USF's WebQuest 

Teacher's Page

Unit Summary Teacher's Resources Day 1 Lesson Day 2 Lesson
Day 3 Lesson Day 4 Lesson Day 5 Lesson Day 6 Lesson
Day 7 Lesson Day 8 Lesson Day 9 Lesson Day 10 Lesson
Conclusion Student's Web Quest    

WebQuest Title: How to Vote: Understanding Elections

Grade Level: 12     

Dear Colleague: This unit is designed to cover the logistics of the American political system and its relationship to the American way of life. Students will first learn how the general public influences the government. They will then be introduced to concepts such as elections and the role of political parties, interest groups and political action committees. The first three lessons revolve around candidates, voters and political parties, specifically their qualifications and roles in the elections. The webquest will serve as the concluding lessons of the unit, simulating the presidential debates, advertisements and elections. Within the webquest groups, students are required to submit reports about issues, candidates, and political interest groups, contributing to the final product of the webquest: a written report and agenda for the debate as well as a group presentation in the form of a campaign advertisement.  

Author:  Samina Khaliq              

Date: April 7, 2006               

Unit Summary:


  1. Students will understand the relationship between voters, candidates and the elections.

  2. Students will learn of the different political parties and compare their stances on prevalent issues.

  3. Students will understand the election process and realize the importance of participation in a democracy.

    Days:  (90-minute class periods)

    Content: The focus of this unit will be on elections, and how this is a means by which the citizens and people play an active role in influencing the government and its decisions, which ultimately affect our lives. 

    Methods: The lessons will incorporate a variety of teaching styles and methods. Students will be asked to activate background knowledge prior to the lessons in the form of charts and graphic organizers. Students will be asked to read articles followed by brainstorms and discussions. PowerPoint presentations will serve as the method of lecturing, which will be followed by question-answer sessions and group activities.

WebQuest  Summary:


  1. Students will understand the differences between the major political parties, issues they advocate, and the main groups that support them.

  2. Students will understand campaign strategies and the factors that play a role in the result of the general election.

    Days:  3

    Content: The content of the webquest includes a variety of websites on the 2004 elections, the candidates and the issues that surrounded their campaign. There will also be articles and encyclopedia sections listed in which students can access information about political parties. Other websites include information about voter behavior and arguments in support of or against certain issues.

    Methods: The webquest will consist of a simulation in which the class is divided into groups that represent different political parties with candidates from the 2004 elections. Within each group there will be a Campaign Managerˇin-charge of researching the prevalent issues and the candidateÝs/partyÝs stance on the issue, an Advertisement Representativeˇresponsible for creating ads that promote the candidate as well as tactfully attack the opponent on political issues, a Political Analystˇwho must present a report to the rest of the group about the interest groups that are willing to support the candidate along with the political agenda of each interest group, and lastly the Presidential Candidateˇwho will prepare for and engage in the Presidential Debates with the other party candidates on the day of the elections, presenting the issues that were researched by the other members of the group. The debates will be interrupted by the advertisements created by each groupÝs Ad Representative. These advertisements can be in the form of group skits or videotapes (in which all members play an active role), and should be no longer than 5 minutes.               

Teachers Resources

Unit Information:

Background Resources

Web-based Subject Matter Content

a) Information about the Elections:
Guide to Law Online:

Smithsonian National Museum of American History:

Library of Congress page:
USA Embassy Website and article:
The University of Michigan Library Documents Center:
b) Information about web quests:
National Council for the Social Studies:
Internet for Classrooms:

Webquest Direct:

Webquests and Constructivist Learning:

Web Pedagogy Content

 a) Using Computers in the Classroom 
Search Eric: and enter ED xxxxx
Technology Journal Article:
Launching Student Investigations:
Citizenship, Democracy & Technology: 
b) For Students
Privacy Playground 
Netsmartz Workshop 
Envision Your World 
Cyber Citizen:  &

 More Resources

a) Student Background Resources
Student Gateway to the U.S. Government: 
First Gov: 
Basic Readings in Democracy: 
Presidents of the United States:
Understanding the Federal Courts: 
b) Webquest Student Resources  (Many more listed in webquest and webquest resources page)
Project Vote Smart:
Comparing Candidates:
On the Issues:
America Votes:
NPR's Election Coverage:
Los Angeles Times Interest Groups List:,0,312151.htmlstory?coll=la-mininav-california
Ease History:

