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Electoral College

Unit Summary

This unit encourages students to think critically about the electoral process and how the President of the United States is selected. Students examine the electoral process and study the history and role of the Electoral College. Students then use the Showing Evidence Tool to construct a claim around the question: Should the Electoral College be abolished? They develop and present their proposals to the class in a simulated Constitutional Convention.


Curriculum-Framing Questions

  • Essential Question
    How can I make a difference?
  • Unit Questions
    Should the Electoral College be abolished?
    What are the rights, liberties, and responsibilities of citizens?
  • Content Questions
    How does the Electoral College system work?
    What is the process for changing the constitution?
    How does the electoral vote select the president?



To begin the unit, the students brainstorm respnses to the Essential Question: How can I make a difference? The teacher guides students to discuss the rights, liberties, and responsibilities of citizens and the idea of voting. Students discuss whether their vote will matter when they become eligible to take part in elections.

The teacher reviews the election and voting process and leads a discussion around the history and purpose of the Electoral College. Students review the arguments for and against the Electoral College using the following articles: Understanding The Electoral College *, How Does the Electoral College Work? *, and The Electoral College Primer *

The teacher sets up the room so two rows of chairs are facing each other. The teacher writes this statement on the board: The Electoral College is outdated and ineffective. Students choose which side to sit based on whether they agree or disagree with the statement. Students take turns expressing their views, citing evidence from their readings. Individual students move to the opposing row and give a reason if their opinion changes during the course of discussion. Students are encouraged to question one another's reasoning and ask each other follow-up questions.

The teacher uses this discussion to group like-minded students into teams of two to three. Student teams use the Showing Evidence Tool to create a claim around the question: Should the Electoral College be abolished? Teams begin researching a variety of sources to find evidence to support their claim, as well as to become aware of possible counterarguments. They use the tool to organize their evidence as they link it to either support or weaken their claim.

Once students complete the initial research stage, the teacher assigns pairs of student groups for peer review of evidence and claims. Peer review groups read and evaluate the claims of the group assigned to them and make constructive comments about the claims and evidence. Students comment on the work by requesting clarification of evidence, pointing out where claims are unclear, showing where facts or assumptions are questionable, and correcting distortions of opposing points of view. After allowing time for the revision of evidence and claims based on feedback from their peers, student teams create a proposal making a recommendation about the nature of the Electoral College. Students use the evidence they collected while using the Showing Evidence Tool to back up their recommendations during the presentation.

As a culminating activity, students simulate a Constitutional Convention where they consider and vote on all proposals. Students assume the roles of delegates that either support the current Electoral College system or propose a Constitutional change. Each team presents its position to the class, and the class votes to accept the proposal, reject the proposal, or suggest modifications.

Using information and knowledge they gathered from the Showing Evidence Tool and participating in the convention, students respond again to the essential question.


Examine the Showing Evidence Activity

The Showing Evidence Tool space below represents one team's investigation in this project. You can double-click on the evidence to read the team's descriptions.

Project Name: Voting Counts (Click here to set up this project in your workspace)

Prompt: Should the Electoral College be abolished?

Explore an interactive demo.

Voting Counts
Electoral College

At a Glance

Grade Level: 9-12

Subjects: Social Studies, History, Civics

Key Learnings: American Government, Constitution, Political Systems, Rights and Responsibilities of Citizens

Time Needed: Two weeks