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TeachNet 2008 Grant Winner       << Back to all Grant Winners
Profiling a Possible President

Subject:Literacy, Social Studies, Mathematics

Grade Level: 7th (can be adapted for higher and lower grades)

Materials: LCD projector, laptops with Internet capability, markers, pencils, pens, chart paper, folders, construction paper (at least 4 sheets per student), loose-leaf paper for drafting and publishing, and copies of the following for each of the students: 2008 Presidential Biographies Packet, 2008 Presidential Biographies Glossary, blank time line template, graph paper or graph paper template, time line packet, and rubric for assignment

About: During the unit, students research the men and women who were/are running for the President of the United States. While the current unit is set up to encourage students to learn about the people directly involved in the 2008 election, the unit can be adapted to cover any election or time in political history. The students choose one individual involved in the election and research his/her life, career, political accomplishments, and current stance on political issues.

The students complete a series of mini-projects that profile facts and information about their selected candidate. These mini-projects include a survey that is then turned into no less then five graphs profiling the information and an analysis of the data, a time line of important dates and accomplishments in the candidates life, a campaign poster and slogan encouraging people to vote for the candidate, and a 30-question interview highlighting the candidates life, career, professional accomplishments and achievements, and their current position on important political issues. Once these elements are completed, the students create a folder showing off all the different pieces of work they have completed. This folder, in many ways, is a biography for the candidate that can be used to highlight the candidate's best aspects.

This unit integrates multiple subjects and defines cross-curricular teaching. Even though the bulk of the project focuses on literacy and the aspects of biographical writing, the project in itself requires the students to consider the ways in which one topic uses many different concepts learned in subjects they study. The project relies heavily of the ability of the students to access the Internet. If the Internet is not readily available, printed copies of information from up-to-date websites are vital. Another innovative aspect of the project is the fact that students have the option of choosing the candidate that most interests them. In order to be vested in the project, it is important that they feel a certain connection to the candidate. This encourages them to have interest in the political process and have more of an understanding in the information they see. Overall, the unit is more then just an assignment for the students to get through. It is an opportunity to make cross-curricular connections. For example, the graphed surveys of people's opinions on the candidate is mathematical as much as it is political, while the campaign poster is as much an art project as it is a literacy project. It also allows for the connections of school and home, with the students studying and beginning to understand the political process. Lastly, the sense of accomplishment the students have in completing their portfolio can be seen in the pride they have for their work and its presentation. When questioned, it is clear that students are easily able to talk freely about their candidate, their views, and make informed opinion statements about the political process.

Giving students multiple time lines of the candidates already filled in is a good guide for those who are struggling. This allows them to see which information is most important and helps them focus their own time line. One of the attached documents is a checklist that can be revised or edited to meet the needs of individual students. This checklist is helpful in ensuring the students stay on track, as there are a lot of mini-projects to go with the unit. In terms of the survey part of the project, the questions were pre-generated and the students were encouraged to survey friends and family outside of class time. For students struggling with this part of the project, limiting the ages of people who they surveyed made it easier for them to organize the data later. Politics is something that we can not get away from. Even though the presidential election only happens once every four years, the people involved in the process are frequently in the news even after the elections are over. Encouraging students to become vested in the process by having an informed and educated opinion is a life-long lesson. When voting for a candidate, it is best to know all the facts about everyone running. This unit does just that - it requires students to emerge themselves in the political process and become informed citizens who can speak about the political issues and candidates.

Students will be able to articulate the basic fundamentals of biographical writing.
Students will be able to present a subject from more than one perspective by using various resources (e.g., news articles, nonfiction texts, personal experiences, and other school subjects).
Students will be able to integrate art in order to enhance their written work.
Students will be able to express their ideas in written, visual, and oral form.
Students will use the Internet to gather information.
Students will be able to apply and combine their knowledge of persuasive and informative writing in order to convince and inform their readers.
Students will be able to discuss the role of an informed citizen in today's changing world.
Students will be able to design charts, tables, graphs, and other representations of observations in conventional and creative ways to help address their research question or hypothesis.
Students will be able to represent numerical relationships in one- and two-dimensional graphs.

