America's Legislators Back to School Program
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Elementary School Lesson Plan II - Who are Legislators?
Age-level: 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades
Students often do not have an understanding of who legislators are and how they became legislators. This lesson will show students that legislators are regular people who decide to be involved in their communities by becoming elected officials. This lesson will also show students the process by which people are elected to office.
Students should be expected to
Participate in a class discussion of the election process,
Know the names of some of the political parties (democrat, republican, green, etc.).
Create a fictitious campaign poster for themselves, including campaign promises and a slogan.
Two 45-minute sessions.
National Standards for Civics and Government, K-4 Content Standards addressed:
Run for office
Part I - Introduction
Ask the students if they know what a legislator is. (This might be a good time to briefly discuss the three branches of government if students have not already studied it.)
Explain that legislators in the U.S. Congress make laws that apply to the whole country and legislators in your state capitol make laws that apply to just your state.
Ask students if they know how a legislator becomes a legislator. What kind of person can be elected to office? It is important to tell students that legislators are average people. They may own a restaurant, be a dentist, or they may have been homemakers. Mechanics, police officers, grocery store clerks, and engineers can all decide to run for office.
Divide the class into small groups. Have the class imagine that each one of them will be running for office. What do they want people to know about them? What will make people want to vote for them?
Tell students they will be using a worksheet to help them create a campaign poster.
Tell students that they will be discussing qualities that they think are important for a legislator to have. Give the class 3-5 minutes to discuss and fill out the top section of their worksheet, "A Legislator Must Be..." Some qualities students might choose:
Respectful of others
Can work with others
A U.S. Citizen
Tell the students to think of issues they find important and will want to tell people about in their own platform. These could focus on school issues. Give the class 3-5 minutes to discuss and fill out the second section of their worksheet, "My Platform."
Pass out materials for the campaign poster. Explain that students will use the qualities for a legislator and the platform to come up with a slogan for the poster. Students should fill out the last section of the worksheet, "My Slogan," and then complete the poster.
Have students share their posters with the class. Collect worksheets.
Part II - Introduction
Explain that once people decide they want to be a legislator, they have to be elected by the people. They must run for office. The person must choose a political party affiliation (Democratic, Republican, etc.). They become a candidate and will run against other candidates from different political parties. In the campaign the candidate will put up posters, talk to the public and participate in activities to show the people what he or she believes is important. The candidate will tell the people what he or she wants to accomplish in office. This is called a platform. For example, someone might run on a platform of reducing taxes and improving the environment.
Investigate local legislators' websites. What are their party affiliations? What is important to them? What issues have they worked to improve? What are their accomplishments?
Divide the class into small groups. Have the students develop questions about an issue or two in their local area that a legislator might address. Have the students talk about what a legislator from their area might focus on in their campaign.
Ask the groups to share with the class their ideas. Prepare several questions to ask the legislator when they visit the classroom for America's Legislators Back to School Week.
Find information about legislators on the National Conference of State Legislature's website, www.ncsl.org .
Find information about civic education at www.civiced.org .
Find information about national standards for civics education at www.civiced.org .
This project is supported by a Robert H. Michel Civic Education Grant sponsored by The Dirksen Congressional Center, Pekin, IL.