Today’s Current Event: Your Voice, Your Vote
Understanding our civic responsibility and right to vote is vital to a democratic republic. Teaching our students at the earliest ages about voting and using their voice prepares them to see each person as a valued member of society with an equal vote and an important voice.
By election time, even if your students are not of voting age, they still have the power to learn about reliable facts, influence without anger, and share their valued voice! The resources below give you the support you need to lead conversations, activities, and lessons about voting, civic participation, and the power of voice and choice.
- Why does voting make a difference in the United States?
- Why do some people choose not to vote? What might be different if everyone voted? What age groups are voting and which aren't?
- How do you think your words, values, and actions can impact your community, even if you cannot vote?
- What is the role of youth in leading change?
- What is a situation in which we must put our responsibility to the greater good ahead of our own wants?
- How do we distinguish truth from rhetoric when understanding issues and politicians?
- What can we learn from past elections about process and content? Looking at history can remove some of the emotion and bias from the learning.
Voting and Civic Engagement by Grade
Get Out The Vote: A Simple Safe Service project from home! Learn about the importance of voting and civic engagement and take action to increase voter turnout in elections.
At this age, we can have conversations about rights and responsibilities, the history of our Constitution, and democratic processes at the classroom and community level.
- We Have Rights (Grade K, 1, 2) The language in the Bill of Rights is difficult for primary students, so this lesson introduces some simple rights and expectations of all Americans.
- We the People (Grade 3, 4, 5) Students will learn that in the US, the people hold the power.
- To Vote or Not to Vote: That is the Question (Grade 3, 4, 5) Students discuss the important of voting and encourage voters to go to the polls.
We can let our middle schoolers know we believe they can make responsible decisions and trust them with seeking knowledge and expressing personal views. This is a time to teach about the roles of different elected officials. It is helpful to research what a president or city council member does, the process of elections and appointments to positions of authority, and the role of advocates and noprofits in speaking for issues.
- Making Our Voices Heard (Grade 6, 7, 8): Raise students' awareness of the importance of freedom of speech and the opportunity to voice one's opinion without fear of reprisal, as principles basic to a democracy. The learners investigate ways to have a positive influence in encouraging eligible voters to make their voices heard at the polls during elections and/or referendums.
- Provide homework for families to review voter guides, investigate who is running at the local level and what they stand for, and discuss ballot measures.
High schoolers can be challenged to do a project in which they exercise a first amendment right. This may be through a march, a petition, attending a religious or school board meeting, and asking for change with their research and words.
Give them the tools to evaluate news for bias. There are good teaching tools for investigating any issue and seeking the truth. Allsides; Newsfeed Defenders; The Flipside; and Standford History Education Group
- Voting and the Common Good Students examine voter turnout statistics and demographic breakdowns, speculate about the reasons for demographic differences and propose messaging to stimulate better turnout.
- Launching Your Ship with Citizenship (Grade 9, 10, 11, 12): In this 4-lesson unit, students describe the characteristics of a good citizen relative to democracy and become familiar with the fundamental principles of American society, including rights and responsibilities.
Election and Voting Resources
- Voting Toolkit: This K-12 toolkit includes a set of lessons, service project ideas, and resources that are designed to spark ideas for actions related to raising awareness of the importance of voting.
- Civic Participation Toolkit: This K-12 toolkit contains lesson plans and resources on a variety of civic participation-related issues—from examination of historical events to documents to actions students can take. These lessons and projects teach the strategies, rights, and responsibilities of citizenship.
- Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (@Tufts University) researches voting and engagement of young people. This excellent site contains a wealth of data to share with students.
- Philanthropy and the Government: This video clip and discussion guide focused on that fact that in all countries there is a balance of what needs are addressed by government, by business, and the nonprofit sector. In the U.S. because of the good philanthropy does for all, there are tax benefits for nonprofits and for people who donate to philanthropy.
- ADL: Fighting Hate for Good: 9 Ways to Teach About the Election includes resources to help you teach about how campaigns and elections are ripe with opportunity to discuss government, the electoral process, civics and history as well as the myriad of specific issues that are important to the public during any particular year, whether it’s a local or presidential election.
- The League of Women Voters encourages youth of voting age to vote with this virtual voting registration guide.
- iCivics has a set of election resources, including games that teach about the process and the power of their vote. This Students Power Elections guide helps young people understand the process and what is on the ballot.
- Understanding Advocacy and Action: In this video we provide examples of the power of advocacy and action. By incorporating and infusing philanthropy education and service-learning into regular curriculum students learn there are many ways to make a difference; and that they have the strength and power to give time, talent, or treasure for the common good.
- Six Proven Practices in Civic Education: Building a civil society is the foundation of our country and an education that values all its citizens.
- Zinn Education Project: History lessons and teaching materials that emphasize the role of working people, women, people of color, and organized social movements in shaping history.
- Hands-On Art for Social Justice by Favianna Rodriguez
Social Justice – Listening and Action
Excerpt: June 2020 letter from the Executive Director
“As teachers and nonprofit organizations, we are fortunate to be in a position as positive change agents. We are trusted voices to support community healing. Learning to Give is committed to promoting dialogue and skills for you to help young people consider their role in promoting a more just and equitable society. We are all in this together, and together we will build a future that prioritizes social justice and progress.”
Three Resource Guides, organized by grade spans, include lessons and activities to build community even when we are not in person. We have a rich tradition of social action and citizenship in our country. In a time of crisis, we look to generosity to guide our next steps for more conversation. The guided facilitation takes learners through a journey of empathy, making decisions, taking voluntary action, and finally telling our own stories to make a better world.
Here is a list we curated with additional support:
- Think critically about racism, whiteness, and class with lessons and activities from Showing Up For Social Justice.
- Talking to your kids about racism can be tough. Here are some books to help support conversations about race, racism, and resistance: 31 Children's Books
- Use this list of anti-racism resources curated by Sarah Sophie Flicker and Alyssa Klein: bit.ly/ANTIRACISMRESOURCES
- The lesson plans and service-learning project ideas in this toolkit relate to Justice, Civil Rights, and Advocacy. This step-by-step guide helps teachers and parents to teach the background of justice and advocacy. It provides local and online community resources, and sparks ideas for actions related to advocacy, justice, and civil rights.
Additional Teaching Resources
Find tips and resources about addressing challenging issues in the classroom. Follow these guidelines to establish a safe environment, promote respectful dialogue, back up arguments with facts, and talk about news and current events with students: Difficult Conversations
Help your students evaluate the roles of media, bias, facts, and critical thinking related to current events and controversial topics: Media Literacy Tips