This website allows students to examine each of the people who considered a run for the 2008 presidential candidacy. It provide information about the candidate’s background and outlines the candidates position on many issues that are important to American citizens. (If computers are not available to every student, creating a booklet of this information for the students to use as a reference is helpful.)
This site provides side-by-side comparisons of where many of the 2008 Presidential candidates stand on important political issues.
by http://2decide.com/table.htm
This site allows the students to analyze the 2008 Presidential candidates' positions on education issues.
This site provides a detailed time line for many of the candidates. Each time line highlights major political moves the candidates have made as well as important events in their personal lives.

Students use school and public library resources to acquire information; interpret data, facts, and ideas from texts by applying thinking skills; preview texts to assess content and organization, and select texts useful for the task; use indexes to locate information and glossaries to define terms; use knowledge of structure, content, and vocabulary to understand informational text; distinguish between relevant and irrelevant information; identify missing, conflicting, and/or unclear information; formulate questions by reading informational texts; compare and contrast information from a variety of sources; condense, combine, or categorize information from one or more sources; draw conclusions and make inferences on the basis of explicit and implied information; and make, confirm, or revise predictions.
Grade 7
Students evaluate information, ideas, themes, opinions, and experiences in text to identify conflicting information; consider the background and qualifications of the writer; evaluate examples, details, or reasons used to support ideas; identify propaganda; identify techniques used to persuade, such as emotional and ethical appeals; identify differing points of view in texts and presentations; identify cultural and ethnic values and their impact on content; identify multiple levels of meaning; judge a text by using evaluative criteria from a variety of perspectives, such as literary and personal; and recognize the effect of one's own point of view in evaluating ideas, information, opinions, and issues.
Grade 7
Students share reading experiences with peers or adults; consider the age, gender, social position, and cultural traditions of the writer; recognize conversational tone in social communication; and recognize the types of language that are appropriate to social communication.
Grade 7
Students use several sources of information in developing research reports; identify an appropriate format for sharing information with an intended audience; take research notes; include relevant information and exclude irrelevant information; connect, compare, and contrast ideas and information; use graphics to enhance the communication of information; cite sources in footnotes and bibliography; write accurate and complete responses to questions about informational material; and maintain a portfolio that includes informational writing.
Grade 7
Students present clear analysis, using examples, details, and reasons from text; select content and choose strategies for written presentation on the basis of audience, purpose, and content; present a subject from more than one perspective by using various resources; explain connections between and among texts to extend the meaning of each individual text; and maintain a writing portfolio that includes writing for critical analysis and evaluation.
Grade 7
Students share the process of writing with peers and adults; respect the age, gender, social position, and cultural traditions of the recipient; develop a personal voice that enables the reader to get to know the writer; write personal reactions about experiences, events, and observations using a form of social communication; identify the social communication techniques of published writers; maintain a portfolio that includes writing for social communication; and use the conventions of e-mail.
Grade 7
Social Studies
Students use a variety of intellectual skills to demonstrate their understanding of the necessity for establishing governments, the governmental system of the United States and other nations, the United States Constitution, the basic civic values of American constitutional democracy, and the roles, rights, and responsibilities of citizenship.
Grade 7
Students become mathematically confident by communicating and reasoning mathematically, by applying mathematics in real-world settings and solving problems through the integrated study of number systems, geometry, algebra, data analysis, probability, and trigonometry.

