Confession time. I am not a super political person. I tend to have my own mind made up about a few things and avoid hearing heavy political news for the most part. But, like most people in America, when it’s an election year, my political interest sort of increases. And if you’re like me, you might be wondering if it’s something you want to approach in the classroom, whether briefly with some light reading and an activity or a full-blown unit. So, I’ve compiled a list of ideas to help navigate teaching about election day in the classroom.
Here are a few basic ideas for teaching about elections and voting:
- Debating the issues: students can research and debate the issues that are important to them. This can include creating a mock debate or having students write persuasive essays (or even letters to their representative–think classroom sizes, school funding, local issues).
- Creating an Election Day bulletin board: students can create a school-wide bulletin board featuring information about the candidates (real or fake), the issues, and the electoral process.
- Holding a voter registration drive: show students how to participate in the democratic process by holding a voter registration drive in the classroom to demonstrate the importance of voting and civic engagement.
- Holding a mock election: hold a mock election in the classroom. This can include setting up polling stations, creating campaign materials, and having students vote for their preferred candidate. You don’t have to use real candidates–the focus can be on the process and not the people. You can have students vote between 2 books (or the characters in the book). These two election books are a favorite and teach about voting.
Pass out voting ballots and have a quick discussion on voting privacy (this is when I would introduce what a voting booth is and why they exist). Ask students to fold their ballot in half and then dismiss a few at a time to place their ballots in the box. You can even do a mini graphing/tally lesson on how many people voted for each book as you count the ballots to determine the winner. You can find all of these activities in the Election Day Activities printables. I’ve included a blank voting ballot template in case you’d prefer to edit the book’s you use.
You can find red, white and blue M&M’s on sale after Independence Day (tuck in the freezer for November), and put them in a bowl as a fun little treat for anyone who votes. Duck for President and Grace for President are both fun election books, and students can vote for their favorite book.
- Analyzing political ads: have students analyze political ads, this can help them understand how campaigns use language, images and other tools to influence public opinion. Chances are, they’ve heard these political ads on the radio or seen them on Youtube already, so this activity will help them look at those ads in a new way.
- Historical context: Teach students about the historical context of the election. This can include learning about past elections and the impact they have had on the country, as well as the timeline of the right to vote for every citizen.
- Guest speaker: Invite a guest speaker to come in and talk to the class about the election, this can be a politician, a journalist, or a political scientist, this can help students learn about the election from different perspectives. Have students think of questions to ask ahead of time, and give them time to discuss what they thought afterward.
Here is a list of Election Day books for kids that are readaloud friendly. You can find any of the books here.
I hope some of these ideas for Election Day and teaching kids about voting are helpful. Have another idea? Leave a comment below and share what you’ve used that works. I’d love to hear from you!