<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=1392659690788492&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">
Skip to content
Watch a Demo

115 Lessons for Teaching 2016 Election Issues in Any Classroom


[October 28, 2016 Update] We've added eight new election-themed lessons. You can now pair "We the Voters" videos with our free lessons. Sign up for an account to explore more!

There's nothing like a general election season to reinforce the importance of making and evaluating arguments. With just a few weeks until the vote, we encourage you to engage your students with the election by using these debatable critical thinking lessons on campaign topics:

[Click on any of the topics to jump to lessons in that theme]

Criminal Justice

  • Crime and Policing
  • Criminal Justice Reform

Cultural Issues

  • Discrimination and Inequality
  • Immigration
  • Media

The Economy

  • Foreign Aid
  • Government Systems and Regulation
  • The Workforce

The Election Process

The Environment

  • Climate Change
  • Energy Policy


  • Government Role in Food
  • Health Care

National Security

  • Government Surveillance
  • The Military
  • Terrorism

And if you're searching for more ways to teach the election, we've got you covered. Each week, we'll be publishing a #CERCAtheVote prompt – taking a look at claims made on the campaign trail and asking students to evaluate the evidence and reasoning used to support candidates' statements, as well as counterarguments that should be addressed and language that works best for a particular audience.

You can get additional resources, tips, and even a free poster for engaging students with the election at our Teach the Election site.

Part of being civically engaged means thinking critically. We're happy to help you show your students how they can get involved in the election, even before they're able to vote.

* Premium content

Criminal Justice

Crime and Policing

Gardening Against Crime*

  • Do community gardens help reduce crime in a community?
  • Grade 3, (CCSS.CCRA.R.6, CCSS.W.3.1)

"Extra Eyes and Ears - The Neighborhood Watch Program" and "Another Take on Neighborhood Watch"*

  • Is the Neighborhood Watch program more helpful or harmful to a community?
  • Grade 4, (CCSS.CCRA.R.6, CCSS.W.4.1)

Geoffrey Donovan Researches Trees and Crime and Trees Linked to Less Crime, Research Finds*

  • According to the research presented in the articles, what is the correlation between trees and crime rates?
  • Grades 6-8, (CCSS.RH.6-8.2, CCSS.WHST.6-8.1)

Chicago Police Look to Revamp CAPS and Controversial Anti-Violence Group CeaseFire Awaits New Leader*

  • Which author is more successful in promoting their views about community policing? Evaluate the evidence each author uses to persuade his or her audience.
  • Grades 9-10, (CCSS.RH.9-10.6, CCSS.WHST.9-10.1)

"Sometimes There's No Choice but to 'Stand Your Ground'" and "'Stand Your Ground' Laws Promote Vigilante Mentality"*

  • Which author is more successful in promoting his perspective on the "Stand Your Ground" law? Evaluate the evidence each author uses to persuade the audience.
  • Grades 11-12, (CCSS.RH.11-12.6, CCSS.WHST.11-12.1)

Criminal Justice Reform

Criminal Sentencing in Urgent Need of Reform

  • Should Congress act to reform mandatory minimum sentencing laws?
  • Grades 9-10, (CCSS.CCRA.R.8)

Educating the Incarcerated

  • How is Jail Education Solutions helping reform the United States prison system?
  • Grades 9-10, (CCSS.CCRA.R.5)

Cultural Issues

Discrimination and Inequality

An Experiment in Discrimination

  • Why was Mrs. Elliott’s experiment so powerful?
  • Grades 3-5, (CCSS.CCRA.R.8)

Calling the Constitution's Bluff

  • What are the possible challenges to the idea that the Constitution protects the freedoms of all people in the United States?
  • Grades 6-8, (CCSS.CCRA.R.2)

A Slippery Slope Toward Discrimination*

  • After September 11, 2001, how did stereotypes change how certain ethnic groups were perceived?
  • Grade 7, (CCSS.CCRA.R.4, CCSS.W.7.1)

Missouri Players Show the Power of Unity Through Boycott

  • What role do college athletes have in shaping social consciousness?
  • Grades 11-12, (CCSS.CCRA.R.8)

