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Making Civics Real: A Workshop for Teachers

Electoral Politics — Workshop Session

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Lesson Topic: Electoral Politics

Key Constructivist Methodologies:

  • Issue identification
  • Consensus building

Teacher: Jose E. Velazquez

School: University High School, Newark, NJ

Grade Level: 12th Grade

Course: Law in Action

Lesson Objectives:

  • To research and identify community issues students want the mayoral candidates to address and connect those to candidate platforms
  • To develop consensus-building skills
  • To engage students as lifelong participants in the political process


The Lesson
The lesson seen in the program culminates a 12-week unit developed by the national Student Voices Project to engage students in the civic life of their community. It was videotaped just prior to the 2002 mayoral election in Newark, New Jersey. Students divide into small groups to brainstorm and research specific community issues, prioritize the issues studied on the basis of what they have learned, present their findings to the class both orally and through a visual presentation, develop a whole-class consensus on a Student Voices agenda of issues they think the next mayor should address, and study the candidates’ positions on the issues they have chosen to track.

Support Materials
The downloadable Support Materials listed under Sessions lead you through the viewing of the workshop video and the related activities and discussions for “Electoral Politics.” These materials can be used by individuals and by facilitators of workshop sessions.

The support materials identify key concepts, provide discussion ideas for each video segment, and recommend follow-up activities for after the workshop session.

Additional Materials
The materials described below—Lesson Plan, Teacher Perspectives, Student Perspectives, Essential Readings and Other Lessons— provide background and context for the lesson seen in the workshop video. They also supply the tools you need to adapt this lesson and its teaching strategies for your classroom.

Lesson Plan

The Lesson Plan provides information on Jose Velazquez’s method of teaching the lesson on electoral politics, the national standards this lesson addresses, additional resources and his teaching materials, including:


Evaluation Form: Outcome or Product for Cooperative Learning Project (PDF)

Rubric: Outcome or Product for Cooperative Learning Project (PDF)

Teacher Perspectives

Teacher Perspectives offers Jose Velazquez’s reflections on the following topics:

  • Civic involvement
  • Methodology
  • Connecting constructivism and citizenship
  • Teaching challenges
  • Building consensus and closure
  • Student challenges
  • Informal assessment
  • Getting started
  • Forming groups
  • Students’ presentations
  • Lessons learned
  • Advice to other teachers
  • Newark mayoral campaign
  • Remaining neutral
  • His background

See Teacher Perspectives

Student Perspectives

Student Perspectives offers Jose Velazquez’s 12th-grade students’ reflections on the following topics:

  • Being a citizen
  • Learning civics
  • The candidates
  • Voting
  • The issues
  • Mr. Velazquez’s teaching style
  • Constructivist learning
  • Group work

See Student Perspectives

Essential Readings

The Student Voices Project
The Student Voices Project is a national initiative that works with schools in selected cities to engage high school students in local political campaigns. This article explains why it came into being and how it operates.

The 26th Amendment and Youth Voting Rights
by Wynell Schamel
One effect of the Vietnam War on the United States was to lower the voting age to 18. Schamel, an education specialist at the Education Branch, National Archives and Records Administration, introduces the 26th Amendment.

Building Consensus
The San Diego Unified School District Triton/Patterns Project developed this guide to help both students and teachers understand what consensus means and how to achieve it in group settings.

See Essential Readings

Other Lessons

Voting Isn’t Enough
By G. Dale Greenawald
Citizenship education must go beyond the “hows and whys” of voting to explore leadership, conflicts over power, and the issues at stake in elections. Instructional activities to promote enduring democratic behaviors through broad voter education are presented. G. Dale Greenawald is an educational consultant who has published extensively in the field of social studies education, and recently served on the faculty of the University of Northern Colorado.

Voting Is Essential
by Rick Blasing
Blasing, a social studies instructor at LaCrosse High School, LaCrosse, Kansas, who also serves as a part-time faculty member in the social science department at Barton County Community College in Great Bend, Kansas, describes a lesson plan to help students formulate their own political opinions in an election campaign through a critical examination of political advertisements, candidate debates, and political cartoons.

See Other Lessons

Series Directory

Making Civics Real: A Workshop for Teachers


Produced by State of the Art, Inc., in collaboration with the National Council for the Social Studies and the Center for Civic Education. 2003.
  • ISBN: 1-57680-679-0