Day 1: Choosing a President
Students will be able to determine several of the 2008 presidential candidates.
Students will be able to use the Internet to gather data.
Students will be able to make an informed decision about whom they would like to research for their biographies project.
Students will be able to generate questions they have about their 2008 presidential candidate.
Notebooks, loose-leaf paper, graphic organizers, or whatever best suits your students for the collection of data
Computers with Internet access
Markers, pencils, pens
Overhead projector with a blank transparency to collect student information and/or chart paper. (A chart paper with pictures and names of the 2008 candidates is helpful for purposes of identification.)
Introduce the elements of a biography. Students should also be familiar with personal narratives and memoirs by this point. Explain that biographies are just another form of recount and that this project will allow them to create a recount by creating a 30-question interview and to explore the political process in the United States and see how some of the other subjects they are studying can be applied to this project as well.
Next, in their notebooks, have the students write down what they know about the 2008 candidates. The students should also collect and share what they think are currently the important issues in America.
Explain to the students that they need to examine the positions and personal lives of the 2008 Presidential candidates and chose one candidate that they want to learn more about. Whomever they choose will be the candidate that they are going to profile during the course of the unit.
Supply the students with computers with Internet access and have them begin their research by visiting some of the websites listed above. The research of the candidates and the students choosing one should take place over several lessons.
Once the students have chosen a candidate, they should then begin to collect as much information about that candidate as possible. The students should organize this information in their notebook or on graphic organizers.
Facts about the some of the candidates should be collected and projected on the LCD or chart paper.
At the end of the lesson, students should be encouraged to share what they have learned about the people they have researched.
Continue to research the candidates until the students have chosen one; then the students should continue to research one of the candidates.
Notes, graphic organizers, and research information should continually be checked during the course of the unit to ensure that each of the students are keeping up with the work.

Day 2: The highlights of a candidate
Students will be able to create a time line that highlights the most important events in the life of a 2008 presidential candidate.
Students will be able to organize their time line in chronological order.
Students will be able to collect information fro a variety of sources.
Students will be able to verbally articulate the importance of a time line as well as discuss the different elements of a time line and their importance in biographical research and collection.
Students will be able to determine which information is important and which is not as crucial in terms of highlighting the life of a person.
Overhead projector with a blank copy of the time line sheet
Markers, pencils, pens
Computers with Internet access
Blank copy of time time line handout - one for each student
Introduce the elements of a time line, and have the students share what they know about time lines. Students should know or be taught that time lines include dates and brief details about an event in the life of a person or event, ascend or descend in chronological order, and only highlight the most important events or moments.
Using the Internet and the information they previous gathered, encourage the students to collect as many facts with dates as possible for their candidate. These facts can be used for the time line or they can be saved for later use for their 30-question interview. The more sites and information the students are able to gather. the more they will have as their project continues.
Have the students determine which are the nine most important events or moments in the life of their candidate. Once they have determined this, have them organize the information in chronological order on their time line sheet.
Remind the students that the information on their time lines must be in order and each time line must have a heading.
Students who are struggling or do not have enough information should be paired together and allowed to determine which events in the candidate’s life are the most important.
Students should review their time lines before they hand them in to ensure that they have all the necessary information.
At the end of the lesson, students should share what they have learned about their candidate and what they have learned about creating a time line.
Finish time line, ensuring that each of the elements are complete and detailed.
Collect and assess the time lines to make sure each has a title, comeplete sections, and is in chronological order with specific dates.

Day 3: Surveying and Graphing Opinions
Students will be able to create a survey with questions that focus on an issue of the candidate they have chosen.
Students will be able to organize the data collected in the graphs.
Students will be able to separate the data from their surveys into several graphs, including at least one double bar graph.
Students will be able to use the information from their graphs to make informed statements about a random sampling of people's opinions regarding their candidate.
Students will be able to apply what they have learned from the surveys to their overall biographies project.
Surveys should be copied so that each student can survey no less then 25 people.
Markers, pens, pencils
Graph paper
Data collection sheet
Since this project is being completed in a literacy class, the students should be given time to review what a survey is, how to complete a graph, how to complete a double bar graph, and how to analyze the information from the graphs. It would be even better if this work could be completed in math class, making the project even more co-curricular.
Students then go over what kind of questions should be used in a survey. The questions should be limited to "yes" or "no" questions, or with a limited amount of choices for possible answers to help make the graphing part of the project easier.
Give the students examples of possible survey questions, i.e. “Who is the best candidate for president?” or “What is the most important issue in the election?”
Explain that with a good survey, there is usually a series of baseline questions so data can be assessed more specifically. Inform the students that each of the surveys must include a question about the person’s age, gender, and ethnicity.
Allow the students to generate their surveys and give them time to have them completed. Encourage the students to do this outside of classroom time. Once the students have all their surveys answered, allow them to organize the data using the data collection sheet. Help them organize the data in two ways, i.e. by age and answer or race and answer.
Help the students use their data to create a series of graphs that highlight the information. Encourage them to use data that makes their candidate a stronger choice for president.
This element of the project takes multiple days, and lessons and should not be rushed. Rather, the students should step through each section and see how the mathematics elements are important to the political process.
Students should be given a due date to complete this part of the project. During the course of the assigned time, students should complete the different elements of the project.
Students should be assessed based of the rubric that is associated with the project and their overall ability to complete each of the elements in this project.