Unit Lesson Sequence

Day 1    Back to Top
Lesson Plan Outline

Method (Attention Getter, Lecture, Callout Group, etc)

Content/Key Ideas/Concepts/Facts

(Transparencies, audio, handouts, etc)
Bellwork K-W-L(What I know, want to know and learned):  The purpose of this activity is to activate prior knowledge and prepare students with the mindset for the unit introduction Influencing the Government. Prompt:  Fill out a the 'K' portion of your KWL with all that you know about how people influence the government.
Lecture/Discussion/Interactive Note-taking Lecture #1:  Interest Groups, Lobbyists and Political Action Committees  Students will take from this information and write mini-journal entries as they go along.
Independent Activity Complete K-W-L Fill out the 'What I Learned' portion based on information learned from lecture.
Cooperative Learning Vocabulary Development Activity: Semantic Maps Vocabulary words about politics and the people.


Day 2    Back to Top
Lesson Plan Outline

Method (Attention Getter, Lecture, Callout Group, etc)

Content/Key Ideas/Concepts/Facts

(Transparencies, audio, handouts, etc)
Prereading Pan (PreP) Activating Prior Knowledge and Purpose-Setting for Silent Reading:  Instruct students to write what they associate with the term 'interest group.' Then they must explain why they thought of those associations, and discuss it with a partner. Prereading Plan (PreP)
Independent Activity Silent Reading: Chapter text: Chapter 8 entitled "Mass Media and Public Opinion" and Chapter  9 entitled "Interest Groups" Textbook: MagruderÝs American Government and/or Supplementary Material
Partner Activity Students will complete worksheets together on Interest Groups: the different types of groups and the issues they represent. Interest Group Worksheet


Day 3    Back to Top
Lesson Plan Outline

Method (Attention Getter, Lecture, Callout Group, etc)

Content/Key Ideas/Concepts/Facts

(Transparencies, audio, handouts, etc)
Guest Speaker Lecture by guest speaker: John Smith talks about lobbying to congress on behalf of the National Wildlife Federation. Guest Speaker
Reflective Activity Journal Entry: Students should reflect on the process one must undergo to lobby to congress. Prompt: Recap the political experiences of John Smith. Then think about a decision your parents have made and write a convincing argument to change their mind.


Day 4    Back to Top
Lesson Plan Outline

Method (Attention Getter, Lecture, Callout Group, etc)

Content/Key Ideas/Concepts/Facts

(Transparencies, audio, handouts, etc)
Social/Discussion Activity Purpose Setting Activity: Students and teacher will discuss together the answers to the following questions: How do people acquire their political attitudes? What are the political attitudes held by typical Americans? How do you read the public's political attitudes?  Students will take notes from information acquired through the discussion in their interactive notebook.
Cooperative Learning Recognizing Bias Discussion: Introduces how public attitudes and opinions are expressed through the media, and can sway the opinions of others. Checklist Presented
Using the Media Editorials and Newspaper Activity: Students have to find an editorial and answer the questions on a worksheet. Newspapers with Editorials and worksheet (see below)


Day 5    Back to Top
Lesson Plan Outline

Method (Attention Getter, Lecture, Callout Group, etc)

Content/Key Ideas/Concepts/Facts

(Transparencies, audio, handouts, etc)
Open Forum Student Share-All: Read journal entries aloud, present editorials,  (See previous assignments)
Questioning Activity/Brainstorm Teacher will recap all of the new terms and concepts learned so far.  


Day 6    Back to Top
Lesson Plan Outline

Method (Attention Getter, Lecture, Callout Group, etc)

Content/Key Ideas/Concepts/Facts

(Transparencies, audio, handouts, etc)
Lecture/Discussion What is a Webquest? Teacher will explain to students the webquest components: introduction, task, process, resources, evaluation, conclusion. Students will know the benefits and drawbacks of the webquest. Students will also be informed of what type of webquest they will soon be participating in. PowerPoint Presentation: Introduction to Webquests, (Computer & Projector Screen)  


