What our Political Parties lesson plan includes
Lesson Objectives and Overview: Political Parties introduces students to history behind the division of political views in the US as represented by parties. Students will discuss the major political parties in the US. They will also discover the purpose of political parties and their importance to the system of democracy in US politics. This lesson is for students ins 4th grade, 5th grade, and 6th grade.
Every lesson plan provides you with a classroom procedure page that outlines a step-by-step guide to follow. You do not have to follow the guide exactly. The guide helps you organize the lesson and details when to hand out worksheets. It also lists information in the yellow box that you might find useful. You will find the lesson objectives, state standards, and number of class sessions the lesson should take to complete in this area. In addition, it describes the supplies you will need as well as what and how you need to prepare beforehand. Ensure your students have internet access for this lesson.
Options for Lesson
In the “Options for Lesson” section of the classroom procedure page, you will see some suggestions for additional activities or ideas to add to the lesson if you want to. Younger students will need some background information to provide context to comprehend a lesson on political parties. Learn Bright offers lessons and videos on the electoral college, democracy, branches of government, and various political leaders. An excellent way to introduce the lesson is to start with one of the lessons or videos from the Learn Bright collection.
The paragraph on this page provides a little more information or guidance on what to expect from the lesson. It emphasizes that this is a non-partisan lesson. The lesson aims to help students develop insights into how parties operate and why they are critical. You can use the blank lines to record any thoughts or ideas you have as you prepare.
POLITICAL PARTIES LESSON PLAN CONTENT PAGES
Intro to Political Parties
The Political Parties lesson plan contains four pages of content. There is no greater responsibility of citizens in the United States than to vote. There is rarely a time when political candidates are not seeking support to represent you in local, state, or national elections. Through voting, citizens in the United States can choose who will represent them in public policy or decide what they want our government to do.
Everything from new roads to schools to healthcare is on the ballot every time there is an election. So how do candidates get on the ballot to be voted on to represent us? What are political parties, and what role do they play in elections? Let’s begin with some basic ideas that make elections in the United States unique from the rest of the governments in the world.
Have you ever heard the word democracy? Democracy is a form of government. The word comes from the Greek word demos, meaning citizens, and kratos, meaning power or rule. Democracy is a form of government where the power of government resides in the citizens who freely choose how they want to be led by their leaders. For example, you may have voted in your class for a class leader or for what kind of game you want to play at recess. If so, you participated in a democracy! The US government is a democracy.
There are many democracies in the world. However, the US has a unique form of democracy that is different from other world governments. The US is a democratic republic form of government. In a true democracy, citizens vote on every issue. In the US, citizens will sometimes vote on specific issues. Usually, we vote for representatives to make most of the decisions rather than vote on every issue or government decision ourselves.
History of Political Parties
In early American history when cities and populations were small, leaders hosted town meetings. It was easy to get everyone together to vote on something. As cities grew, it became increasingly more challenging to organize town meetings. The growth of cities and communities meant the issues became more complicated. Leaders needed the authority to make day-to-day decisions without convening every citizen in the town for a vote.
So, when the 13 states ratified or approved the Constitution on June 21 of 1788, it established our government as a federal constitutional democratic republic. What a mouthful! The Constitution separated the government into federal and state governments. The state governments formed local governments like city, county, and parish governments, or special boards like school boards.
In the United States, citizens vote on leaders (candidates) to represent them at every level of government. The leaders represent our interests and what we want the government to do. If we are unhappy with their decisions, we vote to replace them with other candidates. This is where political parties play a role.
The United States’ first president was George Washington, who was elected in 1789. When the US was first formed, there were no political parties. You might say that Washington was an Independent or not a member of any political party. The members of Congress wanted to give the newly formed government and Constitution a chance to succeed. The members were mostly non-partisan or open to listening to many opinions before making decisions.
That’s not to say members of Congress didn’t have severe differences of opinion. They did! The members realized that they could better serve the new government and the people if they worked together. So, they chose to compromise, or reach agreements by making a deal in which each person gave up part of their demands.
The non-partisan government didn’t last long. By 1797, members of Congress began to align with two camps—Federalists and Anti-Federalists. One of their disagreements was about the government in general. Federalists wanted a strong central federal government. Anti-Federalists believed a weak federal government and strong state government would be better. The two factions, or partisan groups, had other arguments too. They argued over the election of government officials, term limits for officeholders, and individual liberties.
The partisanship led to the formation of two political parties, the Democratic-Republican and Republican parties, in 1798. Inside the parties were even more factions. The parties became more divided with each subsequent presidential election. The lesson provides a list of the significant political parties that formed since 1828.
Although several political parties have started, only two have been able to elect candidates consistently. The Democratic and Republican Parties have dominated US politics since the 1850s. In modern times, while many local elections like school boards or city councils have become non-partisan, candidates still identify with one of the two parties: Democrat or Republican.
Importance of Political Parties
Political parties perform an important function in US politics. They work to find qualified people to run for elected positions. Political parties recruit and train candidates to run for elected office. They raise money, provide organizational support, and run campaigns to get their candidates elected. After elections, political parties try to influence public policy by encouraging their elected officials to vote in specific ways. Public policy is the concept that laws and the actions governments take should work in favor of the public.
Political parties keep the members of the public informed about what the government is doing. All of these are good things, but some think the two major parties have too much say in how the government runs. Many political scientists who study politics and government believe the two parties have become too partisan. They believe the two parties are more interested in maintaining their influence than they are in working for the general good of the voters.
In his last speech to Congress, George Washington warned that political parties and partisan factions were dangerous if left unchecked. Surveys of voters indicate they feel the same way. About one-third of voters say they are Democrats, one-third are Republicans, and the remaining are Independents. Voters expect elected officials to work together, not fight over partisan issues.
POLITICAL PARTIES LESSON PLAN WORKSHEETS
The lesson plan includes three worksheets: an activity worksheet, a practice worksheet, and a homework assignment. These worksheets will help students demonstrate what they learned throughout the lesson and reinforce the lesson concepts. The guide on the classroom procedure page outlines when to hand out each worksheet to your students.
UNITY AND INNOVATION PARTIES ACTIVITY WORKSHEET
Students will work with a partner for the activity. They will first read a short story that describes two people with different views. With their partners, students will discuss how the two characters should vote. They will also discuss how partisan political parties play a role in how a person should vote. At the bottom of the worksheet are a few questions for students to think about.
PRESIDENTIAL QUOTES PRACTICE WORKSHEET
The practice worksheet requires students to use their critical thinking skills. They will read two quotes about government and political parties, one from President Kennedy and the other from President Coolidge. Students will write what they believe each president was saying about political parties in the space provided at the bottom of the page.
POLITICAL PARTIES HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT
For the homework assignment, students will complete a chart by researching the elected officials in their state. They will describe which political party the official belongs to and how many of each are in that party. They will then consider what the chart tells them about the strength of political parties in their state.
Worksheet Answer Keys
The final page of the lesson plan document is an answer key for the practice worksheet. The answers provided may vary from those of your students. If you choose to administer the lesson pages to your students via PDF, you will need to save a new file that omits these pages. Otherwise, you can simply print out the applicable pages and keep these as reference for yourself when grading assignments.