Seattle Bus Ads Featuring Photos of Wanted Terrorists Will Be Removed

  • Can most-wanted ads influence stereotypes and create a threatening environment for citizens?
  • Grades 11-12, (CCSS.CCRA.R.1)

Study of Recent Popular Movies Finds Minorities Are Under-Represented

  • Why are minorities under-represented in popular movies?
  • Grades 11-12, (CCSS.CCRA.R.1)

We the Voters: Why We March

  • Why are marches and protests an effective way of making an argument?
  • Grades 11-12, (CCSS.CCRA.R.1)


We the Voters: Citizen Next

  • Why do some immigrants to the United States become citizens while others do not?
  • Grades 9-10, (CCSS.CCRA.R.8)

Amezaga Has Come Long Way Since Parents Sent Him from Mexico to Miami

  • Why did Amezaga and his parents decide to take risks and make sacrifices so that Amezaga could come to the United States?
  • Grades 11-12, (CCSS.CCRA.R.1)


We the Voters: The Poll Dance

  • Why is it important for people to understand how polls are conducted and reported?
  • Grades 9-10, (CCSS.CCRA.R.1)

We the Voters: MediaOcracy

  • What responsibility do readers and viewers have in gathering accurate information and diverse opinions in the age of digital media?
  • Grades 11-12, (CCSS.CCRA.R.6)

The Economy

Foreign Aid

How Does Foreign Aid Work?

  • Is foreign aid an effective way to solve global issues?
  • Grades 6-8, (CCSS.CCRA.R.8)

We the Economy: Foreign Aid Paradox

  • How do different types of foreign aid impact economic development for givers and receivers?
  • Grades 11-12, (CCSS.CCRA.R.1)

Government Systems and Regulation

The Grim Economics of Food Stamps

  • Should the government increase or decrease the food stamp benefit?
  • Grades 9-10, (CCSS.CCRA.R.8)

We the Economy: Supply Chain Reaction

  • What do human rights have to do with the economy?
  • Grades 9-10, (CCSS.CCRA.R.2)

We the Economy: Monkey Business: AKA Economic Inequality

  • Based on what these economists say about the causes of economic inequality, what should be done about it?
  • Grades 11-12, (CCSS.CCRA.R.6)

We the Economy: Taxation Nation

  • Why is the U.S. tax system so complex?
  • Grades 11-12, (CCSS.CCRA.R.1)

We the Economy: That Second Part of that Film About Money

  • What financial and governmental systems are in place to protect our hard-earned money?
  • Grades 11-12, (CCSS.CCRA.R.3)

We the Economy: The Fed Head

  • Why is the job of the Chairman of the Federal Reserve important?
  • Grades 11-12, (CCSS.CCRA.R.6)

We the Economy: The Street

  • What are the effects of the capital used by public companies on the economy?
  • Grades 11-12, (CCSS.CCRA.R.3)

We the Economy: Your Tax Dollars at Work

  • How should the federal government spend our tax dollars?
  • Grades 11-12, (CCSS.CCRA.R.2)

We the Economy: GDP Smackdown

  • Should quality of life be considered when measuring a country's economic well-being?
  • Grades 11-12, (CCSS.CCRA.R.6)

We the Economy: Amazing Animated Film on the Debt and Deficit

  • How do debt and deficit affect the economy as a whole?
  • Grades 11-12, (CCSS.CCRA.R.1)

We the Voters: Student Debt Roulette

  • What are the causes and effects of the changes to the costs of higher education in the United States since 1980?
  • Grades 11-12, (CCSS.CCRA.R.5)

The Workforce

We the Economy: Made by China in America

  • Is China's boom good for the U.S. economy?
  • Grades 9-10, (CCSS.CCRA.R.8)

Scraping By: What You Need to Know about the Minimum Wage

  • Should the federal minimum wage be raised?
  • Grades 9-10, (CCSS.CCRA.R.7)

We the Economy: The Value of Work

  • What are the pros and cons of a $15/hour minimum wage?
  • Grades 11-12, (CCSS.CCRA.R.6)

We the Economy: Globalization: Who Cares? You Do

  • What are some positive and negative effects of globalization for a typical person in the United States?
  • Grades 11-12, (CCSS.CCRA.R.6)

