The United States presidential election of 2008 saw Democratic candidate Barack Obama defeat Republican candidate John McCain.  This election was historically significant because it saw the potential for our first African American president or female vice president. Both sides of the election utilized various forms of media to increase the impact of their campaigns.
Knowing how to analyze and interpret the elements of a presidential campaign is the responsibility of every United States citizen. In this lesson, we will lead the students in analyzing the multiple ways in which television advertisements can impact voters.
Prior to this lesson, students will understand the basics of United States government and the political election process.

Group Size:
Whole class, groups of 4-5
Learning Objectives:  
After completing this lesson, students will be able to analyze the purpose and effectiveness of political campaign elements in order to make more educated decisions in future elections.
Guiding Question:  
How does the presentation (color, tone, imagery, etc.) of political campaign ads attempt to sway the opinion of voters?  How do the advertisements portray the candidate?  What is the role of the media in political elections?
  • Computer with Internet access
  • Projector and screen

  1. We will provide the historical background of the 2008 election through a Google Presentation.  We will share the Presentation with the class so they can follow along. <2 min>
  2. We will compare the logos of McCain and Obama and discuss the purpose and effectiveness of each.  This will be an example of our expectations in the next activity. <2 min>
  3. We will split the class into groups of 4-5 people and assign a specific campaign ad or video for the group to discuss.  Two groups will be assigned a campaign element from McCain, and two groups will be assigned an element from Obama. <1 min>
    1. Group 1 (McCain campaign ad)
    2. Group 2 (McCain campaign ad)
    3. Group 3 (Obama campaign ad)
    4. Group 4 (Obama campaign ad)
  4. Each group will work together to compare the purpose and effectiveness of their assigned campaign element.   They will type their responses onto the Google Presentation slide assigned to their group. <7 min>
  5. One or two representatives from Group 1 and Group 3 will come to the front of the classroom.  Group 1 will play their campaign ad for the class and present their findings about the ad.  Group 3 will do the same.  <4 min>
  6. We will have a class discussion comparing the ads assigned to groups 1 and 3. <2 min>
  7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 for Groups 2 and 4. <6 min>
  8. Discuss what we have learned and wrap-up. <1 min>

A rubric for participation in the activity will be provided in the Google Presentation.
Benchmark or Standards:  
Standard 2: Evaluate The Roles, Rights, And Responsibilities Of United States Citizens And Determine Methods Of Active Participation In Society, Government, And The Political System.

SS.912.C.2.3: Experience the responsibilities of citizens at the local, state, or federal levels.

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