Free 8th Grade Political Machine Lesson Plan

Topic: Understanding Political Machines in the United States

Objectives & Outcomes

  • Students will be able to define the term "political machine" and identify examples of political machines in the United States.


  • Textbook or other source materials on political machines in the United States
  • Handouts with definitions and examples of political machines
  • Whiteboard and markers


  • Ask students to share their prior knowledge of political machines in the United States. What do they know about how these organizations functioned and who ran them?
  • Write their responses on the whiteboard and use them as a starting point for discussing the topic in more depth.

Direct Instruction

  • Define "political machine" and provide examples of organizations that fit this definition.
  • Discuss the origins and development of political machines in the United States, including the emergence of the Tammany Hall organization in New York City in the 17th century and the Chicago political machine of the 19th century.
  • Discuss the characteristics of political machines, including the use of patronage and graft to maintain power and influence, and the role of bosses and bosses’ agents in organizational structure.
  • Provide students with handouts containing additional information about political machines in the United States, including examples of notable political machines and notable leaders of political machines.

Guided Practice

  • Have students work in small groups to identify and describe the characteristics of a political machine using the information provided in the direct instruction session.
  • As a class, discuss and compare the characteristics identified by the different groups.
  • Have students use the handouts to identify and describe a historically notable political machine, and present their findings to the class.
  • As a class, discuss the characteristics of the political machine identified by the students, and compare it to the characteristics discussed in the direct instruction session.

Independent Practice

  • Have students choose a city or county within their state that they are familiar with, and research the political history of the area.
  • Using the information they have gathered, have students create a poster or presentation that describes the political structure of the area, including any political machines that may be operating.
  • Have students present their posters or presentations to the class.


  • Review the key concepts of political machines, including their role in manipulating elections and the use of patronage jobs.
  • Ask students to reflect on the impact that political machines have had on American politics, both historically and today.
  • Discuss the importance of voting and remaining informed in order to curb the influence of political machines.


  • Observe student participation in group discussions and debates.
  • Evaluate student presentations on a specific political machine.
  • Administer a quiz to assess student understanding of the concept of a "political machine" and its impact on American politics.

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