A TEACHER’S GUIDE TO CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
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See How They Run:
Campaign Dreams, Election Schemes, and the Race to the White House
by Susan E. Goodman, illustrated by Elwood H. Smith
•A Selection of the Junior Library Guild•
Democracy is serious business, but students can still laugh while learning about it. See How They Run uses humor and history to explain our government and its most crucial decision-making process—VOTING. What’s more, See How They Run discusses how and why we all should get involved. The activities below are designed to provoke thought and insight into these themes, and to stress the importance of being informed in order to make good choices.
Politicians Are People Too
See How They Run’s introduction (pages 8-9) says that real, therefore imperfect, people did their best to design our government. Since then, imperfect people have governed. As a result, wonderful and not-so-wonderful things have happened.
After reading the introduction and discussing this idea, have each student go through the book to find a favorite example of an improvement to our government or an admirable action by a politician. Another option is finding an example where a politician behaved badly or changed our government for the worse. Have each student write a paragraph on why he or she thought his or her particular example was important.
What Would Ben Say? What Would You Say?
One of See How They Run’s ongoing features is a sidebar, “What Would Ben Say?” In it, Goodman uses quotations from Benjamin Franklin to comment upon the subject being discussed, from the creation of the U.S. government on page 14 to the recent drop in voter turnout on page 68.
Have your students read some or all of the “What Would Ben Say?” sidebars (pages 14, 20, 37, 57, 64, 68, 71, 83, and 85) and the accompanying material. Ask them to explain what Ben’s reaction to the specific passage is supposed to be. Then have them supply their own reaction to the material by writing their own fun quotation.
On pages 16-18, Goodman explains the electoral college. Due to space constraints, she gave only a partial explanation of why it was created.
Ask your students to read these pages and list the reasons she gave. Have them do research to find additional reasons. The list of books and online sources on pages 91-92 can get them started.
Ask your students what they think of the electoral college. How does it effect our government? Do they think it helps or hurts our elections? Do they think it is a good idea or should be abolished? Have them defend their opinions.
Voting is a right in the United State, but is not required. Should it be? Start a discussion with this exercise.
For an entire morning, set a ballot box in a private place and give your students the option to vote in a mock presidential election. The ballots should be anonymous. Later in the day, use a different box and require all your students to vote.
Tally the results separately. How did the two rounds differ? Ask your students if any of them want to explain why they did or didn’t vote each time.
Then read pages 67-69 and/or 73-76 of See How They Run to the class. Have your students discuss the following questions: After reading this information, would the nonvoters in your class have voted? Why is voting important? How would elections be different if voting is voluntary? Required? Do they think U.S. citizens should be required to vote?
Research has shown that being a part of a strong community makes people want to vote when they are old enough. Lots of kids start this involvement early.
Have your students read about real kids working for change in the “Kids to the Rescue!” section on pages 80-82. Let them brainstorm about local problems that need fixing. Have them vote for one issue to work on. Then they can use suggestions in the “Sending a Message,” section on page 83 or come up with their own ways to address the issue. Books and Web sites in the resource list on pages 91-92 may also give them some ideas.
If you have any questions for Susan Goodman, or want any more information about her, her books, or the presentations she makes during school visits, please go to her website at www.susangoodmanbooks.com.