Lesson Plan: Comparing the 2020 Democratic and Republican National Conventions

The Purpose of National Party Conventions

In response to the first night of the 2020 Democratic National Convention, Washington Post Columnists Karen Tumulty and Eugene Robinson discussed the purpose of national conventions and how the 2020 convention differs from past years.


Using clips from the Democratic National Convention (August 17-20, 2020) and the Republican National Convention (August 24-27, 2020), this lesson has students compare the speeches given at each party’s convention and develop summaries of the messaging and priorities of each party. Students will use this information to evaluate the effectiveness of each party’s message.


  • WARM-UP:

    Have students answer the following questions before beginning class:

    • What are political parties and what do they do?

    • Why do you think political parties hold national conventions?

    Review the answers to the warm-up and address any misconceptions. Use the following clip and questions to introduce student to party conventions and how the 2020 conventions are different. Students can access the video clips and activities for this lesson using the handout below.

    Handout: 2020 Party Conventions (Google Doc)

    Video Clip 1: The Purpose and Format of the 2020 National Party Conventions (3:02)

    • According to Ms. Tumulty, what are the two things that modern conventions are supposed to do?

    • What does Mr. Robinson mean when he says that conventions are showcases for the party and the ticket?

    • Based on their descriptions, how are the 2020 conventions different than previous years?

    After reviewing the purpose and format of the 2020 party conventions, have the students view the video clips from the two political parties listed below. You can opt to have student view all video clips or choose one of the following grouping of video clips.

    • Presidential Candidates (Clips 2 and 7)

    • Presidential and Vice Presidential Candidates (Clips 2, 3, 7 and 8)

    • Presidential and Vice Presidential Candidates and one clip of their choice from each party (Clips 2, 3, 7, 8 and two others)

    • One clip from each night for each party (8 Clips)

    It is recommended that students at least view the speeches for each party’s presidential and vice-presidential nominees.

    For each video clip, students should take notes on the following information.

    • Who is the person? Why do you think he/she was chosen to speak?

    • Tone and Images Used

    • Issues Discussed

    • Summarize the overall message of this speech in 2-3 sentences.



    After viewing the video clips of the speeches from the conventions, students will use their notes and examples from the video clips to complete the following tasks included on the handout.

    Handout: 2020 Party Conventions (Google Doc)

    • Summarize the message that each party was trying to portray with this convention. Include examples about the tone of the convention, speakers, priorities, important issues and themes throughout the speeches.

    • Evaluate this message. How effective do you think this message will be for voters?

    Third-Party Conventions- Using the videos of the third-party conventions, summarize the message that the parties are trying to portray and evaluate how effective this message will be for voters.


    Logical Fallacies- Using the logical fallacies explained on the Purdue Online Writing Lab website, identify and explain how these logical fallacies were represented in the party convention speeches.


    Modes of Persuasion: Logos, Ethos & Pathos- Choose one of the speeches from the party conventions. Analyze how this speech uses Ethos, Pathos and Logos (Nature of Writing Website).

    • Use examples from the speech to explain how the speaker uses these modes of persuasion.
    • Evaluate how effective the speaker is in using each of these.

    2020 National Nominating Conventions Analysis- Use the following handout to analyze aspects of the RNC and DNC. Evaluate the effectiveness of the candidates' acceptance speeches and other notable aspects of the conventions using the criteria and activities linked below

    Handout: 2020 National Nominating Conventions Analysis (Google Doc)


    • Are party conventions still necessary? Explain your answer.

    • How would you redesign the format for party conventions?

    • Are conventions effective at convincing undecided voters? Explain your answer.

    • How do you think the unconventional nature of the 2020 party conventions will impact future conventions?

Additional Resources


  • Factions
  • National Party Convention
  • Nominee
  • Ticket
  • Virtual Convention


Campaigns & ElectionsPolitical Parties


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