The Day After the Midterms

Discussing the Election Results with Your Students

Note: This teaching idea was created in anticipation of the 2018 midterm elections, before the election results were known. The discussion questions and strategies can be used to help your students unpack the results the day after the election and beyond.

Americans are heading to the polls on Tuesday, November 6. While voters often struggle to pay attention and engage in midterm elections, turnout this year is expected to be higher than for any other midterms in recent memory. Every seat in the House of Representatives is on the ballot, as well as one third of US Senate seats. More than half of state governors, many city mayors, and numerous ballot initiatives will also be decided.

The number of seats up for grabs isn’t the only reason these midterms have been so closely watched. The races have been hard-fought and often highly partisan. Many Americans are concerned that the electoral process might be threatened by foreign interference, or undermined by voter suppression. In the two weeks before the midterms, Americans were on edge as pipe bombs were sent to prominent Democrats (a right-wing extremist has since been arrested); then the nation mourned as eleven people were murdered at a Pittsburgh synagogue in an antisemitic hate crime. At the same time, President Trump has sounded an alarm about groups of immigrants coming from Latin America and deployed troops on the southern border to stop them. The national mood is one of fear, uncertainty, and agitation. Many see the vote as a kind of referendum on the direction of the country.

As we anticipate the midterms, we don’t know what the results will be, but we do know that students will need to talk about them. Some may be thrilled with the results; others angry or despondent. All should know that the outcome matters to them and to many others. In this teaching idea, we offer approaches to addressing the results of the midterms, no matter what the outcome. By giving students time to pause and reflect, process and think critically, you can model civil discourse and support their civic development.

These conversations are most effective when they take place after you have already established a classroom contract with your students. If you have one, review your classroom contract with your students before you begin. If not, see our Contracting teaching strategy to get started.

Share What Happened

The first step in discussing the midterms is understanding the results. Helpful resources to introduce in your classroom the morning after the election include:

  • The Daily from the New York Times is a 20-minute podcast that offers a discussion of an important news story each day. On November 7, they’ll be discussing the election results.
  • Allsides covers a range of news events by sharing articles from publications on the right, left, and center of the political spectrum, allowing students to see how the same election results are viewed from a range of perspectives.
  • Today’s Front Pages from the Newseum curates each day’s front pages from newspapers around the country and the world. Students can compare front pages from their region, across the country, and beyond, to see how the election results are resonating. What are the headlines? Are they similar or different? Why?

To share the results of elections and ballot initiatives in your city or town, draw on local newspapers or other coverage.

Provide Time for Students to Respond

Some students may be in a celebratory mood in response to the outcome of the elections; others may be disappointed or even fearful as a result; while still others may feel detached or ambivalent. Regardless, it is important to give students the opportunity to come to terms with their own responses before analyzing the outcomes further and thinking about the elections’ consequences.

Give students a few minutes to write in their journals. You might simply ask them to write an open-ended response. Or you might provide a little structure by having them respond with a comment and a question, or by writing a headline that summarizes their own reaction.

You may or may not choose to have your students share any of their reflections. If you choose to do so, the Wraparound strategy can help make sure that all voices are heard.

Analyze the Election Results and Make Connections

Have students use Project Zero’s 3 Ys thinking routine to think about how the outcome of the elections will affect them and those around them. In their journals they can take some time to response to the following questions:

  1. Why might the results of the 2018 midterm elections matter to me?
  2. Why might they matter to people around me [family, friends, city, nation]?
  3. Why might they matter to the world?

After students have had some time to reflect, lead a discussion that allows students to share some of their thinking. You might also include the following questions in the discussion:

How might recent events in the United States have influenced the turnout and the outcome of the elections? How are the election results making you and people you know feel in terms of their own agency, vulnerability, and inclusion in American society?

Look to the Future

Finally, ask students to think about how the results of the midterm elections affect their thinking about the future. Lead a brief Think, Pair, Share discussion in response to the following questions:

  • Because of the election results, do you think things will get better, worse, or stay the same?
  • How can we support people who are feeling vulnerable because of the election results?
  • What’s next for me/us? What can we do to strengthen our schools, communities, and country, regardless of the election results?

In addition to the ideas shared here, consider using activities from Facing History’s other teaching ideas on voting and and elections, including Voting Rights and the Midterm Elections and A New Generation of Young Voters Emerges.

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