Electoral College – Out of Date? – Grade 11 Pre-Assessment

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Electoral College – Out of Date? – Grade 11


  • Post the following questions on a chalkboard or marker paper:

    1. What is the Electoral College?

    2. How does the Electoral College work?

    3. How is the number of electors from each state determined?

    4. How can a candidate who receives less than a majority of the popular vote be elected through the Electoral College process?

  • Have each student answer the questions on a sheet of paper. After 10 minutes, collect all of the papers.

Scoring Guidelines:

Examine the answers the students provide on the pre-assessment questions for their completeness and accuracy. Use the results to determine how much background reading to assign before beginning the lesson.


Create pairs of students who took different positions in the simulated constitutional convention. Have each pair use the skills of negotiation and compromise to create a joint position paper on the following question: “Does the Electoral College serve to make the president of the United States accountable for the public good?” Remind students to defend their positions based on the arguments heard during the simulated constitutional convention. Require each member of the pair to compose a reflection paragraph outlining the negotiations and compromises that were required to arrive at the joint position.

Scoring Guidelines:

Use the following rubric to rate the position papers:

3. A position on the issue is clearly stated and is supported by at least two relevant arguments.

2. A position on the issue is clearly stated and is supported by one relevant argument.

1. A position on the issue is not clearly stated. The relevancy of the supporting arguments cannot be determined due to the unclear position.
Use the following rubric to rate the reflection paragraphs:

3. The paragraph identifies elements of negotiation and compromise needed to write the joint position paper. The assertions in the paragraph compliment the assertions in the partner’s reflection paragraph.

2. The paragraph identifies elements of negotiation and compromise needed to write the joint position paper. The assertions in the paragraph reflect minor disagreements with the assertions in the partner’s reflection paragraph.

1. The paragraph identifies elements of negotiation and compromise needed to write the joint position paper. The assertions in the paragraph contain major disagreements with the assertions in the partner’s reflection paragraph.

Instructional Procedures:

Day One

  1. Have students read the relevant sections of their textbooks or supplementary materials before beginning the lesson. Base the reading assignment on the results of the pre-assessment activity.

  2. Ask students questions pertaining to the assigned reading(s). Focus on the operation of the Electoral College, particularly questions two and four from the pre-assessment questions. Clarify any misunderstandings and answer questions students may have.

  3. Explain that the founding fathers, in the interest of the public good, wanted to create a system by which the most capable person would be elected president.

  4. Tell the class that it is going to simulate a constitutional convention, called at the request of the states, to consider possible changes relative to the Electoral College. Explain to the class that the convention is in response to a public outcry about the election of presidents with less than a majority of the popular vote.

  5. Assign students to one of the following position groups:

  • Maintain the present Electoral College system

  • Modify the Electoral College system – proportional plan

  • Modify the Electoral College system – district plan

  • Modify the Electoral College system – national bonus plan

  • Abandon the Electoral College system – direct election

  1. Explain to the students that as convention delegates they must research the assigned proposal in terms of how well it will serve the American democracy in the 21st century.

  2. Identify some library and Web resources as well as pages from the textbook that will help students get started on their research.

  3. Tell students that each group will present a proposal in the convention and must be able to:

  • Outline the process for electing the president under the proposal.

  • Explain how the proposal will serve American democracy.

  • Answer questions from other convention delegates.

  1. Allow the students time to research their group’s proposal.

Day Two

  1. Provide class time for students to work as groups in the classroom, library or computer lab.

Day Three

  1. Convene the “constitutional convention.” Have the student delegates listen to each group’s proposal. Allow time for any questions and discussion from the class regarding each proposal. After all of the proposals have been presented, tell students that they are no longer bound to support their group’s proposal, but may vote for any of the proposals. Allow the student delegates to discuss the merits of the proposals and try to persuade fellow delegates to support the proposal they favor.

  2. Call for a vote of the delegates. Record results on the chalkboard or marker paper and determine if a consensus or a majority has been reached on any given proposal. Debrief the students on the arguments or tactics that persuaded them to support the winning proposal or any of the other proposals. Have students identify any instances of negotiation and compromise.

  3. Share the post-assessment assignment and the scoring guidelines. Tell students they can take the post-assessment question home to prepare for the post-assessment, but that they won’t know who their partners will be until the post-assessment is given.

Day Four

  1. Pair the students for the post-assessment and assign the time limit for each pair to write its joint position paper.

Differentiated Instructional Support:

Instruction is differentiated according to learner needs, to help all learners either meet the intent of the specified indicator(s) or, if the indicator is already met, to advance beyond the specified indicator(s).

  • Have the students use supplemental material such as diagrams and flow charts that will allow them to demonstrate their understanding of the electoral process.

  • Have the students analyze the electoral process and try to determine how the process is detrimental or beneficial to third-party candidates.


Assign students to research issues surrounding the Electoral College in the presidential elections of 1824, 1876, 1888 and 2000.

Homework Options and Home Connections:

Have students ask adults how people are selected to serve as potential members of the Electoral College and how the actual members are determined.

Interdisciplinary Connections:

English Language Arts

  • Communication: Oral and Visual

Benchmark D: Give persuasive presentations that structure ideas and arguments in a logical fashion, clarify and defend positions with relevant evidence and anticipate and address the audience’s concerns.

Indicator 10: Deliver persuasive presentations that:

  1. establish and develop a logical and controlled argument;

  2. include relevant evidence, differentiating between evidence and opinion, to support a position and to address counter-arguments or listener bias;

  3. use persuasive strategies, such as rhetorical devices, anecdotes and appeals to emotion, authority, reason, pathos and logic;

  4. consistently use common organizational structures as appropriate (e.g., cause-effect, compare-contrast, problem-solution); and

  5. use speaking techniques (e.g., reasoning, emotional appeal, case studies or analogies).

Materials and Resources:

The inclusion of a specific resource in any lesson formulated by the Ohio Department of Education should not be interpreted as an endorsement of that particular resource, or any of its contents, by the Ohio Department of Education. The Ohio Department of Education does not endorse any particular resource. The Web addresses listed are for a given site’s main page, therefore, it may be necessary to search within that site to find the specific information required for a given lesson. Please note that information published on the Internet changes over time, therefore the links provided may no longer contain the specific information related to a given lesson. Teachers are advised to preview all sites before using them with students.
For the teacher: Chalkboard or marker paper.
For the students: Writing materials, reference materials, access to a library, computer with Internet access, textbooks.

  • majority

  • plurality

Technology Connections:

Have students use the Internet to access Web sites related to the Electoral College. Evaluate the sites before assigning students to do research and provide a list of approved sites.

Research Connections:

Daniels, H. and M. Bizar, M. Methods that Matter: Six Structures for Best Practice Classrooms, ME: Stenhouse Publishers, 1998.

Authentic experiences help students apply their learning in ways that prepare them for situations they will encounter beyond school.
General Tips:

  • In order to maintain order and flow during the “convention” debates, serve as the president of the convention.

  • Articles pertaining to the Electoral College frequently appear in periodicals during the period surrounding a presidential election.

  • Foster negotiation and compromise during the post-assessment task by pairing students who held the positions of maintaining or modifying the Electoral College system with students who held the positions of abandoning the Electoral College system.

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