2020 Presidential Debate Viewing Guides

The Commission on Presidential Debates will hold three presidential and one vice presidential debates during the 2020 campaign. This lesson has students use one of several viewing guides and activities to help them understand and analyze these debates. Teachers can choose to have students analyze the debates by using a rubric, through a BINGO activity, or by focusing on topic, criterion or modes of persuasion. 

Comparing the 2020 Democratic and Republican National Conventions

Using clips from the Democratic National Convention (August 17-20, 2020) and the Republican National Convention (August 24-27, 2020), this lesson has students compare the speeches given at each party’s convention and develop summaries of the messaging and priorities of each party. Students will use this information to evaluate the effectiveness of each party’s message.

Grades 7-12
Executive Branch/Presidency
Media

2020 Presidential Candidates on the Issues

In this lesson, students will view video clips of the 2020 presidential candidates from the two major political parties discussing specific issues like the COVID-19 pandemic, the economy, immigration and the environment. Students will use these primary source video clips of President Trump and former Vice President Biden to summarize the candidates’ views on these issues and formulate their own opinions on the candidates.

Grades 7-12
Executive Branch/Presidency
Media

2020 Elections: Competitive Senate Races

This lesson has students look at recent polling and analysis to identify competitive Senate elections around the country. Included in this lesson are campaign ads and breakdowns of these competitive Senate races. Students will be able to identify pathways for both the Democrats and the Republicans to win majorities in the Senate and evaluate the likelihood of each. 

Grades 7-12
Legislative Branch/Congress
Interactives

Predicting the 2020 Presidential Election

In this lesson, students will view video clips highlighting competitive states in the 2020 presidential race. Using information from these video clips and polling data, students will make predictions for each swing state and use an interactive electoral college map to determine which candidate will win the 270 electoral votes needed to become president. Students will be able to identify pathways for both candidates to win the Electoral College and evaluate the likelihood of each scenario. 

Grades 7-12
Executive Branch/Presidency
Interactives

Campaign Finance

Students can hear Sal give an introduction to campaign finance up to and after Citizens United, including the difference between soft and hard money, the influence of PACs and super PACs, and the impact of the McCain-Feingold Act. They can then follow that up with an in-depth video on Citizens United v. FEC in which Sal discusses the background and holdings of the case with scholars Richard Hasen, professor of law at UC Irvine School of Law, and Bradley Smith, former chairman of the FEC. Teachers can then assign an exercise to their students aligned to the current AP Government and Politics exam to assess how well they understood the content of the lesson.

Selective Incorporation

Teachers can use this lesson as a supplemental resource in their federalism unit, their Supreme Court unit, or their civil rights and civil liberties unit to help students understand how some rights apply to the states and others don’t. This lesson includes a video from Sal in which he describes the basic concept of selective incorporation, a video about McDonald v. Chicago in which Kim interviews Alan Gura and Elizabeth Wydra about the facts and outcome of the case, and practice questions aligned to the new AP Government and Politics exam.