If you held a mock election with your class this year, please do me a favor and promise me you'll hold a class election next year too. Teaching about voting and the election process is not a lesson we teach once every four years. Instead, we should use this lesson as a catalyst for further civic growth. Our approach to civic education should be multifaceted, and I want to share several tips for what to do next.
Teach the history of voting from different voices and perspectives
If you held a mock election, but haven't yet discussed the history of voting rights in America, I urge you to take time to teach the history behind voting in our country. Our students need to understand different experiences and perspectives when it comes to our nation's history. For example, when discussing the women's suffrage movement, does your textbook or lesson only focus on white women suffragists? If so, ask yourself "who's voice is missing?" We should be sure that we are providing our students with an accurate account of history that includes many different voices and experiences. Picture books can be a helpful way to do this with our elementary students. Picture books are great for big kids too. Check out this list of 12 pictures books that are helpful when teaching about elections and the history of voting.
Teach Good Citizenship and Civic Involvement
I've often heard that elementary teachers don't really need to worry much about teaching civics, because our students aren't old enough to vote, and they'll just learn all about this in high school. We cannot wait until our students are juniors and seniors in high school to begin teaching civics. Our students deserve a high-quality civics education every year because civic growth happens over time.
If you teach students not yet old enough to vote, our students can still play an important role in our democracy. Here are some things your students can do:
- Write letters to a local or state elected official about an issue that is of importance to them
- Advocate for change and join a cause
- Students can volunteer their time and participate in service-learning
- Students can share their knowledge with others
Hold a Mock Election Every Single Year (or even later this year!)
If you held a mock election for the first time, or maybe the last time you did an in-class election was four years ago, I urge you to do this lesson every.single.year. If you didn't have time to do mock election during the presidential election, there's still time this year. There are local and state elections still to come. The process of voting is used in local boards and organizations as well. So please, don't put your ballot box in storage and forget about it.
Simulations of democratic processes and procedures are a proven practice of effective civic learning. When we hold simulations like an in-class election, our students are more likely to pay attention to the media, they are more likely to have discussions at home, and they are more likely to vote as adults. Our role as educators to teach civic education is vital to our democracy.
Looking for some helpful resources? Check these out: