Lesson Plan: 2020 Election Night: Viewing Guides and Activities

What to Expect on Election Night

John Fortier of the Bipartisan Policy Center discussed the factors that might impact when the winner of the 2020 presidential election would be known. He discussed state laws involving the processing and counting of ballots.


This lesson provides several activities for students to help them understand coverage of election night as they watch on November 3, 2020. Teachers can choose to have students view election night coverage while taking notes, mapping the electoral votes as they come in, playing a vocabulary BINGO game, evaluating election night speeches or comparing news networks’ coverage of election night. Students can view coverage of the 2020 elections on C-SPAN or other news networks. These activities provide students a foundation to discuss the election the next day in class.


  • Begin class by having students view the following video clip and answering the questions below. This can either be done as a class or individually. Before moving to the activities, students should have a basic understanding of what to expect when watching election night coverage.

    VIDEO CLIP: What to Expect on Election Night (3:18)

    • How might a close election in key states impact when a winner of the presidential election is declared?

    • According to Mr. Fortier, why is Pennsylvania a state to watch?

    • How do states differ in when and how they count votes?

    • What factors might delay when a winner is declared?

    Using the video clips in this lesson as a foundation, the following activities can be used to help students follow along with election coverage on November 3. Choose one of the following activities for students to complete when viewing election night coverage.

    Students can view coverage of the 2020 elections on the C-SPAN Television Networks, C-SPAN.org or other news networks.

  • Election Night 2020: Note-Taking Chart:

    On election night, students should view the election night coverage on C-SPAN or one of the other networks. Students can use the handout to take notes on what is being reported and how the results are being covered.

    Handout: 2020 Election Night: Note-Taking Chart (Google Doc)

    Students should take notes on the following:

    • When and how states are called for each presidential candidate.

    • Different state rules for voting and the counting of votes.

    • Impact of mail-in and absentee ballots on the election.

    • Speeches or statements given by the campaigns.

    • Anything that surprised or confused you.

    • Questions that you have about the election or the results.

    • Overall impressions of election night.
  • Mapping Electoral College Results:

    As students watch the results of the 2020 presidential election come in on election nights, students can follow along by completing their own electoral college map. Students can print out the blank electoral college map below and color in the states or use the blank map setting on 270toWin

  • Election Night Vocabulary BINGO:

    Use the handout linked below to play a BINGO game while watching election night coverage on C-SPAN or another network. Complete the BINGO board by writing words, topics or phrases that might be discussed during the coverage. As you watch the coverage, mark your board when a word or topic is mentioned. Take notes on what this term means and how it was used.

    Printable Handout: Election Night BINGO (Google Doc)

    Digital BINGO Card: Election Night BINGO (Google Slide)

    After viewing the debate, use the BINGO chart and the notes to answer the following prompt:

    • Based on what you watched, what were your overall impressions of election night?

    • What questions do you have after watching it?
  • Victory and Concession Speech Comparisons:

    As you are watching coverage of election night, choose one of the races in which candidates gave victory and concession speeches. This can be a gubernatorial, House, Senate, or presidential contest. Use the handout linked below to analyze the following for both candidates. Using this information students will explain why winning and losing candidates give speeches on election night.

    Handout: Victory and Concession Speeches (Google Doc)

    • Describe the race, the candidates, and the results of the race.

    • Who does the candidate thank or acknowledge?

    • What issues or topics, if any, does the candidate discuss?

    • Describe how the candidate talks about the future.

    • How does the candidate talk about the other candidate(s)?

    • How does the candidate describe the campaign?

    • How would you describe the overall tone of the speech?

    • Describe your overall impressions of the speech.
  • Handout: Network Coverage Comparison (Google Doc)

    • When and how each network projects the winners of states.

    • Guests and commentators featured during the broadcast.

    • Speeches and events featured during the broadcast.

    • Issues and topics emphasized or featured.

    • Overall impressions and questions.
  • WRAP-UP:

    As a class after election day, discuss the election night coverage with the class. Have students share their overall impressions of the night and any questions that they had. Address any misconceptions that students might have.


    • How would change how election night is covered in the United States?

    • What was the most confusing part of election night coverage?

    • What if anything surprised you about how election night went?

    • How do you think election night might be different during non-presidential election years?

Additional Resource


  • Absentee Voting
  • Election Night
  • Electoral College
  • Gubernatorial
  • House
  • Margin
  • Popular Vote
  • Senate
  • Swing State


Campaigns & ElectionsMedia


Middle SchoolHigh School