Remember the sound of the lever when you went with your parents to vote, that long line at the polling place, and the excitement you felt about voting? Bring it back and bring it back in a big way for all of your students! Read on for my favorite online and offline resources for young critical thinkers ready to participate in the democratic process.
Grab heavy card stock in patriotic colors and print voter registration cards at Kids Voting USA or Enchanted Learning. Laminate, hole punch, and string those cards for your youngest voters. Also check out Kids Voting USA for fabulous registration and voting simulation lesson plans. The site has badges and a polling place diagram for voter clerks, judges, inspectors, and marshals. To find out what is needed in your state to register to vote, or to learn where to vote, see Rock the Vote.
Forget cutting up those little ballots this election year and check out MicroPoll (free for all) or Poll Everywhere (free for one teacher and 40 students). Both sites are very simple and provide instant answers; however, with Poll Everywhere kids get to text their vote for president from their mobile device or your computers as shown in their video.
Their Vote Is Their Business!
Avoid polling place bullies by explaining that your classroom polling place is an electioneering-free zone. Each child, whether voting for peanut butter or jelly, or Mitt Romney or Barack Obama, has a right to cast her or his vote free of “political” pressure or discussion. To make privacy a priority, place each iPad, laptop, or voting device on a desk flanked by a voting curtain (aka cheap shower curtain). Use 3M removable adhesive hooks to hang white shower curtains from school ceilings. Gussy up curtains with small American flags, clusters of red, white, and blue balloons, and patriotic bunting or bows.
Give Them Something to Talk About
Make sure your children are sharing their thoughts with parents and other family members: send home Scholastic’s "A Parent's Guide to the Election: How to Educate, Inform, and Inspire Kids About the Meaning of Presidential Elections." Provide a list of nonpartisan favorites for families such as Ellen Christelow’s Vote!, Grace for President, Duck for President, and The Class Election from the Black Lagoon. And if you dare, provide a disclaimer and a list of partisan favorites such as Mama Voted for Obama, Why Daddy Is a Republican, or Why Mommy Is a Democrat. (The fact that these books exist is reason enough for a family discussion.)
I’m loving Russell Simmons in BrainPOP’s animated short “Voting.” Check out BrainPOP and BrainPOP Jr for digital flicks about "rights and responsibilities," "democracy," and "women’s suffrage," and their accompanying quizzes and games. At PBS’s Democracy Project, your youngest students can print "Meet the Candidates" posters, step inside a voting time machine, be president for a day, or create campaign stickers and posters. See Scholastic for great home-movie-style slide shows about each candidate, games, and news for kids written by kids. See Time For Kids' "Understanding the Issues" to assist older elementary students before the last debate. And don’t miss iCivics for a bevy of educational games for older elementary students, including Win the Whitehouse!
Got your students running for class positions? Let your youngest candidates create six-word stump speeches for the National Constitution Center. For older students eager to create campaign commercials, make sure your class carefully watches and critiques The Living Room Candidate. This collection of presidential campaign commercials from the Museum of the Moving Image will make them laugh, ready to inspire others, and tune in to the power of the media in presidential campaigns.
Are you participating in the National Mock Election? Got a great election resource? How are you getting your students ready for active participation in our democracy? Please share!