Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8, 9-12

In this lesson plan, adaptable for grades 5-12, students first watch the movie Presidential Election and then play Win the White House. The game invites students to take on the role of a presidential candidate from primary season through the general election, strategically managing time and resources to win as many electoral votes as she or he can over the 10-week campaign.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Understand the electoral process.
  2. Recognize the influence of media in forming a public opinion.
  3. Analyze how parts of a whole interact to produce outcomes in complex systems.


  • Computers or other devices with Internet access
  • Interactive whiteboard


This lesson plan features a game called Win the White House developed by our partner, iCivics, in which players take on the role of presidential candidate, managing their campaign from primary to general election.

Review the Win the White House Game Guide for step by step directions on how to play the game. Then, preview and play Win the White House 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.

Print out copies of the Election Glossary and the Issue Guide (one per pair of students).

For ideas on how to use SnapThought with this game and for specific prompts to provide students with during game play, read Win the White House: SnapThought Prompts.

Build background knowledge or reinforce topics with these BrainPOP movies: Presidential ElectionVotingPolitical BeliefsPolitical PartiesPrimaries & CaucusesPolitical Party OriginsPresidential PowerBarack ObamaBill Clinton, and Ronald Reagan.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Create a spider map on the whiteboard with the words “Running for President” in the center. Tell the class that there are lots of tasks a presidential candidate needs to think about in order to “win the White House.” Ask students to brainstorm what they think those tasks may include. If they need help getting started, you can share a few ideas, such as creating a campaign slogan or raising money.  
  2. Display the BrainPOP movie Presidential Election on the whiteboard and watch as a whole class. After, discuss key terms concepts such as democratic party, republican party, nominee, liberal, conservative, primaries, caucuses, nominating conventions, third-party candidate, electoral college, popular vote, and inauguration
  3. Now have pairs of students watch the movie again at their own computers but this time within the Make-a-Map tool. Have them create a sequence map identifying the steps a candidate takes to run for president. Suggest that they pause the movie as Rita describes the steps, so they can add them to their maps. When everyone is finished, have students share their sequences with another pair.
  4. Have students play the game in pairs. Distribute the Election Glossary and Issue Guide to each pair. Make sure they select the appropriate grade level at the beginning of the game.  Encourage students to discuss strategies with each other before making decisions about everything from selecting your candidate and his or her party to determining which issues to discuss in the debate.
  5. Allow between 30-40 minutes to play. Circulate as students play, offering help as needed. You can also suggest they click the “Help” button at the top right of the screen for tutorials relevant to where they are in the game. You may choose to have students play the game over two class periods.
  6. If students have individual logins, encourage them to use the SnapThought® tool to take snapshots and describe their thinking as they play.  For suggested prompts, see Win the White House 2020: SnapThought Prompts.
  7. After students have played the game, come together as a class to debrief by asking the following questions:  
    • Which states did you spend most of your time conducting campaign activities in? Why?  
    • Why would a candidate choose not to campaign in a state?  
    • What is momentum, why does it change when you work in a state?  
    • Why do you think personal appearances are considered more effective than advertisements in the game?
    • Do you think this is like real life? Why or why not?  
    • Does the campaign process give all Americans the chance to learn about a candidate and make an informed decision? Why or why not?  
    • What role do political parties play in an election?

Extension Activities:

Invite students to pretend they are running for student body president and have them to create an ad for the election. The ad can be a flyer, a commercial, online ad, or whatever they choose. To guide them, have them consider these questions:  
  • What is the purpose of your ad?  
  • What did you want people to know from your ad?  
  • How is your ad similar to what a presidential candidate would make? How is it different?