In this article, Tamsin McMahon sketches out the differences between the two candidates running for the US presidency—Donald Trump and Joe Biden—and their contrasting visions for the future of the country.

On October 2 the whole course of the campaign was thrown into doubt when President Trump announced that he and his wife Melania had tested positive for the coronavirus.

Getting Started

Introduction to the article (perhaps by having everyone read it)

This lesson is designed for secondary students, to be applicable to both online and classroom learning situations. Whether in one-on-one settings, in small groups or cohorts, or via a learning partner online, this lesson involves reading, discussion, and a matching exercise.

Canadians care about the outcome of U.S. elections because it involves one of our two nearest neighbours, the largest economy in the world and our principal trading partner. By starting with a short discussion—between you, as teacher, and a cohort, or between two students who have paired up, you can discover what the student already knows about the coming US election. Probing questions can help: What have you heard about the election? Do you know who is running? What do you know about these two men?

Before reading the article, point out that in the days after the article appeared, Mr. Biden chose Kamala Harris as his vice-presidential running mate.

Read the article

Subject Area(s) covered

Social studies, American studies, current events

New Terms to explain

Electoral college, Republican, Democrat, GOP

Materials Needed

Access to the article and the Internet to access these links, or to your preferred websites that cover similar content:

Study and Discussion Activity

Key things students can learn from this lesson

  • Who is running for office for each party, how they are doing to date in the polls;
  • The way each presidential candidate describes the other candidate;
  • Differences in each candidate’s vision of the future of the United States.

Action (here’s how we’ll do it)

After reading the article, point students to the links provided. Students will work alone to complete the following matching assignment and are free to search for more information online. However, they must provide the links they’ve used to gather this information.

Match one item in column A with an answer in column B. Some answers in Column B will be used more than once, and some answers in column B have no match, just to make it interesting. In some cases you will need to fill in the blanks (some of the data changes each day) as indicated.

Column A
1. Is said to be suffering an “enthusiasm” gap
2. Blue states
3. Red States
4. Current president
5. Candidate for the Democratic Party
6. Considered the progressive, or “liberal” party
7. Lost his wife, daughter and his eldest son
8. Fosters beliefs in threats from a satanic cult
9. Describe their opponent as “destroying American democracy”
10. Current poll numbers for Democratic candidate
11. Current poll numbers for Republican candidate
12. Democratic Vice Presidential running mate
13. Republican Vice Presidential running mate
14. Traditionally more like the Canadian Liberal Party
15. Traditionally more like the Canadian Conservative Party
16. Describes opposite party as “radical leftists
Column B
a) ___________
b) ___________
c) Joe Biden
d) Republican Party
e) Democratic Party
f) Democrats
g) Ivanka Trump
h) Expected to vote Republican
i) Kamala Harris
j) Qanon
k) Donald Trump
l) Mike Pence
m) Expected to vote Democrat
n) Bernie Sanders

Consolidation of Learning

  • When they’ve finished their exercise, they will review and mark it with their partnered student, or with students in their cohort.
Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria

Students can:

  • Name the current president of the United States and the candidates running for the presidency in 2020
  • Learn how each candidate describes the other
  • Name each of the two main US political parties and describe in simple terms how they differ in terms of future US policy
  • Engage in a short, informed discussion about the US election.

Confirming Activities

  • In everyday discussions and conversations, students report on the US election, who said or did something newsworthy, who’s leading in the polls and so on.

Helpful Internet Searches

Activities to do together

  • Watch campaign videos with your parents, friends, or caregivers and discuss what you see and hear;
  • If you have any, ask American friends or relatives about their views of the election;
  • Point out errors or incorrect information on social media websites, noting that foreign agents are producing disinformation designed to affect the election outcome.