5 Big Ideas for Teaching & Learning During this Election Season

Idea 1: Take some time to reflect on your role in helping students navigate these times.

  • PD Café: Reflect on your role as a faculty member in challenging class conversations with these professional development questions/activities from the Fall 2016 issue of Teaching Tolerance .
  • Teach 2016: This feature from the Fall 2016 issue of Teaching Tolerance addresses five common questions and concerns educators have about teaching the election. 
  • Political Discussion Belongs in Our Classroom: Read about one teacher’s belief that classrooms should be a safe space for expressing political opinions. (all grades)
  • Shifting Out of Neutral: A history teacher discusses leaving the struggle for objectivity behind and encouraging students to consider multiple perspectives. (all grades)
  • Join the Heterodox Academy, a group of educators, administrators, and graduate students who believe diverse viewpoints and open inquiry are critical to research and learning.  Explore their tools and resources here. (While this is mostly directed to faculty in higher education, you may find much useful in your own practice.)
  • Check out this piece “Vote of Confidence: When it Comes to Teaching the 2020 Election, Educators Have a Plan”

Idea 2:  Help youth understand the election process. 

  • Center for Civic Education (bit.ly/3eFWd64, K-12) offers lesson plans on voting and presidential elections.
  • iCivics (K-12) has curriculum units and lesson plans on topics including citizenship and participation, the electoral process, voting by mail, and primaries, parties, caucuses, and conventions. Also games: “Cast Your Vote” and “Win the White House.” iCivics produced new material specifically for the 2020 election  and offers remote learning strategies and resources.
  • Library of Congress (LOC) Elections…the American Way (Grades 5-12) provides information about the election process, right to vote, and past presidential campaigns. Another LOC page (Grades 3-12) offers election-related lesson plans created by teachers.
  • The National Education Association (PreK-Grade 12) offers lessons, activities, and resources.
  • The Anti-Defamation League elections resource (Grades 6-12) includes a social justice approach to teaching about elections, a guide to debate watching, strategies for handling difficult topics and conversations, and teaching about the inauguration.
  • PBS LearningMedia Election Central (Grades 6-12) helps teachers and students keep up with election news and learn the history and process of presidential elections, with videos, activities, and lesson plans.
  • PebbleGo Vote (K-Grade 2) will be live in mid-September with lessons about democracy and voting and a platform for students to vote for president in a mock election that begins in October and ends on Election Day. This resource will be available for anyone, not just subscribers. PebbleGo also provides a Voting in Democracy lesson and activity (bit.ly/3eIrs0u).
  • Scholastic Election 2020 (Grade 3-12) has articles, teacher resources, quizzes, activities, candidate bios, and the Scholastic Student Vote, which allows kids to cast their ballots for president.

Idea 3: Foster respectful class conversations.

Idea 4:  Provide tools for students to interrogate their own deeply-held beliefs.

Idea 5: Empower students to be active citizens to make the world better.

  • Dosomething.org: An organization that supports the work of young people who want to make a difference in their world.
  • Educational Video Center: Teachers youth the skills of documentary filmmaking to tell stories about issues that matter to them. 
  • Voting in Your Town:  This action-based task includes teacher instructions, student handouts and a rubric. (middle and high school)
  • Rock the Vote:  This story from the Fall 2016 issue of Teaching Tolerance explains how teachers can involve students in the democratic process—even under the age of 18. (high school)
  •  The Young and the Registered: This story profiles organizations dedicated to voter registration and mobilization and discusses how to inspire the next generation of voters. Includes a related webinar. (high school)
  • Do Something Tasks: Do Something performance tasks allow students to build civic engagement awareness and demonstrate their critical literacy skills. (all grades)
  • Selma: The Bridge to the Ballot  Viewer’s Guide: Included with the Selma film kit, this viewer’s guide provides background information, discussion questions and lessons. (middle and high school)
  • Rock the Vote’s Democracy Class: This interactive lesson plan includes a mock election exercise to equip young people with the skills they need to navigate the political process. (middle and high school)
  • League of Women Voter’s Voter Registration Training: This manual includes a step-by-step guide to help you develop successful high school voter registration programs. (high school)
  • Campus Vote Project’s Student Guides: With this interactive map of the United States, students can see state-specific guides on how to register and cast a ballot. (high school and higher education)
  • The New Deciders: This episode of America by the Numbers with Maria Hinojosa explores the voting power of four demographic groups: black millennials, Arab Americans, Latino evangelicals and Asian Americans. The accompanying lesson urges students to research and support voting in their communities. (grades 6-12)
  • Speak Up At School: This guide offers advice about how to respond to biased remarks and provides guidance for helping students learn to speak up as well. Check out the related webinar. (all grades)
  • The News Literacy Project: Help students become informed citizens with these educational resources created by teachers and seasoned journalists. (middle and high school)
  • OER Commons Election and Voting Teacher Resources (K-12) has a future voter toolkit, curated lesson plans, and classroom materials.

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