Read Aloud Students and Teachers read out loud from textbook from Chapter 5 entitled "Political Parties, Chapter 6 entitled Voting and Voter Behavior, and Chapter 7 entitled "Electoral Process" Textbook: Magruder's American Government and Supplementary Text
Jigsaw Activity Vocabulary Jigsaw Activity: Students will organize into groups of three, while each is assigned a vocabulary word and must return to their 'mother group' to teach the rest of the group the vocabulary words. Vocabulary and Key Concepts
Research & Technology Webquest: "How to Vote: Understanding Elections" (Day 1) Students break up into groups of four for the webquest. Students are assigned duties, and read the descriptions. Computer and Internet Access


Day 7    Back to Top

Lesson Plan Outline

Method (Attention Getter, Lecture, Callout Group, etc)

Content/Key Ideas/Concepts/Facts

(Transparencies, audio, handouts, etc)
Bellwork The purpose of this bellwork is to prepare students for the further study of the election process. Prompt: What are some things you would do and changes you would make as President of the United States?
Lecture The "Politics of a Democracy Lecture" introduces the two major political parties and their stance on certain issues and describes various political platforms, the impact of third parties in American politics, the election process, and the electoral college. PowerPoint Presentation   "Politics of a Democracy: Understanding the American Political System and the American Way of Life.(Computer & Projector Screen)
Research & Technology Webquest: "How to Vote: Understanding Elections" (Day 2) Computer and Internet Access



Day 8    Back to Top

Lesson Plan Outline

Method (Attention Getter, Lecture, Callout Group, etc)

Content/Key Ideas/Concepts/Facts

(Transparencies, audio, handouts, etc)
Cooperative Learning and Bellwork Class Activity on Political Parties on Political Parties and Issues: Students have already been introduced to left-wing and right-wing beliefs, what they entail, and how they define certain issues and political parties in  the previous lecture. This activity works with this knowledge Political Parties and Issues Worksheet
Question-Answer Session Students and Teacher will discuss the different kinds of campaigning techniques. Teacher will ask students what they recall from any kind of advertising techniques. The topic of discussion will then move to the idea of elections. Website is shown through laptop and projection screen.
Research & Technology Webquest: "How to Vote: Understanding Elections" (Day 3) Computer and Internet Access



Day 9    Back to Top

Lesson Plan Outline

Method (Attention Getter, Lecture, Callout Group, etc)

Content/Key Ideas/Concepts/Facts

(Transparencies, audio, handouts, etc)
Individual Presentations Reciprocal Teaching and Presenting: The members of each group will complete their responsibilities by presenting their reports to their other group members. Each student will take notes on the presentations in their interactive notebook. All group members will contemplate how tie-in this information into their final product. Interactive Notebooks (used in class only). Students are arranged in their desk groups.
Research & Technology Webquest: "How to Vote: Understanding Elections" (Day 4)  Students will prepare for debate that will take place tomorrow and campaign ads that will be presented. Computer and Internet Access


Day 10    Back to Top

Lesson Plan Outline

Method (Attention Getter, Lecture, Callout Group, etc)

Content/Key Ideas/Concepts/Facts

(Transparencies, audio, handouts, etc)
Cooperative Learning Presidential Debates Podiums 
Presentations Debates will be interrupted by campaign advertisements in which each group member should participate. Campaign ads will cover the issues advocated by the presidential candidate and his party, as well as attack the opponents or incumbents.  
Simulation Voting in Class: After the debate is over, the students of the class will vote on a candidate, based on the candidates' platform and their advertisements. After the voting takes place, the president and winner of the elections, is announced by the teacher.  


Students WebQuest

Conclusion: The teacher can only hope that the students will finish this unit not only with a recognition of the intricacies of the presidential elections, but also the ability to judge for themselves, what makes the "American Way" unique. The knowledge gained from this simulation will hopefully produce more thoughtful, proactive voters and citizens of the future.


-Magruder's American Government Teachers' Guide: Chapters 5 & 6: (Political Parties and Voter Behavior) & Chapters 7, 8, & 9: (The Electoral Process, Mass Media & Public Opinion, and Political Interest Groups)

-Parallel Alternative Strategies for Students Website:




Information for Lecture #1:

Influencing Government: This lecture emphasizes how government is influenced and changed by the support and opposition of individuals and interest groups. The lecture focus is on the characteristics of interest groups, lobbyists and political action committees along with the ways the interest groups can influence government.Most Americans would like to be able to influence or have an affect on, government decisions. We all have opinions about government actions such as the closing of military bases, raising taxes, controlling gun purchases, or allowing prayer in school. As individuals, we can try to influence decisions such as these by voting for candidates who feel the same way we do or by writing our Congressmen or President.