The Election Process

The History and Process of Voting

  • Why is voting a civic responsibility?
  • Grades 3-5, (CCSS.CCRA.R.8)

All the Way to the White House*

  • What role does the Electoral College play in the voting process?
  • Grade 3, (CCSS.CCRA.R.4, CCSS.W.3.2)

The Changing Face of American Voters*

  • What are the biggest changes that have been made to voting laws in the United States?
  • Grade 3, (CCSS.CCRA.R.1, CCSS.W.3.2)

Presidential Election Results from 2000-2012*

  • What is the biggest difference between the electoral vote and the popular vote in a recent election?
  • Grade 3, (CCSS.PRACTICE.MP4)

Multiday Informational Text: How We Elect a President: What Is the Electoral College?*

  • Should the United States keep the Electoral College?
  • Grade 4, (CCSS.CCRA.R.4, CCSS.W.4.A)

The Value of the Vote*

  • What does the outcome of the 2000 presidential election suggest about the importance of voting?
  • Grade 4, (CCSS.CCRA.R.1, CCSS.W.4.2)

2012 Election Results*

  • What is the fewest number of states that would have had to switch sides to change the outcome of the 2012 election?
  • Grade 4, (CCSS.PRACTICE.MP4)

An Honest Opinion*

  • Should voting in America be mandatory for all citizens who are eligible to vote?
  • Grade 5, (CCSS.CCRA.R.1, CCSS.W.5.1)

Multiday Informational Text: How the Electoral College Works*

  • Should the United States continue to use the Electoral College as part of the process of electing a president?
  • Grade 5, (CCSS.CCRA.R.4, CCSS.W.5.1)

Registered Voters vs. Eligible Voters*

  • How has the number of registered voters changed relative to the number of eligible voters over the past 20 years?
  • Grade 5, (CCSS.PRACTICE.MP4)

Barriers and Obstacles

  • What are some of the possible challenges to the idea that all citizens have equal voting rights?
  • Grades 6-8, (CCSS.CCRA.R.6)

Origins of the Electoral College*

  • How did the Electoral College address the limitations of a system of popular votes in the U. S. democracy?
  • Grades 6-8, (CCSS.RH.6-8.4, CCSS.WHST.6-8.2)

Telling America to Vote, or Else*

  • Should voting in the United States be mandatory for all eligible citizens?
  • Grades 6-8, (CCSS.CCRA.R.1,CCSS.WHST.6-8.1)

Tweet, Post, Share! How You Are Changing Politics*

  • How have online tools and social media influenced politics?
  • Grade 6, (CCSS.CCRA.R.2, CCSS.W.6.1)

The Right to Vote*

  • What conclusion can you draw about the relationship between the right to vote, voter registration, and voter turnout?
  • Grade 6, (CCSS.CCRA.R.3, CCSS.W.7.1)

Voices of the Few*

  • Does the author build an effective argument about the dangers of group decision-making through his examination of democracy?
  • Grade 7, (CCSS.CCRA.R.3, CCSS.W.7.1)

Popular Vote vs. Electoral Vote*

  • Which individual’s vote had a greater impact in the 2012 election - an individual's vote in Illinois or an individual's vote in Montana?
  • Grade 7, (CCSS.PRACTICE.MP4)

Did Nader Spoil the Election?*

  • How much of a "spoiler" effect did Nader have in 2000?
  • Grade 8, (CCSS.PRACTICE.MP4)

The Problem with the Electoral College

  • Should the Electoral College be disbanded?
  • Grades 9-10, (CCSS.CCRA.R.1)

Old Enough to Fight, Old Enough to Vote

  • Should the voting age be lowered to 16?
  • Grades 9-10, (CCSS.CCRA.R.8)

The Mode of Electing the President*

  • Why do some argue that the Electoral College is needed in American democracy?
  • Grades 9-10, (CCSS.RH.9-10.4, CCSS.WHST.9-10.2)

"Why Wisconsin's Voter ID Law Is a Very Big Deal" and "The Dishonesty of Voter ID Laws"*

  • Should voters be required to prove their identities?
  • Grades 9-10, (CCSS.RH.9-10.1, CCSS.WHST.9-10.1)

