Republicans vs DemocratsI stumbled across The Living Room Candidate last week, and it is amazing. I love it. Every social studies teacher should grab a cup of coffee (or a beer), and set aside an hour or two. Trust me, you’ll need some time.

The idea is simple. It’s a collection of campaign advertisements, from Eisenhower’s campaign in 1952 to today. There are collections for each campaign with at least one or two dozen videos per campaign. Some of the adverts are also organized by issue, so for example you can track the focus on civil rights over the years.

There are about a half dozen lesson plans to help you make sense of all of this. That’s how I found it. I was looking for some kind of graphic organizer or rubric to help kids assess a campaign advert. I was planning on watching some advertisements from the 2012 campaign in my AP Government and Politics class.

Living Room Candidate Screenshot

Another fairly cool feature of the site is the “AdMaker” app. You can draw on their library of video clips, audio clips, and images to build a 30 second campaign ad. Students can register for an account to save these ads. On the plus side, this is an awesome activity idea (building a campaign ad). On the downside, you can’t upload other images, video clips, or audio from what I can see. I would especially like for kids to be able to record their own audio to put over a video.

Some Ideas for Using This in Class

This is perfect for a government and politics class. We’re currently in the middle of a unit on elections, political parties, media, and interest groups. Campaign ads really help pull everything together. I plan on using some of these videos first to talk about campaign adverts and the media in general, and then we’ll finish up talking about campaign finance and the influence of Super PACs and independent groups through adverts.

However, I also see the resources here as being useful for Modern US History classes. You could either pull one or two clips to use in a lecture, or have kids watch a bunch of videos from a single election year. For example, if you’re talking about the Kennedy election, why not have your students watch the campaign ads to determine what the campaign was about…?

Whatever you use it for, there’s one clear benefit to using this site. It’s not blocked by school filters, and it provides an alternative to YouTube for this specific purpose. You can find a ton of campaign advertisements on YouTube, at least for recent elections. You would have to download these videos and bring the into class, though, and you wouldn’t be able to give kids the option to browse them at their leisure. The Living Room Candidate has a huge collection of adverts at your finger tips, which kids can view without you taking any trouble to leap over the YouTube hurdle.