Voting and Elections

Lesson 6: How Do We Choose Leaders?

Student Expectations:

Students will recognize the positive qualities of good leaders.
Students will understand the election process in the United States.

Vocabulary and Definitions:

election: the selection of a person or persons for office by vote
primary election: a preliminary election in which voters of multiple parties nominate candidates for office
campaign: the process through which rival political candidates and organizations compete for public office
ballot: a paper or electronic list of candidates on which a voter can indicate who they want to be elected to specific political offices

Think Deeply:

Ask your parents what two traits they think are most important for a leader to have. Write them down on a piece of paper and bring the paper back to class. Your teacher will then turn your responses into a class chart about the traits of good leaders.

Lesson Plan:

1. Before the lesson, print enough copies of the ballot found in related media for the class and create a simple ballot box for the students to put their completed ballots into. Save the ballot box for use in upcoming weeks.
2. Pose the following questions for discussion:
     a. What leaders do you know?
     b. What do you like about these leaders?
     c. How do these people’s traits make them good leaders?
     d. What are some other traits that you think a good leader should have?
3. As they discuss, make a class list of good leaders’ traits on the board.
4. Have a class discussion about the following questions:
     a. How does someone become a leader? (Answers may vary. Possibilities include: They can be chosen. They can work their way up. They can just take over. They can be elected.)
     b. How are the leaders of our government chosen? (People vote.)
     c. Have you ever voted for something? If so, what happened? (Answers may vary.)
     d. When people vote, how do you know who wins? (Whatever or whoever gets the most votes wins.)
     e. When you vote, will you always get what you want? (no)
     f. What can a person do if what they voted for doesn’t win? (Answers may vary.)
5. Explain to the students that in a republic like the United States, everyone has the right to vote. When people vote on issues or for elected officials, whatever or whoever gets the most votes wins. Because only the highest voted issue or person wins, living and voting also requires compromise. If people who voted aren’t satisfied with the results, they need to recognize that the loser of an election can run again or a rejected issue can be brought up again. We have to accept the results of fair elections whether we agree or not, but we can still continue to work for things that we believe in.
6. Show the students images of people voting in person and by mail. Explain what an election is.
7. Show students the image of a ballot. Explain that a ballot has all of the candidates’ names on it. On their ballots, voters mark the names of people who they want to be elected to different political offices. After voting, all of the ballots are collected and the votes are counted. The people who get the most votes win the election and become leaders for a set term. Pose the question: Have you ever watched a parent, a sibling, or someone else vote?
8. Explain that there are local and state elections every year. The states are in charge of their own elections. They decide whether people will vote by mail, in person, or using a combination of both.
9. Explain that every four years, there is a national election for the positions of president and vice president. In that election, everyone who is qualified can vote for these two major leaders of the country.
10. For first grade students, hand out the Pet Ballot graphic organizer. For second and third grade students, hand out the Sample Ballot graphic organizer. Then, have them vote on the ballot. After they have voted, count the votes and share the results with the class.

Related Media:

Voters:

Vote by mail:

Ballot:

Graphic Organizer:

Recent Posts

studies weekly primary sources

See Our Primary Source Media Online

As a social studies teacher, it’s often difficult to instill an appreciation for historical events in young students. While most people over 25 can remember