7 Strategies for Teaching about Midterm Elections

POLITICS

Here are some skills that educators can teach budding reporters (and voters!) so that they can productively engage in the debates around the 2014 midterm elections. (PBS MediaShift)

Use our United States MapMaker Kit to plot areas where voters will be deciding key issues.

Teachers, scroll all the way down for a short list of key resources in our “Teachers’ Toolkit.”

Use this map to help you navigate some key issues in the 2014 midterm election. Get some guidance and standards-aligned support materials from the good folks at PBS Learning Media. Map by National Geographic Education, of course

Use this map to help you navigate some key issues in the 2014 midterm election. Get some guidance and standards-aligned support materials from the good folks at PBS Learning Media.
Map by National Geographic Education, of course

Discussion Ideas
The terrific MediaShift article is geared at education audiences, and gives a great guideline and set of links. This is just a summary.

1. FOCUS ON ELECTORAL CONSEQUENCES INSTEAD OF THE HORSE RACE
Look at the consequences of local and statewide ballot issues. Consider different outcomes for different constituencies, determined by such factors as income, ethnicity, gender or age.

 

2. DESPITE THE DRAMA OF THE HORSE RACE, ELECTIONS ARE LARGELY FUNDAMENTAL
Consider the long-term patterns in election outcomes as well as the latest poll. Patterns might include such issues as local, regional, or national financial health; or the political party of the incumbent president.

 

3. UNDERSTAND WHEN THE MESSAGE MATTERS
Investigate what different campaigns are saying—about how and why initiatives and candidacies will impact a person’s finance or lifestyle.

 

4. FACT-CHECKING
Check “very precise claims” (hint: “wackiest political ad” is not a precise claim!) and be sure to discuss the issue with the source of the claim (such as a campaign) as well as material such as government reports and expert advice.

 

5. DATABASE MANAGEMENT AND SOCIAL MEDIA ANALYSIS
Don’t be dazzled by “big data”—be sure that your analysis has some core significance or meaning. A good one to start with: What people or organizations are funding specific campaigns or initiatives? Then use tools to gather data on different platforms.

 

6. WRITING FOR MULTIPLE PLATFORMS IN REAL TIME
Research, research, research . . . then integrate that research into informational messages using social media, traditional media, and new media platforms.

 

7. SEARCH FOR SMART TAKES
Don’t re-invent the wheel—pay attention to smart, seasoned political scientists and reporters.

 

TEACHERS’ TOOLKIT

PBS MediaShift: 7 Strategies for Teaching Student Journalists to Cover Midterm Elections

Nat Geo MapMaker Kit: United States

PBS Learning Media: Key Issues to Watch in the Midterm Election

the Skimm: Midterm Election Guide

Pew Research Center: Voter turnout always drops off for midterm elections, but why?

PoliFact: Truth-o-Meter

Center for Responsive Politics: 10 Things Every Voter Should Know

FiveThirtyEight: Politics

ProCon: Pros and Cons of 52 Controversial Issues

PBS NewsHour: Midterm Elections

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