While it is true, your students can’t vote in elections yet, they can still be part of the election process by encouraging others to vote. Students often express how no one listens to them or that they are not old enough to do anything, but they are wrong. Empower your students to make an impact today no matter their age.
Empower your students to make an impact today no matter their age.
I discussed in last week’s post, that our role as teachers is not to teach the students about the candidates or about the specific issues that may be on the ballot, it’s about teaching them why it’s important to vote and how the voting process affects our Democracy.
Students, especially those that are encouraged to be critical thinkers, are filled with creative ideas. Help foster those ideas by brainstorming with students what they can do to get the word out about voting. Help them find a way to share their learning with others. All the suggestions below are meant to help you give students a voice in elections they cannot yet participate in.
Student created Public Service Announcements (PSA)
In order to make social studies curriculum real and relevant for our students, a team of amazing social studies teachers got together and we decided each unit of study needed to have a call to action – something students could do now to apply their knowledge. What that initially meant for us was having students write letters to different people such as principals, superintendent and our governor. While that was a great first start, it wasn’t making the impact we’d hope to see in students.
Two years ago, I decided to try something different with our election unit. I had students create a Public Service Announcement (PSA) about voting. Students did research on voting and current voting (process) issues in the United States and then scripted and filmed PSAs. You can find a done for your resource here if you’d like to try that with your class.
Posters for the community
You will find many people within the community that want to help support the work that teachers are doing in the classroom. Reach out to local business owners and share your goal for your students. Ask them if your students create posters about the voting process or the importance of voting, if they would be willing to hang them in their establishment. Because you’re keeping the focus on the process of voting, and not candidates or issues, it is a pretty safe thing for businesses to partner with you and many will be happy to help out.
Utilize the power of social media
Many schools, districts and even some classrooms have a social media pages. Utilize the power of these outlets and have students create infographics that can be shared on the different platforms. You could even partner with other schools in your district. For example, if your middle school students create PSAs for voting, maybe your high school would be willing to share during morning announcements. Ask a social studies teacher to share with their class. With the focus on the process of voting and not on candidates or issues, this should be pretty safe and non-controversial activity.
Interviews with community members
If you’re a little more adventurous, you can try inviting members of the community into your classroom for students to interview. It is great a great opportunity for students to hear form other adults why they vote, why they think others should vote and how voting fits into the overall democratic process.
Think about members of the community that understand education. A few people to consider inviting are your district’s Superintendent, a school board member or local city council members. Parents and business owners could also be considered but be sure they are people who participate in elections – you don’t want the conversation to get sidetracked. You want people that don’t have their own agenda, people that will help you to keep the focus on voting and not the candidates or the issues.
Voting can be a sensitive subject for a lot of people, so doing some prep work ahead of time is going to be critical. Be sure that you are clearly communicating the objective with those that you invite into the classroom – let them know what you want your students to get out of this experience. You will also need to do some prep work with your students and brainstorm the questions ahead of time so that you’re sure everyone is focusing on the overall objective.
If you are going to try this in your class, be sure to do the prep work with plenty of lead time to avoid any issues and be able to answer any parent concerns that might arise.
Don’t shy away from teaching about voting just because this year’s candidates are polarizing.
These are just a few ideas, brainstorm with your students ways they can share what they have learned about voting and encourage others to be participants in the process. Don’t shy away from teaching about voting just because this year’s candidates are polarizing. Keep your focus on teaching the role that voting has in our overall political process. It is not about the candidates or the specific issues of this current election, as those things change every year. We need to help students understand the bigger picture of voting in elections and its effects on the Democratic process. You only get into trouble when you start telling people how to vote on issues or which candidates to vote for, so keep it simple, keep it relevant and stay focused on the things students can do today to make a difference!