Tipping the Scales: Young and Minority Voters in the 2012 Election*

  • How did the turnout of young and minority voters impact the outcome of the 2008 election?
  • Grades 9-10, (CCSS.PRACTICE.MP4)

We the Voters: Run Rep Run

  • What is Juana Matias's strongest motivation to run for state representative?
  • Grades 9-10, (CCSS.CCRA.R.6)

North Carolina Voters Fear New ID Law Will Keep Them from Polls

  • Do the consequences outweigh the benefits of state voter ID laws?
  • Grades 11-12, (CCSS.CCRA.R.1)

Multiday Informational Text: Voter Identification Requirements*

  • Should more states adopt stricter voter ID laws?
  • Grades 11-12, (CCSS.RH.11-12.1, CCSS.WHST.11-12.1)

Do Voter ID Laws Make a Difference in Voter Turnout?*

  • How did voter ID laws affect voter turnout in the 2012 presidential election?
  • Grades 11-12, (CCSS.PRACTICE.MP4)

We the Voters: American Party Animals

  • Do the benefits of the two-party system in the United States outweigh the downsides?
  • Grades 11-12, (CCSS.CCRA.R.6)

We the Voters: So You Think You Can Vote?

  • Does this video make a convincing case that modern U.S. voters must be motivated and committed to voting?
  • Grades 11-12, (CCSS.CCRA.R.8)


The Environment

Climate Change

Warm, for Alaska

  • According to the graph, is the record temperature for Alaska part of a trend?
  • Grades 3-5, (CCSS.RI.3.7)

The Continuing Carbon Cycle*

  • Why is it important for humans to help maintain the balance of the carbon cycle?
  • Grade 4, (CCSS.CCRA.R.5, CCSS.W.4.1)

"Your Food Choices Affect Earth's Climate" and "Mapping our Carbon Footprints"*

  • Compare the two articles. Which author gives better advice for reducing an individual's carbon footprint?
  • Grade 5, (CCSS.CCRA.R.6, CCSS.W.5.1)

Diggin' Dirt*

  • How might human beings' impact on soil affect the future of life on Earth?
  • Grade 5, (CCSS.CCRA.R.4, CCSS.W.5.2)

Carbon Footprint Maps Reveal Urban-Suburban Divide

  • Which factors contribute to urban and suburban carbon footprint differences?
  • Grades 6-8, (CCSS.CCRA.R.8)

Vanishing Glaciers

  • What is the most dangerous potential impact of melting glaciers?
  • Grades 6-8, (CCSS.CCRA.R.8)

Earth's Soil Is Getting Too Salty for Crops to Grow Classes & Assignments*

  • Is salinization a serious threat to our environment and food supply?
  • Grades 6-8, (CCSS.RST.6-8.4, CCSS.WHST.6-8.1)

Endangered Desert Species Cling to Existence Classes & Assignments*

  • How have drought and climate change affected the animal populations of the Mojave Desert? Describe the cause and effect of both natural causes and human causes of change to habitats.
  • Grades 6-8, (CCSS.RST.6-8.2, CCSS.WHST.6-8.1)

Distant Planet Terrified It Might Be Able To Someday Support Human Life

  • How does the author use a satirical article with a fictional speaker to raise awareness about the damage humans have done to the earth?
  • Grades 9-10, (CCSS.CCRA.R.5)

Experts Hope to Use Lessons of Sandy to Deal with Bigger Storm

  • What should humans do to reduce the impact of extreme weather?
  • Grades 9-10, (CCSS.CCRA.R.8)

New Report Finds Climate Change Caused By 7 Billion Key Individuals

  • How does the author use humor to make a persuasive argument about who is responsible for climate change?
  • Grades 9-10, (CCSS.CCRA.R.1)

Fossils Help Us to Understand Past Climate Change*

  • Why is it important for scientists to use a variety of sources when gathering evidence to support their claim? Describe in detail how evidence assists paleontologists in drawing conclusions about past climates.
  • Grades 9-10, (CCSS.RST.9-10.8, CCSS.WHST.9-10.1)

Hawaii's Beaches Are in Retreat, and Its Way of Life May Follow*

  • What impact is coastal erosion having on the Hawaiian shoreline? Use evidence and data from the article and graphic to support your response.
  • Grades 9-10, (CCSS.RST.9-10.7, CCSS.WHST.9-10.2)

