As the U.S. election enters its final phase, Joanna Slater reports on  a key issue for Democrat Hillary Clinton. In a related election article on September 1 entitled On immigration, Trump tried to gut his own policy, but keep the tough talk. Will it workPaul Koring examines a problem issue for Republican Donald Trump.

Getting Started

Appropriate Subject Area(s):

Social studies, current events, history

Key Questions to Explore:

  • Who are the candidates for the U.S. Presidency and what are their main platform issues?

New Terminology:

Draconian, vetting, morphed, infrastructure, hypothesis, centrist, NAFTA

Materials Needed:

Globe articles, the Internet

Study and Discussion Activity

Introduction to lesson and task:

The United States is experiencing one of the most dramatic and polarizing elections in its history, with both candidates vying for the lowest approval rating of any presidential candidate in recent times. As Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump battle it out in the public square, most Americans are finding themselves in the unenviable position of choosing between two unfavoured candidates.

Never before have two candidates been farther apart in their plans for the United States, and the consequences of the election loom large around the world and especially in Canada, right next door. Students can benefit from an overview of each candidate’s platform and the ways in which they contrast. Using the two articles, students will work in groups to list platform promises of both candidates, as well as key charges each candidate aims at the other. Students may also use the Internet for some of the tasks below. You may wish to designate the sites they can use to learn more information about both candidates.

Action (lesson plan and task):

Start a discussion about the coming American election: When is it? (November 8) Who are the candidates? (Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump)Which parties do they represent? (Democratic and Republican, respectively)

Ask students what they know about each candidate and discuss their responses briefly with the class. Have all students read the articles silently to themselves (about 10 minutes in total).

Organize students into groups of four or five and provide them with the two articles and the following work sheet. If you wish, provide them with links to Republican and Democrat websites for further information. Assign a group leader/reporter for each. Allow fifteen minutes at the end of class for each group to give a brief oral report.

Work Sheet

Using the two articles and the websites provided by your teacher, complete the following tasks:

  • Under each candidate’s name,
    • list three key platform promises/issues;
    • list key criticisms of the candidate by the other candidate
    • list the demographics (age, occupation, race, culture, sex) of the types of supporter that tend to lean to each candidate. For example, Hillary Clinton would likely have more female supporters than Mr. Trump.
    • Regarding Hillary Clinton:
      • What kind of experience does she bring to her candidacy? What was her role in the Obama administration?
      • Why does she choose to address the challenges of middle class America, in particular?
      • What is she promising to do about the jobs/stagnant wages issue?
      • If, as the article claims, the United States has had constant job growth for 70 straight months, why would she need to address employment issues?
      • What is her position on NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement), which is particularly important to Canada?
    • Regarding Donald Trump:
      • What kind of experience does he bring to his candidacy? What experience does he have in government at any level?
      • Why does he choose to address fears about immigration and terrorists?
      • What is he promising to do about illegal Mexican immigration?
      • If, as the article claims, he is now back-pedalling on his platform promises about immigration reform, how might this affect his chances for election? Will his supporters abandon him? Will more centrist Republicans now agree to vote for him?
      • What is his position on NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement), which is particularly important to Canada?
  • If you were an American voter, which candidate would you vote for? Give reasons.
  • Summarize the responses and be prepared to give a short oral report to class.

Consolidation of Learning:

  • Students discuss their group’s findings.
Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria:

  • Students can name the two candidates running for the Presidency of the United States, can list one or two key platform promises for each and can name one issue of particular importance to Canada.

Confirming Activity:

  • Students report on the progress of the American election, as indicated by the polls reported in the media.