From the Revolution to the 2016 Election

Sara Frey October 30, 2016

The library media specialist and English as a Second Language teacher coordinated Team Read Week 2016 activities for English Language Learners, focusing on the 2016 U.S. presidential election and the historical significance of their community.

Type: Active
Age: High school
Optimal size: 11-20
Estimated cost: $100+
Planning time: 5+ hours
Frequency: One-time

Learning outcomes

Participants will:

  • Practice English speaking and listening skills through conversations focused on Philadelphia’s role in the establishment of the United States and the 2016 election cycle
  • Practice English reading skills by reading nonfiction texts about Philadelphia landmarks, the U.S. government and the election process.
  • Investigate the historical significance of Philadelphia in the establishment of the United States government through first-hand encounters at historical landmarks


  • Students participate in reading activities during the ELL Success course, which meets every other day. Leveled, and when available, world language texts are provided. Some activities allow for students to choose the text they use in discussion. Activities include
    • Analyzing primary sources, including paintings and documents related to Independence Hall
    • Comparing and contrasting the foundation and structure of the United States government to that of students’ home nations
    • Discussing issues seen and heard in news coverage of the 2016 presidential election campaigns
  • Students visit Independence Hall and the Constitution Center in Philadelphia, focusing on
    • Historical moments that took place in Independence Hall and key individuals involved
    • Significance of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution in 18th century and present-day America
    • Process of a presidential campaign and election
  • Students reflect on their experiences and new learning through writing and sharing poetry


Classroom activities allowed students to connect learning with their own lives and some of the content they have been exposed to in other courses. For example, some students had read excerpts of Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography and others were in U.S. Government and U.S. History classes. Activities led by the school librarian and ESL teacher allowed students to access information at different entry points.

The field trip was the highlight of this program: the sixteen students participating in this program live five to ten miles from Philadelphia but none had visited the city’s Old City district, home of Independence Hall and other national historical landmarks.  

This program would be easily replicated. The timing of the program with the current presidential election added to students’ discussion and learning, but was not crucial. If repeated, facilitators could modify activities to include news concerning the sitting president or issues being discussed in other election cycles. The program could also be scheduled to coincide with Constitution Day or Independence Day for additional opportunities for activities.

Grant funding allowed for the purchase of relevant nonfiction and historical fiction texts to be used and added to the school library's collection.  Grant funding also ensured that students did not incur any costs for the day trip to Philadelphia. 

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