With the election approaching, our school is using the campaign to teach a variety of skills. The entire school is going red, white, and blue teaching students about civics, elections, math, and more. Our math professional learning team decided this is the perfect time to incorporate math into our everyday work. As a school, we focus on American history and civic responsibilities, so we are creatively decorating the halls with interactive and informative displays of election-related student work and other election materials. It can be tricky to navigate the political waters without raising tensions, so many of our ideas take the national issues to the school level. I’ve asked my amazing co-workers to share their activities, and they have come through! Here is a list of election-based activities going on throughout the school to inspire you this election season.
Teaching students that there are two sides to every issue, 3rd grade teacher Tiffany Miller is creating a pro and con bulletin board where students have written to support their side of a platform issue. Keeping it student-friendly, they are focused on the school uniform issue. Should students wear them or not? The best argument gets a “vote” on the board. It visually illustrates what a solid platform can do for a candidate while keeping hotbed issues out of the classroom.
Taking Scholastic’s class constitution idea to the next level, the 3rd grade created a Cooperative Learning Bill of Rights. We aren’t changing the founding fathers’ ideas, but we are using their format to make documents that govern our classroom. Students learn about the process and the ideas behind our government while directing their own behavior and expectations. What rights can your students expect to have in your room? Students learn ownership when they’ve helped develop the class constitution. For another look at creating a class constitution, please check out fellow blogger Alycia Zimmerman's post.
One focus of the common core is being able to use mathematics in practical situations. How better to tie math to real life than through the political arena?
Mrs. Harris’s 2nd grade took the ages former presidents were when they were elected and used them to order and compare. After displaying their number sentences, she attached clothespins and a set of number cards on the bottom of the bulletin board so other classes can learn with their interactive display. Using the same idea, another display has an election timeline to put events in order, combining reading and math skills. Older students in Mrs. George’s 3rd grade and Mrs. Jackson’s 4th grade used election information in open-ended math questions. Print them out to try with your mathematicians!
An election isn’t complete without voting. Students in Mrs. Laubenthaul’s kindergarten class and Mrs. Singleton’s 1st grade are comparing votes for their favorite presidential book. They have used My Teacher for President, Grace for President, Otto Runs for President, and Duck for President, which are all appropriate for younger students, but engaging enough to teach election basics. Mrs. Lowe has the 4th and 5th grades doing an ice cream election complete with nominations and ballot boxes.
Throughout the school, teachers have used election word walls to create displays in their rooms, to use with writing, or as interactive displays. Mrs. Anez displayed election vocabulary words with her prewriting that students used to develop narrative papers. In the 3rd grade hall, students can match words and definitions from Weekly Reader on a strip of clothespins. A nearby poster helps students discover new vocabulary. Students in 1st and 2nd grade posted pictures and words to match on an interactive bulletin board. All of the words are incorporated into other lessons, adding value to the displays.
Using the Scholastic News election site, Mrs. Amick took 4th and 5th graders to the computer lab. They researched information and then synthesized it into their own writing. They were able to use those higher order thinking and writing skills while engaging in technology, civics, and writing! Students in Mrs. Irby’s class wrote about the oil and ice drilling platform and then used energy facts to create graphs. Students at all levels, from 1st grade to 5th grade, wrote persuasive paragraphs or essays about why they should be president.
The 4th grade read So You Want to Be President before writing narrative papers about the adventures they had when they were suddenly put in the Oval Office for a day. Using facts learned on Scholastic News and Time for Kids, students in my class made biography wheels about each of the presidential candidates. They filled in sections on octagons and laid a paper over the top so that only one section was available at a time. The spinners were fun for students, who didn’t even realize they were conducting research and writing information pieces.
Of course, there is a cute factor for any elementary event. Kindergartners will be sporting “I voted” necklaces on Election Day made from die-cut blue and red stars. Each student will practice name-writing skills with their name, writing, for example, “Samantha Voted!” United We Stand wreaths made of red, white, and blue handprints adorn the hall, and flags are waving proudly.
What are you doing to get students excited about the election?