how to teach about elections without hosting a popularity contest

 

With the election season in full swing, I thought I’d share some ideas for teaching class elections. It seems that class elections often turn into popularity contests and can end up with hurt feelings, which is tough for the little ones. Here are some ways you can teach the election process without actually voting for class president.

  1. Book Character Class Election—Each student chooses a book character that has good leadership qualities.
  2. Class Mascot Election—Each student chooses an animal, character, or stuffed toy to represent the class.
  3. Cereal Class Election—Each student chooses a cereal and uses descriptive adjectives to persuade others to vote for that cereal.
  4. Historical President Election—For older students, have everyone choose a former President, research the president, and campaign as that president.

With these activities, you can do as much or as little of the election process as you choose depending on your time constraints and your students. Here is generally how I would run a class election. The whole process would take a week or two depending on how deep we got into it.

  • Divide the class into two political parties. Let them work together to decide a name and symbol for the party.
  • Have students write a speech for their character, mascot, cereal, or President, and share the speech with their political party.
  • Hold a Primary Election, where they vote within the party for one candidate to represent their party.
  • The chosen candidate will get to choose a running mate from within the party. (I did this with fifth graders running as historical presidents. One year I had Thomas Jefferson and Ronald Reagan running against FDR and James Garfield. Go figure.)
  • The candidate and his/her running mate will work on speeches to present to the class.
  • Everyone else in the political party will work on campaign advertising for their candidate. Everyone is responsible for making a poster, sign, flier, buttons, commercial, or some other form of advertising.
  • You can hold a debate if you choose if you are working with older students.
  • Have the candidates give their speeches.
  • Hold a class election.

Students still learn about the process in a fun, new way, without feeling like others don’t like them. Have fun with elections!

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4 Responses to how to teach about elections without hosting a popularity contest

  1. Jayme A says:

    I love these ideas… I have been trying to think about different things that I can do to help my students learn about the election these are GREAT ideas. This is a great way for the students to get involved and still learn the concept of elections. I feel that this has so many different subjects involved in one such as art, social studies, reading, and math I love it!! Thank you for helping me with some ideas for my classroom coming up in the beginning of November.

  2. Glad you found these helpful. Have fun with the elections!

  3. Erin says:

    Thank you for these suggestions! I like how they tie literacy into such an important event happening in our country. They will be easy to implement in any grade level. I plan on using them with my first graders this year. I especially like the idea to have a book character election. I wonder who my students would choose and why. Thanks again!

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