The start of the 2016 school year offers a unique opportunity for teachers to teach students about the upcoming presidential election. If kids are watching TV at home with their parents, they are bombarded by the 24/7 rhetoric of today’s political news cycle, so a classroom lesson plan will offer the in-depth, objective lesson they need to really learn about elections in our country. Think about incorporating the election into your lesson plans. Kids need to know more about the voting process in general and to learn to think critically about elections. After all, these are our country’s future voters!
Build a lesson plan that centers around the presidential election. Who gets to vote? Who doesn’t? What are the criteria that exclude people from voting in this country? Have the class build a chart showing side-by-side who can vote and who can’t to make it more visual. Have a class conversation about whether those exclusions are fair. If the students could run the voting criteria, what would they change? Would they change criteria? In the student’s ideal world, would they grant voting rights to someone or a group of people who can’t currently vote? Why?
Give students an assignment to go interview at least 10 adults about voting. Students should conduct interviews either in person or on the phone. They can interview family members, friends, and neighbors. Are they going to vote in the upcoming presidential election? Do they consider voting a great right for citizens of this country, and why? What are the top three issues most important to each person interviewed? What factors do these voters consider when choosing a candidate? It would be ideal for students to interview someone who is 18-21 and has never voted in a presidential election, perhaps an older sibling, cousin or neighbor. Is this young person going to vote? Are they excited about voting for the first time? Students should also try to interview older voters, perhaps grandparents, who have voted in many elections. What was the first election they voted in, and how have elections changed over time?
Have students report their data in presentation. After the presentations, have the class research both the GOP and Democratic party platforms finalized at each of their July conventions. There is a Libertarian candidate as well, and inclusion of that would be ideal. Have students place the issues from their presentations into the best party category that they think would best remedy that particular issue. This could then lead to other lesson plans, such as the history of political parties in this country, how some founding fathers like George Washington were against parties, and how the main two parties have evolved over time.
2016 is a hotbed of political activity. Capitalize on it in the classroom by educating our future voters about the American election process. We have some great resources for you to use. Shell Education’s Understanding Elections Instructional Guide is a great resource for teachers because it helps improve the understanding of the election process for students. If you want to delve further into related lesson plans, the guide explores connections between national, state, and local elections. The guide’s extensive resources and flexible lesson plans make the election process easy and engaging. Scholastic’s Election Activity Kit is another great resource; it encourages kids to not only understand the election process but to also get involved. Its election timeline, ballots, voter registration forms, and easy-to-assemble ballot box are perfect tools to help raise student awareness and promote good citizenship!