This is an exercise that I started to do way back in the late 90s in my class but a lot of the same topics still work for today. Basically it’s a fake ballot filled with different topics that students can use to debate each other in class. It also gives a very brief difference between the different parties in the U.S.
This exercise will last pretty much a whole 45 to 50-minute class. For those students out there, this is a great overview of some hot topics you might find in American politics. Although the two parties have split even further apart since this was written, most of It still holds true.
I do want to point out and I will do this in a podcast later that especially at the state level you might find some politicians picking a side of a topic that best reflects their constituents. For example, if they are in a state that grows corn, then they might be heavily in favor of taxing corn from other countries.
Cast your Ballot
Well in America everyone is going crazy over the upcoming election. I decided it might be interesting for you to get a sample of the types of things people vote for in America.
- All voting in America is by secret ballot and is anonymous. *
- You will have 15 minutes to mark your ballot before discussion.
*anonymous: without name.
State of Virginia
Official Election Ballot
For President (choose one)
2. Job: Economics Professor
4. Less money for the military
5. More money for old/poor
6. For abortion and gun control
2. Job: Former Football Player
4. More money for the military
5. Less money for old/poor
6. Against abortion and gun control
Initiatives (National Level)
1. Change voting age from 18 to 21.
2. Establish a national lottery.
3. Establish one year of compulsory national service (military or other) for every 18-year old.
For Senator (choose one)
Jimmy Joe Smith
3. Want peaceful relations with Communist Countries
4. Against trade restrictions with Japan
5. Wants full reunification between North and South Korea.
Job: Newspaper Reporter
3. Strong Anti-Communist
4. For trade restrictions with Japan
5. Thinks that we should slow down any Reunification efforts.
Local Initiatives (probably at city level)
|1. A law changing the drinking age from 21 to 18.
2. A law prohibiting the sale of magazines such as Playboy at local stores.
3. A law permanently limiting the population of your town to 50.000 (It is now 45,000)
A Perfect Chance to Practice Good Debating Skills
There are so many topics on here that it can lead to some good debates in class. There are a couple of ways you can do this.
- You can just let them debate in small groups of three to four.
- You can have them decide in groups and then debate another group.
This all depends on the students you have and how quickly they can prepare to debate each other. It is also possible to stretch this lesson out over two class periods and just have students debate on key differences that they have.
Change the Ballot
To make this more relevant to your country you might want to change up the type of lesson and the subjects you put in there for debate. I put in the topics I did at the state and national levels to reflect the ongoing situation with North Korea and the various tense feelings between Japan and Korea.
If you are teaching in a Communist country, then you probably want to change that section if only for your own safety. But whatever the things going on in your country, students will relate to this lesson better if you attune it to what matters to them. I can tell you now that if you talk about gun control many countries will be for it. Even though I was teaching students who were all military soldiers, they could not quite understand America’s love of guns.
Discussion is the Key
The main reason for this lesson is to get students talking, so use whatever methods you might have to twist or change this to best suit your desired outcomes. This can be a good lesson on general American politics but the thing you really want is discussion.
Let me know how it went with your class and share your ideas in the comments down below. Have a great class and keep it lighthearted and fun even though some ideas might be a little heavy. As always have fun because as we all know, Teaching and Learning English is Fun!