American Political Parties Lesson Plan

American Political Parties Lesson Plan

Created by: Michael Bowman, 3LPlace, November 2018

NOTE: For the 3LPlace cohort, this lesson worked best stretched out over multiple weeks and approached only one or two issues at a time. The issues are inherently complex and often involve high levels of Theory of Mind and Perspective Taking. It is crucial that staff take a totally neutral tone throughout this lesson as Members are often looking to us for clues on the “Right” answer.

Applies to:  Understanding and Participating in Community, Self-Awareness, Social Awareness

Purpose:  Prepare Members for the upcoming elections by respectfully exploring the basic differences between the Republican and Democratic platforms related to key issues. Strong emphasis placed on varied views within our own families and communities and that many people are Independents or don’t agree 100% with all of the positions of either party.


  • Introduce Members to the major political parties in the United States.
  • Explore the fact that people who love and respect each other can have widely divergent views from one another. Highlight the “wrong way” to talk about politics by disparaging and dismissing people who support other parties or positions.
  • Explore the basic Republican and Democratic positions that are currently at play in our country and in the world. Using a 5 scale ranging from “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree” or “Two Thumbs Up” to “Two Thumbs Down”, explore both sides of key issues to help Members reflect on whether they are more closely aligned with Republican, Democratic or Independent positions.
  • Use this information to help Members better understand their local ballots and whether or not they feel ready to vote in the upcoming election.

Materials needed:

  • Worksheets (see atachment below)
  • Pens, pencils, markers etc.
  • iPad, computer or smart board

Activity Steps:

  1. Discuss how people in the same family or group of friends can have different political views while still loving and respecting each other.
  2. Discuss the upcoming elections and how most people will either vote for Republican or Democratic candidates. Watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zvzqPB64a1A and/or  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5SyLy-0Qgnw&t=136s  Note: If there are active third parties in your area, be prepared to discuss or answer questions about that.
  3. Read and discuss American Political Parties packet pp 1-4 and address any questions or concerns that arise.
  4. While maintaining total neutrality, read and discuss page 5 “Taxes” and address any questions or concerns that arise.
  5. On pages 6 & 7 Members rate on a 5 scale if they disagree or agree with both the Republican and Democratic positions expressed.  Note: Strongly Agree = +2 Agree = +1 Not Sure = 0 Disagree = -1 Strongly Disagree = - 2 If it works better for anyone in your group, this scale can also be replicated ranging from Two Thumbs Up, One Thumb Up, Thumb Sideways, One Thumb Down and Two Thumbs Down.
  6. Compare the two answers and record whether they are consistent with each other. For example a +2 “Strongly Agree” on a Democratic position would be canceled out by a +2 “Strongly Agree” position on the corresponding Republican position. A -2 “Strongly Disagree” position would outweigh a +1 “Agree” position on the opposite position.
  7. As time, attention, and energy levels allow, repeat this process for each issue presented on pp, 8, 11, 14, 17, 20, 23, 26, 29.
  8. At completion of activity, individually review each Member’s answers on each position and highlight areas where they lean either Republic, Democrat or Neutral.
  9.  If any Members are unregistered and wish to register, they will now have information to help guide them towards making a more informed choice as to registering as a Republican, Democrat or Unenrolled Independent. If registered voters have a strong preference towards one party, that can help them make a more informed choice on who to vote for.
  10. For the 2018 Midterm Election in Massachusetts, pp 32-36 are relevant and should be reviewed with the group.

Other considerations: For some Members, it was helpful to reframe the questions in the simplest terms possible. For example, the Marriage Equality section was confusing for some as they couldn’t get past seeing the questions as probing whether or not, and to which gender, they specifically may wish to marry. It made more sense when reframed as “Should two adults in love be able to marry each other even if they are the same gender”. Another thing to keep in mind is that not everyone has to vote on every position. For example, one Member with severe language processing challenges chose to vote for all elected offices but not to vote on this year’s ballot initiatives.

Supplemental information:

Variation among Democratic and Republican Voters, i.e, “Just because I’m Republican doesn’t mean I agree with all Republicans. Part 1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tOUNMmdk7W0 Part 2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pqrG1Zxs4p0

Crash Course in Government, Political ideology: Conservative and Liberals https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j_k_k-bHigM

Crash Course in Government, Political Parties https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VEmOUHxessE

Jimmy Kimmel, humorous examples of how we should never talk about other people who disagree with our political views htpps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4HyXiu927WU” rel=”external”>htpps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4HyXiu927WU

3LPlace Curriculum Wiki