Cast Your Vote: Debating Character Traits for a President

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SWBAT determine an opinion about the topic of “what makes a good president” and identify reasons that support the opinion.

Big Idea

In this lesson, students will discuss what makes a good president and identify character traits that support their reasoning.

Enroll Students Into Learning

5 minutes

My students have been reading a lot of informational texts about presidents as we’ve been researching, so today, I tell them that I think they’re just about mini-experts on presidents!  They like this title: mini-experts!   Because of this, I ask the kids, “What makes a good president?”  Right away, the kids have lots of things to say, and so hands are going up all over.

Experience Learning

5 minutes

Since there are so many hands, and it looks as though everyone wants to talk, I ask the kids to turn and talk to a neighbor and discuss for a moment what it takes to be a good president!  Students turn and start talking for a few minutes.  While they talk, I listen in to their conversations.  I hear one student telling another student, “They should know a lot and have gone to college,” while another student tells their partner that, “A good president must be able to keep the country safe”.  I also hear a student say to their neighbor, “If a president is going to be a good president, they have to look good in a suit!” The joys of listening to third graders never ceases!  As I listen though, I can see that already, my students are identifying character traits that they feel a “good” president must possess:  knowledgeable, dependable, and even stylish!

Label New Learning

5 minutes

I regain our students into a whole class discussion using the “If You Can Hear My Voice…” strategy and ask the kids to share a few of the ideas they discussed with their neighbors.  The kids share all sorts of ideas, similar to the examples already noted above.  Aft the kids have shared some ideas, I lean and say, “Boys and girls, I have a special challenge for you today!  Can you think of just ONE word, only one, that would describe what a good president must be?  Sit and think for a second…”  I let our students think of a word for a few moments.  I ask again for the students to share their thoughts on the one word they would choose!  The students share words like smart, funny, brave, and strong!  I tell the students that I am very proud of their thinking because all of these words are character traits, or words that describe a person.  Today, we’re going to look at many more character traits and decide which would be good for a president to be!

Demonstrate Skills

10 minutes

Student head back to their seats as our paper passers help pass out our Presidential Character Traits page.  After each student has one, I explain that this page has a huge list of character traits that people have.  Many of the people we know have these traits, but today, we want to focus on just which would be important for a president to have.  We start be just discussing the words.  I read through the words with the students and we discuss their meanings.  I particularly spend more time on words my students are unfamiliar with, providing not just definitions, but examples of what this character trait might look like in action (ie: “impulsive” means to act quickly, often without thinking; an example would be someone who makes a quick decision but then later realizes that wasn’t such a good idea).

After we read through the list and discuss those that are unknown to my students in further detail, I ask the kids to choose five character traits that they think are the most important.  I ask the kids to take a moment again and look back through the list and then circle the five they think a “good” president must have!


5 minutes

To close today, I ask if anyone would like to share one of the character traits they’ve selected.  As students share their choices, I also ask them to follow their choice with a brief explanation of why they chose that word.  In this way, the students are already beginning to articulate their reasoning for their choices, which is what we will work on tomorrow.  After sharing, we tuck our notes into our blue writing folders to save them for another day’s work!