedules. After the routes are drawn, have students create an accurate schedule and campaign train itinerary by making a chart, graph, timeline, or other organizational tool.

6. Students will create and compose their own campaign song. Play songs for students that have been used in presidential campaigns, i.e., "Happy Days are Here Again" (Franklin Roosevelt), "Don't Stop Thinkin' About Tomorrow" (Bill Clinton). Explain that these songs were already popular and were used by the candidates because of the positive message they represented. Explain to students that they will work in their groups to write a simple campaign song or rap song that will rally votes for their candidate.

7. Brainstorm ideas for lyrics. Each group should begin to brainstorm lyrics for their piece. If they wish, students can use a melody they already know and adapt the lyrics to fit their candidate.

Students should take into consideration that they are creating a method for advertising the beliefs and ideas for a specific, fictional political candidate. Suggest that students use issues that are important to them at home or at school.

8. Review basics of music composition and music theory. Review with students the basics of music composition, including bass and treble clef, note values (whole, half, and quarter), time signature, and tempo. You may wish to spend more than one class period on this review. (This review may be done with the assistance of a music specialist or school music teacher). An informative, fun interactive on music notation that students may want to explore is the San Francisco Symphony music lab. Print copies of staff music paper for students to write their music. You may choose either the blank or piano version. Have these sheets available for the students to use.

9. Encourage partnering, teams or small groups. You may wish to assign the writing of lyrics to a few students, and the writing of the melody to the other students in each group. As students work, remind them that they are writing a persuasive song. How do political candidates persuade potential voters? What tools do they use? Encourage students to think about the use of imagery, metaphor, and even exaggeration in political campaigns, and how students might use these tools to create a persuasive campaign song or rap.

Reflect

1. Students will perform assessments of the campaign maps. Have students assess their campaign train maps by answering the following questions:

  • Have they chosen stops where they can influence large numbers of voters? Why? Why not?
  • Have they chosen several different geographic areas to present their speeches, i.e., rural, urban, northern, southern?
  • Did they select a specific political issue that will be the main focus of their political song?

2. Ask students if any of the songs would persuade them. Engage the class in a discussion about how political candidates persuade potential voters. What tools do they use? Compare historical songs with the songs composed today. Encourage students to think about the use of imagery, metaphor, and even exaggeration in political campaigns, and how students might use these tools to create a persuasive campaign song or rap.

Extending the Learning

When the students have completed their campaign songs, invite other classes, parents, or groups to see the students perform them. If this is not possible, consider videotaping the students' performances for others to see or to view on their classroom computers.

Standards

The Common Core State Standards Initiative seeks to bring diverse state curricula into alignment through a set of common learning goals and assessments. In 2010, Standards were released for English language arts and mathematics. Common standards have not yet been released for science, social studies, and other subject areas, including the arts. In addition, some states have yet to, or have chosen not to, adopt the Common Core standards.

During this transitional period, ArtsEdge will present all relevant state and nationals standards as they apply to our lessons.

National Standards for Arts Education

For the full text of the content and achievement standards in Arts Education, visit our Standards section.

ArtsEdge Lessons connect to the National Standards for Arts Education, the Common Core Standards, and a range of other subject area standards.

Common Core/State Standards

Select state and grade(s) below, then click "Find" to display Common Core and state standards.

National Standards For Arts Education
Music

Grade 5-8 Music Standard 4: Composing and arranging music within specified guidelines

Grade 5-8 Music Standard 8: Understanding relationships between music, the other arts, and disciplines outside the arts

National Standards in Other Subjects

Credits

Writers

Rebecca Holden
Original Author

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