It is an exciting time for the nation when the presidential election rolls around every four years. It is no different in the classroom! Teaching about the election and our democratic process is an honor to me. I think it's critical for students to understand how elections work because they'll be of voting age before we know it! I'll share a few tips and ideas to easily teach about the election in the primary grades.
Set Norms for Speaking about the Election with Primary Students
First off, teaching about the election with primary students is certainly different than teaching this same content in a middle school situation. Nonetheless, younger students can learn plenty about our democratic process and what elections mean for citizens.
Before I start talking about candidates, issues, or the election process, I have a serious conversation with my students about being objective and avoiding personal attacks. Students usually hear many opinions in their lives outside of school, and they bring those opinions with them when they arrive on our doorsteps. Sometimes the things they hear aren't very nice, so I establish ground rules early!
This is especially relevant in 2020, when the whole political arena seems rife with insults. One might think that a seven-year old wouldn’t know anything about the candidates, but remember children are always listening to what adults say! Despite the current political climate, I try to be a good example for my students and emphasize kindness, fairness, and being a good citizen.
Start the Election Conversation with Books
A fun and easy way to teach about the election in primary grades is through the use of picture books! Some personal favorites on the topic of voting? Check out Duck for President! Farmer Brown from Click Clack, Moo is back, and his animals are once again acting….a little different! This time Duck is campaigning for president! Kids will have fun seeing what the farm animals are plotting this time.
I Voted! is a charming, nonpartisan book about voting for the youngest of readers. The book communicates that, while we may not always get our way, we can make sure our voices are heard.
We can always count on DK Publishing to come up with high-quality, relevant informational books, and this one is no exception. The book What Is an Election?, aimed at beginning readers, includes clear photographs, comprehension questions, and even a glossary!
A brand new children's book that just came out in 2020. A Vote is a Powerful Thing is a perfect way to teach students about voting and the power each citizen has. Callie knows there's a presidential election coming up. Her class is having an election, too, about an issue that affects them all- the class field trip!
Videos all about the Election
Obviously, it isn’t easy to make all issues relevant to young students when teaching about the election in primary grades. Some topics and issues might go over their heads. That is why I like to use videos that can explain the election process easily! Scholastic has an easy-to-understand resource full of election information for kids. The voting process itself is a fascinating topic to explore. Here is a list of excellent short videos to further illustrate how voting works.
Have a Classroom Mock Election
I've saved my favorite tip for last! Learning about something is easier when you see its relevance. You can take a page out of the book A Vote is a Powerful Thing and have a class mock election. You can vote on anything – what to play at recess, a class mascot, what to choose for a class reward, even the next read-aloud.
If you would like a done-for-you mock election, check out my Election 2020 resource.
First, students will read all about what an election is and how citizens vote on election day.
Next, you hold a class mock election! Students can have a pretend election with the real presidential candidates.
An alternative is included! If you'd rather not mention the presidential candidates, students can vote for animal presidential candidates. (You can choose whichever feels most comfortable!)
When a child puts his or her name on a ballot and puts it in a special box, he or she feels important and powerful. And that’s exactly the point. Voting is proof that everyone counts.
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