Day 4: Interviewing a candidate
Students will be able to collect information and research from the Internet.
Students will be able to organize their information to determine what is important fo their overall project.
Students will be able to articulate the important issues of the 2008 election and also articulate their particular candidate's point of view.
Students will be able to create an interview with their candidate.
Students will be able to express the difference between literal, inferential, and analytical questions and focus much of the interview questions and answers to be inferential and analytical.
Notebooks or graphic organizers with research of their 2008 candidate.
Computers with Internet access
Loose-leaf paper
Markers, pens, pencils
Even though there are a lot of other elements to this project, the students should understand that the interview part of the project is the focus. This is the “biographies” part of the project.
Remind the students that they have been collecting lots of information about their candidates and that they have enough to create a well-written interview.
Go over the three different types of questions. Explain that a literal question has a direct and simple answer. These are often yes or no questions or allow the answerer to respond with a direct fact. Then explain the second type of question – inferential. These often require a little more detail in response and often require an answer that connects two elements together. Then explain the last type of question: analytical. These questions often require a deeper explanation. These are the questions that students should focus on during the creation of the interview.
Students should continue to be given access to the Internet to continue their research. They should visit multiple websites and use the information to create an informed statement about the candidate’s position on important political issues. It is important that they see how the candidate feels about the different issues from multiple websites as some sites might have more information than others.
Once the students have an understanding of the different types of questions, they should then be encouraged to go back to their research. Using the information they have gathered, they create questions to go with the research they have collected. The students should make sure that they have a good balance of the candidate’s family history, career, and positions on important issues.
Students should draft their questions and answers over a series of several lessons. Over the course of their drafting, they should be given a format for how the interview should look including spacing and sentence structure. They should edit and revise their work, and publish it in an interview format.
Students complete the 30-question interview and make sure that their questions challenge a higher level of thinking.
The overall unit should be assessed with the unit rubric. The rubric can be adapted to meet the different needs of class. It takes into consideration all the different elements of the project and should assess the student on a holistic level.

Day 5: Campaigning for a candidate
Students will be able to define what a slogan is.
Students will be able to create a campaign poster and justify their artistic vision.
Students will be able to express their ideas in written and visual form.
Students will be able to use art to effectively make a point.
Students will be able to explain the purpose of a campaign poster.
Markers, pencils, pens
Pictures of political candidates
Construction paper
Computers with Internet access and an LCD projector
Go over with students the slogans that they know off the top of their head. Many of the students will be able to give you the slogan for companies like Dunkin' Donuts, McDonalds, and Burger King.
Explain that slogans are also important to the political process and the candidates that they are researching.
Show the students the different slogans that the current candidates are using.
Explain that candidates often have a poster to help people remember who they are or what they stand for.
Once the students have an understanding of what a campaign poster is, have the students create a poster for their candidate.
Students should be given access to makers, pencils, pens, and construction paper. They should also be given the option to use a picture of the candidate on their posters.
Students are told that they posters should have a slogan for their candidate, the candidates name, and what they are running for.
Students are given time to create their posters and add it to their overall project.
Students have time to complete the posters, and are given a deadline for this part of the project.
Posters should be assessed based on their effective use of a slogan and the use of art to convey a message. The poster should also be assessed with the overall project rubric.

Kristin Crowley


Bronx Green Middle School (326X)
2441 Wallace Avenue
Bronx, NY 10467

Kristin has been teaching for seven years, with the last four in New York City public schools. She currently teachers 7th graders literacy in the Pelham section of the Bronx. Prior to that she taught elementary school in the Highbridge section. She works hard to ensure that all her students gain an appreciation for reading and writing, and she tries to connect everything they do to real-world situations and experiences.

Important documents for this lesson plan.

Bio Glossary.doc
Timeline blank.doc
Data Collection Sheet.doc
Checklist for biographies.doc
Presidential Biographies Rubric.doc


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