Teaching about the election can be an interesting process. Of course the best way is to hold a mock election, or even better, a school election with children running for various offices. As with all curricular areas, experiencing the learning by participation cements the concepts.
Other ideas for teaching about the election include:
For Kindergarten and Grade 1
Read a book about an election and discuss the elements of election. Books I choose to use are “Duck for President” by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin (2004) and “My Teacher for President” by Kay Winters and Denise Brunkus (2008.)
After discussing the election process we make campaign posters. Students use a drawing program on the computer (I use KidPix) and type “Vote for ______” in huge letters. They add decorations to complete the poster. We print in color and staple to construction paper. Hanging this campaign poster on their bedroom doors will remind them of what they learned about the election.
For Grades 2 and 3
I read an election book such as “Pete for President” by Daisy Alberto (2004). We discuss election procedures but also emphasize telling the truth during the election process. During the story there is a page where there is a debate. I stop the story, have two kids join me up front, and simulate a debate. Sometimes I even tell one of the students to make outlandish claims about what he or she would do if they were to win. We finish reading the book and then discuss ways that students can improve the school.
The second graders make campaign posters just like the younger students but they add four ways they can make the school/world a better place. Examples might be: Eliminate bullies from the playground, Pick up Litter on the Playground, Be Nice to All People, Help Raise Money for New Library Books, etc.
In Grades 3 through 5
As the children get older I begin to teach about the electoral college. The best book I’ve found for this is “Grace for President” by Kelly Dipucchio and Leuyen Pham (2008.) After reading this story I send the students to explore an online simulation game at the Scholastic News website.
Grade 6: By the time students are in grade 6 they are ready to explore the issues of the candidates. To do this I ask the students to choose six issues to research on the websites of the candidates. The information that they gather can be presented in any manner; for instance, a 2-column display comparing the issues or using an organizing software such as Inspiration to create a web of information.
Overall, the more concrete examples you can give to students about the election will assist them in learning about the process that we embrace within our country.
For more information, samples, and a list of websites, download a free packet of Election materials at [http://technologylessonsforteachers.com]
Kathy Cothran is an elementary media specialist committed to helping teachers turn toys into learning tools. Her vast teaching experience ranges from preschool through Master’s level education classes.