Political Parties, Platforms, and Planks- Lesson Plan
Guiding Reading and activity

For Discussion
1. Why did George Washington fear political parties?
2. What role do third parties play in the American political system?
3. What is a party platform?
4. What is a platform plank?
5. Why are party platforms important?
("Parties, Platforms, and Planks" was adapted from The Challenge of Governance © Constitutional Rights Foundation)
A C T I V I T Y
Building a Party Platform
After reading about the origins and functions of political parties, students create a party platform to address political issues that are likely to arise during a national election.
1. Divide the class into 10 small groups. Assign each group one issue from the list below.
Foreign Policy Issues
• terrorism
• diplomacy and military force
• promoting democracy abroad (nation building)
Domestic Policy Issues
• jobs and the economy
• diversity and equality
• civil liberties & national security
• health care
• education
• environment
• energy
2. Tell students to:
• Define the issue they have been assigned.
• Explain why it is an important campaign issue.
• Develop a position, or "plank," on how the issue should be addressed..
Optional: If time permits, have each group research its issue before proceeding to step 2.
3. Have each group present their findings to the whole class. After each presentation, vote as a class whether to (1) adopt, (2) modify, or (3) reject each position or "plank." Record the results of the vote.
4. Re-divide the class into small groups, and using the "planks" they have adopted, have each group create a presentation (a poster, display, speech, or campaign ad) that represents their position. Assemble all the groups' posters, displays, etc. to create a complete party platform.
5. Debrief the activity by having students compare their party platform to existing party platforms (Research the candidates").
• How is your platform similar to existing platforms? How is it different?
• Do candidates plan to address the issues you have chosen? How?
• In your opinion, which platform[s] are better? Which is the best? Why?
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Created: Aug 31, 2016

Updated: Feb 22, 2018

Lesson Plan

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