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Sample Teacher Roadmap for The Will of the People

The Will of the People

Big Idea:

Negative campaigning, involvement of the press in elections, and partisan politics are nothing new. In The Will of the People, Thomas Jefferson takes us back to the highly contested election of 1800 to show us how America had a "Second Revolution" without any bloodshed.


By participating in this Electronic Field Trip, students will

  • compare and contrast the presidential election of 1800 with modern elections in America.
  • describe major differences of opinion between the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans in 1800.
  • understand the history and current state of the right to vote in America.


Act 1

Type: Video Segment
Length: 7 minutes 09 seconds

Description: While a modern student researches past U.S. presidential elections, a thunderstorm suddenly transports Thomas Jefferson to the modern world. Jefferson explains that by the election of 1800, newly formed political parties with opposing viewpoints had begun clashing over government policies.

Guiding Questions:

  • What caused Griswold and Lyon to fight in Congress?
  • How did the Federalists believe the U.S. government should be run?
  • Why was the Democratic-Republican Party formed?

Act 2

Type: Video Segment
Length: 6 minutes 14 seconds

Description: Our modern students learn about negative political campaigning and the influence of the press, including nasty political cartoons and mudslinging. Jefferson recalls the heated atmosphere surrounding the presidential election of 1800, in which he ran against John Adams.

Guiding Questions:

  • How were people informed about the opinions and plans of the different presidential candidates in 1800? How were these techniques similar and different from today?
  • What roles did newspapers play in the election of 1800?
  • What are some examples of exaggeration by candidates' opponents in the election of 1800?

Act 3

Type: Video Segment
Length: 11 minutes 56 seconds

Description: In 1800, a tie in the electoral vote leads to a disputed election. Jefferson learns that although some things in presidential politics—negative campaigning, partisan politics, and contested elections—have not changed, there have been dramatic changes in who can vote.

Guiding Questions:

  • What groups of people were excluded from voting in the election of 1800?
  • What differences do you notice between the procedure for voting in 1800 and today?
  • What is an elector, and why was the Electoral College instituted?
  • When there was a tie, who decided who won the election? Why?


Teacher Guide Lesson One: Who Could Vote?

Type: In-class lesson plan

Description: In this lesson, students will analyze primary sources relating to the historical exclusion of segments of the American population from the right to vote, and apply chronological thinking to understand the key milestones in the struggle for voting rights in America.

Skills: Chronological thinking, historical comprehension, historical analysis and interpretation

Why Can't I Vote Activity

Type: Web interactive

Description: In this activity, students must go back in time to get voting rights for their friends. While learning about historical restrictions on the vote, students choose various political actions that help to earn the vote for disenfranchised groups throughout American history.

Skills: Chronological thinking, historical analysis and interpretation

Teacher Guide Lesson Two: Negative Campaigning

Type: In-class lesson plan

Description: In this lesson, students will examine several primary sources to learn how candidates in presidential campaigns throughout U.S. history have used negative campaign tactics in the hope of gaining political advantage over opponents.

Skills: historical comprehension, historical analysis and interpretation, historical issues analysis

Battle for the Vote Activity

Type: Web interactive

Description: This activity is framed as a contest between Voter Villain and Super Poll Man. Students must decide what voting rules they believe should be in play for Americans. They learn how different rules about the polls affect citizens' right and ability to vote. Should Voter Villain be allowed to engage in practices to control which candidate wins? Or can Super Poll Man keep the elections as fair as possible?

Skills: Historical issues analysis

Teacher Guide Final Evaluation Activity

Type: In-class lesson plan

Description: In this lesson, students will work in small groups to create campaign posters for one of the candidates in the election of 1800 and engage in a discussion about the election of 1800 that pitted Thomas Jefferson against John Adams.

Skills: Historical comprehension, historical analysis and interpretation

Historical Literacy Activities

Type: In-class primary-source based lesson plans and annotated primary sources

Description: Primary sources relating to the program, along with a short description of the source and a glossary for difficult or historical terms, are used with brief lesson plans to engage students with people of the past in their own words.

Skills: Historical comprehension, historical analysis and interpretation


Interact with us! You and your students can have your questions answered and discuss your opinions by emailing us anytime from October 8th-October 12th, 2012, or posting to the Message Board all school year long.

Learn More! Extensive background information, additional resources, and support materials can all be found under Student Resources, Teacher Resources, and How to Use.

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