Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8

In this lesson plan, adaptable for grades 5-8, students play Cast Your Vote, a game in which they experience the different ways to evaluate candidates running for office, such as political debates, research, and discovery and use what they learn to make informed voting choices.  

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Establish, explain and apply criteria useful in selecting political leaders.
  2. Evaluate candidates based on their qualifications, experience, voting record, endorsements, personal qualities, and messaging.
  3. Evaluate information and arguments from various sources to identify stands taken by candidates on issues.
  4. Compare different perspectives and prioritize issues according to personal views.


  • Computers or other devices with Internet access
  • Interactive whiteboard


candidate, debate, platform, political ideology


This lesson plan features a game called Cast Your Vote developed by our partner,  iCivics, in which players discover what it takes to be an informed voter--from knowing where you stand on important issues to uncovering what you need to know about candidates.

Review the Cast Your Vote Game Guide for step-by step-directions on how to play the game. Then, preview and play Cast Your Vote to plan how you will adapt it to your students’ needs. If students will be playing in small groups, review tips on Setting Cooperative Gaming Expectations.

For ideas on how to use SnapThought with this game and for specific prompts to provide students with during game play, review Cast Your Vote: SnapThought Prompts.

Build background knowledge or reinforce topics with these BrainPOP movies: Political Beliefs, Voting, Presidential Election, and Political Parties.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Begin the lesson with a discussion about how people decide who to vote for in an election. First ask students how we can learn about political candidates. Jot their responses on the whiteboard. Then ask why it is important to learn about a political candidate’s position on different issues before voting. Again, note their responses. Students should recognize that before voting for a candidate, they should know if his or her position on issues align with their own positions .
  2. Show the BrainPOP movie Political Beliefs on the whiteboard or other display. After watching, ask students to recall what shapes a person’s political ideology, or beliefs. They should recognize the many factors discussed in the movie, such as culture, religion, upbringing, the media, school, etc. Ask students if there was ever a time they changed their mind about an issue and have them identify what caused them to change their mind. 
  3. Now display Cast Your Vote on the whiteboard. Tell students that in this game, they will experience the ways voters evaluate candidates running for office, such as political debates, research, and considering the issues important to them. Then they’ll use what they learn to make informed voting choices. 
  4. Students can play the game individually or in pairs at their own computers.  The game takes about approximately 30 minutes to play. Circulate as students play, providing support as needed. For step-by-step directions, download the Game Guide
  5. If students have individual accounts, encourage them to use the SnapThought® tool to take snapshots during the game. Review Cast Your Vote: SnapThought Prompts for suggested prompts. 
  6. After students have each cast their votes, come together as a class to discuss. Ask the following post-game questions:  
    • What surprised you in the Town Hall debates? What did you learn that you didn’t already know? 
    • Which issues did you choose? Did you feel the same about those issues after the game ended? 
    • Are there any similarities between the city of Isley and your own hometown? Do they share any of the same challenges or opportunities?
    • What was your strategy to become a prepared voter?  
    • What did you think about the propositions? Which ones might be seen in a community like yours?

Extension Activities:

  • Ask students to select one of the issues and write a short speech about why it’s important to them (or the city of Isley). 
  •  Ask students to research an upcoming or recent municipal election to see what offices and ballot measures were up for a vote. Have them discuss what the candidates said about the issues, etc.  
  • Have students create their own platform based on the issues that they are most interested in. Have them create a campaign speech or a poster where they introduce themselves, talk about their experience, and explain their stance on the issues.