Activities & Lessons

Teaching U.S. Government: History of Political Parties Lesson Plan

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History of political parties lesson plan

This blog is part of a monthly series on Shaped providing teachers of Grades 6–12 with downloadable social studies classroom resources and discussion topics.

With the 2020 presidential election season underway, it’s the perfect time to provide your students with much needed historical context on how the federal government works. The Republican and Democratic National Conventions are just around the corner, and if you are teaching middle or high school social studies, the election is sure to become a topic of conversation in your classroom—either as part of the curriculum or in conversation among students this fall.

The history of U.S. political parties since 1800 can be divided into four eras, as your students will learn in the activities below. For most of that time, the United States' political system has been dominated by only two parties: the Democrats and the Republicans. However, third parties—the Green Party, the Socialist Workers Party, and the People's Party, to name just a few—have also played a role in the country's political history.

Political Parties Lesson and Activities

Download this history of political parties lesson plan to teach your students about this topic in the classroom. The lesson includes a background on the different party eras, a timeline showing the major political parties and third parties, and a supplemental worksheet.


Learn more about HMH Social Studies, which presents the rich, endlessly inventive story of our world, challenging students to dig deep into the past.

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