Teaching Package: Staging a British Election in a Single Constituency

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The aims of this activity are:

  • to encourage students to get to know some issues in British politics
  • to make students familiar with the language of politics and of political persuasion
  • to act out an election in a constituency
  • to talk about issues and ask questions about issues
 
Pre-conditions for the activity: students have studied British politics and know about election procedures.
 

Stage 1

  • Form groups of four.
  • Each group works for 1-2 class periods on the following:
  • Choose a party identity and a party name
  • Choose a few issues on which the party has strong views (2-3 issues)
  • Make a poster (and, if time, a very short written manifesto)
  • Choose one member of the group to be the party’s candidate
  • Prepare a speech for the candidate (all help, but one of the group is the candidate)
 

Stage 2

  • Election meeting. Simulate a public hall and a meeting in front of the public, which is televised. Each candidate makes a speech. (Set a time limit first.) Everyone listens, and takes notes. The posters and manifestos are displayed.
  • Groups re-assemble and prepare a set of questions for the other “parties” (i.e. to the other groups). They use their notes and the posters/manifestos to help them. These questions will be asked by the students who were not candidates.
  • Simulate a TV debate. Questions are asked in turn. Group A asks a question and gets an answer, then Group B asks a question and so on, until Group A asks another and a new round begins. It must be decided beforehand how many questions each group can ask (e.g. four). The groups decide who they direct their questions to. The groups asked must reply. Anyone in the group can answer but it is best to avoid one person dominating. This question-asking session is very valuable. The teacher or a student can be the leader/chairman of the debate, and must use their authority to insist on rapid answers. If a group cannot answer a question the chairman moves quickly on to the next group to ask a question. When the questions are over, you move onto the next Stage right away.
 

Stage 3

  • Election day. Everyone has a vote. No one can vote for their own party. (There is no such rule, of course, in a real election, but it is necessary here to maintain interest.)
  • Ballot papers are made with the candidates’ names and names of parties.
  • Voting takes place. It is secret and the teacher acts as returning officer (organises the counting and announces the result). The successful candidate makes a short, generous speech.
 

Summing-up

  • Students comment on the whole activity
  • Any language questions are aired (e.g. key words that caused problems can be written on the board).
 

Alternatives

  • In the above model, the parties are given fictitious names and students find their own pet issues. One could use real names and ask students to act roles as if they were the local Labour Party, local Liberal Democrats etc.
  • The writing of manifestos can be omitted.
 

Extra comments

  • Avoid elaborate posters that take ages to make.
  • Keep manifestos short and snappy.
  • Agree on time-limits for all the activities, but note that the question-asking and question-answering debate can take quite a long time. It often generates great interest.
  • This activity is fine for all levels. Students might want to go for idiosyncratic parties adopting “crazy” issues, like the “Flower Party” pressing for more flowers in public places, and for lower taxes for people with lovely flowers in their gardens. In other words, pressure groups can form parties and compete an election. The advantage of doing this is that it boosts student involvement and gives very good practice of oral English. The downside is that it can become silly and divorced from reality.
 
Acknowledgement: We are indebted to Trine Sæthre for the idea behind this teaching package.
Cappelen Damm

Sist oppdatert: 20.06.2008

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