Interest Groups: When we join forces with others who have similar concerns, we become part of an interest group. An interest group is a group of people who share common beliefs or goals and who may try to influence government decisions affecting those beliefs. Members of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), for example, work to get harsher penalties for drunk drivers. The National Rifle Association (NRA) tries to stop Congress from passing laws that would make purchasing guns more difficult. Members of interest groups use many tactics to influence decisions. Any organized effort to influence government decisions is known as lobbying. The people who carry out these tacticsˇand particularly those who are paid to do soˇare known as lobbyists. What kinds of people are lobbyists? Many lobbyists are former government officials. They usually have friends in high places. Many other lobbyists are lawyers and public relations experts. All lobbyists must be able to convince the people in power of the point-of-view of the interest group they represent using strategies such as providing information to legislators about their cause, using publicity such as bumper stickers, pamphlets, and, TV and radio ads, staging rallies or demonstrations, campaigning for candidates sympathetic to their cause, staging letter-writing campaigns.

One way to influence public opinion is the use of propaganda. Propaganda is the systematic spread of ideas or beliefs by individuals or groups in order to influence peopleÝs behavior or political choices. Mass media, which includes TV, radio, and newspapers, is often used to spread certain ideas or points-of-view. The tremendous growth of mass media means that ideas can be spread even farther and faster. Mass propaganda has been used for good and bad purposes in an attempt to change people's ideas or opinions. 

Pressure Groups: An interest group becomes a pressure group when it decides to try to influence the government, usually by using lobbyists. Pressure groups may unite for added strength. Two or more pressure groups joined together are known as a coalition. Political Action: Committees-- One of the factors which determines the success of interest groups in furthering their causes is the amount of money they have to spend. 

A  political action committee (PAC) may be set up by any interest group to raise money and donate it to candidates who favor a certain position on an issue. Business groups, labor groups, or any other interest groups may set up a PAC. There is at least one serious problem with PACs. Because PACs can raise large amounts of money for a candidate, a PAC can sometimes exert too much influence over the candidateÝs campaign. Successful political campaigns cost thousandsˇsometimes millionsˇ of dollars to run. A candidate has to accept contributions from individuals and interest groups in order to meet the expenses of his or her campaign. It may be very hard for candidates to forget about the groups that helped them win once they are in office. There are laws limiting political contributions by individuals. A person cannot contribute more than $1,000 to a candidate for each election the candidate enters. This means a candidate running first in a primary and then a general election can receive no more than $2,000 from any one person. PACs, however, are not subject to the same limits. Some people believe that tighter limits should be placed on PAC contributions.

Interest groups generally fall into one or more categories. They all have the same basic wish. They wish the government to make decisions which are in keeping with their beliefs to help them reach their goals. The chart below gives examples of some types of interest groups.

Categories of Interest Groups

Kinds of Interest Groups Focus Examples
Business and Industry represents companies in the same line of work

American Dairy Association, National Association of Real-Estate Brokers

Labor represents companies in the same field

American Postal Workers, United Mine Workers, United Steelworkers of America

Ethnic represents members of particular race or ethnic group

Japanese-American Citizens League, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), National Association of Italian Americans

Issue-Oriented focuses on a particular issue or area of concern

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), National Cancer Society, Right to Life, Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD)

Environmental works to save endangered animals and stop pollution

Friends of the Earth, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club

Consumer works for consumer and product safety

Alliance for Consumer Rights

Professional represents persons in specialized fields of employment

American Bar Association, American Medical Association, National Education Association

Bias: is the personal slant of a writer or speaker. Learning to recognize bias allows you to distinguish the facts from the opinion of the person presenting them. It will help you to evaluate different points of view. A fact can be proven by evidence such as records, documents, or unbiased sources. An opinion may contain some truth, but also contains personal bias or value-based statements. We are constantly being bombarded with commercials and political advertisements that contain bias. It is important to be able to recognize bias and make clear decisions.

