The 2020 presidential election has been politically charged, to say the least, but you can still educate your students about voting and the presidential election process in ways that won’t leave you with a class divided. Help your students understand the facts and fundamentals with these activity ideas.
1. Celebrate past presidents
Invite your students to learn more about the past presidents of the United States. These short videos and these books about presidents are a great place to start. Have them consider how the new candidates are similar or different.
2. Debate a school issue
Is your school considering a ban on plastic water bottles? Do your students want a more diverse dress code? Pick an issue that is relevant for the students at your school and then have your class pick sides and debate the issue. BusyTeacher.org offers some great tips for holding a classroom debate. Talk about how that process is also important when choosing presidential candidates.
3. Hold a mock election
Have your class join students nationwide in the largest mock student presidential election in history. The Every Kid Votes Student Mock Election from Studies Weekly allows votes through October 28th. It’s free to register your class or school for the historic event and see which candidate the kids of America choose.
4. Make it all about the snacks!
Teacher Ginny Mongar gives her second graders a choice of two snacks and asks them to make campaign posters to convince their friends to choose the snack they like the best. Then her class holds an anonymous vote with ballots, and Ginny brings in the snack with the most votes. Teacher Tammy Hartford says, “We vote and elect pizza or chicken nuggets for our Thanksgiving feast. My little people can’t read, so we use pictures. We also voted for drinks, desserts, and sides so that hopefully at least one of each child’s favorites wins.”
5. Involve the entire school
“We divide the school into voting districts,” says teacher Sharon Clarke, “and compete for who can get the most students to vote. We follow the national elections and listen to speeches by the candidates and some debates.”
6. Teach voting rights with creative poster designs
Engage your students in a creative poster project that promotes the importance of voting for all U.S. adult citizens. Look for inspiration from these modern and vintage poster designs on Pinterest. While students are working on their poster designs, talk about women’s suffrage (1920) and the historical events that led to black voting rights (1965). Consider allowing the class to vote on the posters they think are the most effective. Which is the most visually appealing? Which has the best message?
7. Watch videos about the election process
There are a lot of confusing words and concepts involved in our election process. A good first step is to teach students the basic vocabulary. Teacher Meghan Ginley uses this video on YouTube that explains how a caucus works using LEGO. Also check out these other videos that explain the election process for kids!
8. Read books about the election
Along with knowing how presidential elections work, it’s important to know the history behind our election process. How did elections begin? Is everyone allowed to vote? What is the electoral college? Explaining it all can be tricky. Whether you’re tackling the topic online or in person, here are 18 books about elections for kids to enhance your lesson.
9. Create constitutional crossword clues
One of the most important things for history students to understand is how the constitution protects the rights of all U.S. citizens. Once you’ve finished your lesson on the U.S. Constitution, test their knowledge with a crossword puzzle that you create with grade-level words and clues. There are many free crossword puzzle makers including Puzzle-Maker.com and The Teacher’s Corner.
10. Learn about the Three-Headed Eagle
What is the three-headed eagle? Just toss that question out there and have students research the answer for extra credit. Let students know that asking an adult for help on this one is OK, and the grown-ups might learn something too!
What are your favorite ways to teach the presidential election? Share in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE Facebook Group.
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