Presidential Elections: A Unit Study

Presidential Elections: A Unit Study

On the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, voters head to the polls to cast their vote for those candidates running for government office in their area. Every four years, one of the ballots cast will be for those candidates running for the office of President of the United States.  (Non-presidential election years are referred to as midterm elections.)

The election of president in the United States is actually a vote for members of the United States Electoral College who will cast the ultimate vote for president and vice president.  The states are allocated electoral college members equaling the number of senators and representatives in their state.  Each state legislature decides how it will choose its electoral college members.

Of course, the countdown to Election Day is a very long and arduous one.  First those deciding to run or “throw their hat into the ring” and that meet the qualifications for president are winnowed by the primaries in which voters choose which candidates will represent their party ticket.  The candidate chosen by the party picks a vice presidential running mate.  Millions of dollars are then spent on party conventions, campaign advertising, and other necessities in order to help the candidate define himself and make his views known.

There are usually several debates between the candidates leading up to the election.  And political devotees are ever on the lookout for the “October surprise” — an unexpected event that may become the turning point in the upcoming election.

Finally, the voters have their say.  The candidate receiving a minimum of 270 electoral votes is declared the winner of the election.  The new president is inaugurated and takes the Oath of Office on January 20 of the following year.


  • Use this interactive from ReadWriteThink to make a compare/contrast chart for each of the candidates on the major issues.
  • Create a brochure for your favorite candidate.
  • Learn about the electoral college process.  How many electoral votes does your state have?


Further Investigation

Election of the President
Basic information from Ben’s Guide.

The President of the United States
A brief description of his responsibilities and roles.

Electoral College Tools {Free}
C-Span is offering educators tools for helping students understand the electoral college process.  All tools are free downloads.



Hit the Trail
Interactive from PBS Kids where you hit the trail with two presidential candidates.

Step Inside the Voting Booth
Another interactive from PBS Kids about voting.

Be President
PBS Kids interactive that lets you be the president for a day.


Unit Studies & Lesson Plans

Campaign 2016 {Free Lessons}
10 nicely rounded lessons from C-SPAN.

Winning the Vote: How Americans Elect Their President
16-page download from the Smithsonian Institute covering art, geography, language arts, history and civics in three lessons.


Printables & Notebooking Pages

Electoral College Infographic
Free infographic at KidsDiscover.com makes a great addition to a notebook.  (Free registration required for PDF download.)

How to Become President of the United States
Downloadable poster — great for notebook.