Experts Set Threshold for Climate-Change Calamity

  • With evidence pointing to rising carbon dioxide levels being the main cause of climate change, why are our governments so slow to make changes, and what action can the global community take to reverse this?
  • Grades 11-12, (CCSS.CCRA.R.8)

Ancient Fossils Hold Clues for Predicting Future Climate Change, Scientists Report*

  • Is the claim that summertime sea ice may be gone in the next 50 to 100 years a reasonable one? Describe in detail how the geoscientists came to their conclusions.
  • Grades 11-12, (CCSS.RST.11-12.8, CCSS.WHST.11-12.1)

Climate Change Threatens Life in Shishmaref, Alaska*

  • How is climate change affecting both the land and the people in Alaska?
  • Grades 11-12, (CCSS.RST.11-12.7, CCSS.WHST.11-12.2)

Energy Policy

Power Up*

  • Should people use fossil fuels for energy?
  • Grade 3, (CCSS.CCRA.R.1, CCSS.W.3.1)

Kids Build a School" and "Saving Energy at School: What You Can Do"*

  • Compare the two articles. Which author makes a stronger case for how students can save energy?
  • Grade 4, (CCSS.CCRA.R.6, CCSS.W.4.1)

The Debate: Fossil Fuels vs. Alternative Energy Sources*

  • After reading the debate about whether we should use fossil fuels or alternative sources of energy, which side of the argument seems stronger?
  • Grade 4, (CCSS.CCRA.R.1, CCSS.W.4.1)

Wind Farms Are Coming - Scientists Race to Protect Marine Wildlife*

  • Can offshore wind energy be developed without harm to wildlife?
  • Grade 5, (CCSS.CCRA.R.1, CCSS.W.5.1)

Wind Energy a Wise Investment

  • Why is wind energy a wise investment?
  • Grades 6-8, (CCSS.CCRA.R.8)

Reducing Your Carbon Footprint*

  • How can an individual reduce his or her personal energy use? Describe specific examples of how individuals can reduce their energy use at home.
  • Grades 6-8, (CCSS.RST.6-8.6, CCSS.WHST.6-8.1)

To Frack or Not to Frack?*

  • Should fracking be used in the United States?
  • Grades 6-8, (CCSS.RST.6-8.1, CCSS.WHST.6-8.1)

Saving a Town with Renewable Energy

  • How did the population of Gussing turn their problem into an opportunity?
  • Grades 9-10, (CCSS.CCRA.R.8)

Scientists Seek a Newer, Cheaper Solar Panel

  • What are the benefits of the new solar panel material?
  • Grades 9-10, (CCSS.CCRA.R.8)

Biofuels: Fuel for the Future or Foolishness?

  • Are alternative energy sources really any better than fossil fuels?
  • Grades 9-10, (CCSS.CCRA.R.8)

Bigger Than Either of Them?*

  • How has energy policy in the United States shifted since 2008? Describe specific examples of how the marketplace, technological change, Middle East tensions, and environmental issues affect energy policies.
  • Grades 9-10, (CCSS.RST.9-10.1, CCSS.WHST.9-10.1)

Trimming Your Carbon Footprint*

  • According to the author, how can individuals reduce their personal energy use? Include specific examples from the text about how the author uses techniques, such as detailed calculations to make an argument for a greener way of life.
  • Grades 9-10, (CCSS.RST.9-10.6, CCSS.WHST.9-10.1)

Electricity from Hydropower

  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of using water power to produce electricity?
  • Grades 11-12, (CCSS.CCRA.R.5)

Glowing in the Dark

  • Should the uranium found in Virginia be mined?
  • Grades 11-12, (CCSS.CCRA.R.1)

Oklahoma Coming to Terms with Unprecedented Surge in Earthquakes

  • How does the author use a combination of storytelling and facts to build a case for heightened concerns over earthquakes in Oklahoma?
  • Grades 11-12, (CCSS.CCRA.R.1)

We Don't Have to Choose Between Fossil Fuels and Green Energy*

  • Should the United States pursue all energy options simultaneously?
  • Grades 11-12, (CCSS.RST.11-12.1, CCSS.WHST.11-12.1)

