What’s the electoral college, who are delegates, and why in the heck do we vote on Tuesday?

National elections, especially presidential ones, offer great teaching moments. But explaining the basic mechanics of America’s ever confusing electoral system can be daunting, especially for students who lack a basic understanding of the process.

Fortunately, there are a ton of great free digital resources out there to help your students demystify the process, using pretty engaging and creative formats. Of course, finding them entails the equally daunting task of spending hours online in search of the best unbiased content out there.

So, with that in mind, rather than adding to the cyber-pile, I’ve compiled a list of six excellent sites that do a good job in driving home basic election concepts, and, hopefully, encouraging your students to think critically about the process (rather than just learning about it as a given). This is by no means a comprehensive list (a good longer list can be found at the National Writing Project’s site), so if you have additional suggestions, please share in the comment box below.

1. Scholastic election guide

An excellent one-stop-shop comprehensive resource on the electoral system and the presidential race, including an interactive glossary of election terms, timelines, videos on the electoral college (and if it should be abolished), interactive games about the process, and candidate backgrounders.


2. New York Times Learning Network Lessons

A great list of lesson plans and ideas – with Common Core State Standards alignment –

for using the New York Times’ exceptional multimedia and print election-related. Lessons delve i

nto a wide range of details, from super PACs to stump speeches. The site also offers a good consolidated list of 10 ways to teach about election day. Additionally, there a lots of links and references to the multimedia election content on the main New York Times site, which is a pretty exceptional teaching resource in and of itself.


3. PBS LearningMedia Election Resources

PBS LearningMedia aggregates a huge (and growing) volume of multimedia content produced by PBS stations around the country. There is a wealth of election-related resources, including videos, interactive maps, and standards-aligned lesson plans on election processes and current races. You can search for specific content by grade level, subject and media type. It also includes excellent multimedia election content produced by the PBS Newshour team, including a series of interactive maps, highlighting state and national data that students can experiment with and manipulate.


4. iCivics Interactive Games

Pretty neat – especially for students who need the full interactive experience. This is  a project started up by former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Conner. It’s packed with interactive games simulating election races and navigating the electoral process. Students can participate in a mock presidential election, in which they face all kind of real-life decisions and challenges, like polling, media campaigns, and raising campaign funds. There are also a number of election lesson plans.


5. C-SPAN’s Election Library 

A great collection of videos and other multimedia election resources exploring the current races as well as looking at the evolution of America’s electoral system in an historical context. C-SPAN also offers a site that’s specifically for educators, with a series of election-related content, but I actually think the original footage and primary source material they provide in their general audience election site is the most useful for students.


6. 270 To Win: An awesome map site

This is a site I just randomly stumbled upon the other day. It offers amazing interactive mapping resources, in which students can play around with delegate count possibilities, explore past election breakdowns, examine state voting trends, and watch various election-outcome simulations. Cool stuff!


So … Why do we vote on Tuesday???

Oh right – as promised: This video sheds light (very entertainingly) on America’s outdated voting tradition (and the many political leaders who don’t have the slightest clue how it all came to be):

Six Great Sites for Teaching the Business of Elections 20 May,2015Matthew Green


Matthew Green

Matthew Green produces and edits The Lowdown, KQED’s multimedia news education blog, an online resource for educators and the general public. He previously taught journalism at Fremont High School in East Oakland, and has written for numerous local publications, including the Oakland Tribune and San Francisco Chronicle. Email: mgreen@kqed.org; Twitter: @MGreenKQED

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