Back to Day 1


Vocabulary for Lesson 1: This activity utilizes semantic maps which are visual tools that help readers activate and draw on prior knowledge, recognize important components of different concepts, and see the relationships among these components. Have students write the word in the middle of the page, encourage them to write as many words that relate to it as possible, and group them into categories and depict these categories in the form of a map or web.

bias: the personal slant of a writer or speaker

coalition: two or more pressure groups that have joined forces

influence: power to affect a decision

interest group:  a group of people who share common beliefs or goals and may try to influence government decisions regarding those beliefs

lobbying: organized effort to influence government decisions

lobbyist:  a person who works for an interest group

political action committee (PAC):  a committee formed by an interest group to raise money for political campaigns

pressure group:  an interest group that tries to influence government decisions

propaganda:  influence peopleÝs beliefs or attitudes

public opinion:  what people think or believe


Prereading Plan (PreP)

What comes to your mind when you hear the words "political interest group"?

Write all associations with this word.

What made you think of each of these associations?

As a result of this activity, can you think of any other information you know about "political interest groups"?

Back to Day 2


Interest Group Worksheet: This worksheet will ask the following from the students:


Use the chart from the lecture and the list of interest groups below to write the correct name of each group under the heading.

American Medical Association, American Postal Workers Union, Friends of the Earth, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), National Association of Italian Americans, National Education Association, National Wildlife Federation Right to Life, United Mine Workers

Ethnic Professional

______________________________ ______________________________ 

______________________________ ______________________________

Issue-Oriented Labor

______________________________ ______________________________

______________________________ ______________________________






Choose an interest group from the chart from the lecture and write its focus. Then describe three ways you think the government could help the group you chose.



Back to Day 2


Recognizing Bias Discussion:

The following checklist will help you recognize bias.

´ What ideas does the writer or speaker want you to accept?

´ What statements are being used to communicate or support the idea?

´ What are the basic facts of the message?

´ How can these statements be verified or proven?

´ Are there words or phrases that color the facts in a negative or positive light?

´ Are there subtle words like still and always?


Editorial and Newspaper Activity: Select an article from the editorial page of a newspaper. Write a list of the facts presented by the article in one column and a list of the opinions in the other column. Write a paragraph about the biased issues you noted and support your findings. 

Name and date of newspaper_______________________________________

Title and page of article____________________________________________









Biased issues and support of your findings: __________________________



Back to Day 4


Lesson #2 Vocabulary Words

ballot: a form on which a person casts his or her vote

campaign: to run for an elected office

candidate: a person running for government office

closed primary: a primary election in which voters cast ballots for candidates from their own political party

conservative:  one who does not want change

decentralizing: moving power away from the national government

delegates: representatives from state political parties who attend a national party convention

Democrat: one of the two major current political parties

Electoral College: body of delegates who elect the President based on the results of general state elections

electors: delegates to the Electoral College

extremists: those with either very liberal or very conservative views

general election: final election between one candidate from each party

independent: a voter who does not support any one party

liberal: one who would like change or reform

moderates: those with beliefs that fall between liberal and conservative

open primary: a primary election in which all voters choose candidates from either party

platform: a list of things a political party believes in and is willing to work toward attaining

political party: a group of people who want to control the government

popular vote: the number of actual votes cast in an election

primary election an election to pick the candidates for each political party

Republican: one of the two major current political parties

runoff: an election held after a primary election to make the final choice of a partyÝs candidate

social programs: government programs to help people who are poor or in need of assistance

third party: any political party other than the two major parties like the Republican or

Democratic party: one of the two major current political parties

Back to Day 6


Political Parties Activity

Put a D next to phrases referring to the Democratic party. Put an R next to phrases referring to the Republican party.

___________l. often characterized as ýright wingţ

__________ 2. often appeals to business owners and the wealthy

__________ 3. traditionally associated with the ýliberalţ label

__________ 4. typically supports decentralization of government

__________ 5. typically supports social programs

__________ 6. often appeals to poor and minority individuals

__________ 7. traditionally associated with the ýconservativeţ label

__________ 8. often characterized as ýleft wingţ


Issues Worksheet

1. What is your position on the issue of registering women for the draft?



2. What is your position on raising the age for qualifying for Social Security benefits to 70?



3. What is your position on selling technology to China?



4. What is your position on giving government workers the right to strike?



5. What is your position on sentencing drug dealers to the death penalty for serious offenses?



6. What is your position on making handgun ownership illegal?




Back to Day 8

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