A New Way to Do Nuclear*

  • Does the way the author explains Transatomic's development and potential create a strong argument that Transatomic could address the world's energy crisis in a new way?
  • Grade 12, (CCSS.CCRA.R.3, CCSS.W.11-12.1)

The Greening of Professional Sports*

  • Does Allen Hershkowitz make a convincing case that the sports industry can lead a cultural shift toward adopting cleaner, more sustainable practices?
  • Grade 12, (CCSS.CCRA.R.1, CCSS.W.11-12.1)


Government Role in Food

Big Drinks: In or Out?*

  • Should the government ban large, sugary drinks?
  • Grade 6, (CCSS.CCRA.R.8, CCSS.W.6.1)

Congress Takes Up Food-Labeling Fight

  • Should the federal government regulate which details food manufacturers include on their labels, such as whether the food contains genetically modified organisms or its country of origin?
  • Grades 9-10, (CCSS.CCRA.R.6)

FDA-Required Calorie Counts for Fast Food Restaurants Will Not Curb the Obesity Epidemic*

  • Should the FDA require fast-food restaurants to display calorie counts?
  • Grade 9, (CCSS.RST.6-8, CCSS.W.9-10.1)

How Regulation Really Does Change Eating Behavior*

  • Are the benefits of government regulation of unhealthy food worth the price individuals and companies pay in terms of freedom of choice and freedom of speech?
  • Grade 10, (CCSS.CCRA.R.8, CCSS.W.9-10.1)

What Role Should Government Play in Combating Obesity?*

  • Are government regulations such as New York’s soda ban the best way to combat obesity in the United States?
  • Grade 12, (CCSS.CCRA.R.1, CCSS.W.11-12.1)

Health Care

We the Economy: This Won't Hurt a Bit

  • What are three reasons why health care costs so much in the United States?
  • Grades 11-12, (CCSS.CCRA.R.5)

Drop and Give Uncle Sam 20*

  • Should our government become more or less involved in public health?
  • Grade 11, (CCSS.CCRA.R.8, CCSS.W.11-12.1)

National Security

Government Surveillance

No Peeking! Your Right to Privacy in the Digital Age*

  • Does the Fourth Amendment do a good job of protecting privacy in the digital age?
  • Grade 5, (CCSS.CCRA.R.1, CCSS.W.5.1)

The 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution and "Every Move You Make"*

  • Does government surveillance violate people's Fourth Amendment right to privacy?
  • Grades 6-8, (CCSS.RH.6-8.1, CCSS.WHST.6-8.1)

The 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution and "Why Your Kindle Is an Open Book to the Government"*

  • Does the 4th Amendment do enough to protect people's electronic information or are additional laws necessary?
  • Grades 9-10, (CCSS.RH.9-10.1, CCSS.WHST.9-10.1)

TED Talk: Government Surveillance

  • Do the potential benefits of government surveillance outweigh the risks?
  • Grades 11-12, (CCSS.CCRA.R.7)

Troubling Disclosures Are Likely to Change How the NSA Does Its Spying

  • What, if any, limits should there be on how the NSA gathers intelligence?
  • Grades 11-12, (CCSS.CCRA.R.1)

The Military

With Need for Nuclear Weapons Questioned, Builders Find a New Target

  • Should governments be spending resources to develop nuclear weapons they can use to destroy asteroids that might hit the Earth?
  • Grades 11-12, (CCSS.CCRA.R.1)

The Moral Case for Drones*

  • Should drones be used in warfare instead of human soldiers?
  • Grade 11, (CCSS.CCRA.R.2, CCSS.W.11-12.2)


Civilian ‘Hacktivists’ Fighting Terrorists Online

  • Should civilian “hacktivists” take part in the fight against terrorism?
  • Grades 11-12, (CCSS.CCRA.R.1)

*Premium content

Mallory Busch
Mallory Busch

Mallory Busch is ThinkCERCA's Editor of Content Strategy. A graduate of Northwestern University, Mallory came to ThinkCERCA from stops in audience strategy at TIME magazine and news applications development at Chicago Tribune and The Texas Tribune. She holds degrees in Journalism and International Studies, and was a student fellow at Knight Lab in college.