Considerations for Teaching During An Election
By Sarah Hurd & Natalie Schaefer
As we enter the 2020 US Election, we wanted to provide some resources and guidelines regarding teaching during an election year. We want our graduates to be able to express an understanding of civic participation and the rights and responsibilities of a citizen, and learning about elections is an excellent and authentic application. National and local elections provide a prime opportunity for teaching a variety of social studies concepts as well as Jeffco Generations Skills. These include: the Democratic process, civic engagement, civic participation, media literacy, evaluating sources, identifying bias, and the voting process. At the same time, even well intentioned lessons may unintentionally create arguments or name calling, community divisions in the classroom, unsafe feelings or feelings of insecurity in the classroom, or make it appear that the teacher or school are attempting to collect personal information from students and families regarding political opinions or perspectives. Our goal is to provide some resources for embedding the election into classroom lessons and reiterate district parameters about election behaviors for district employees.
The first set of resources we would like to highlight are aligned with the Jeffco Generation Skills of Civic & Global Engagement and Self-Direction & Personal Responsibility. We included these scales because the targets are universal for all students, it is the sophistication and activity to demonstrate each skill that is different from grade level to grade level. We selected these two scales because they highlight key skills such as students participating effectively in civic life and taking ownership of personal actions, upholding a high standard of behavior. During elections, both of these skills are important for students to see and practice.
The next set of resource ideas come from a trio of trusted organizations.
Facing History and Ourselves has put together a resource titled: Teaching Resources for the 2020 US Election. Their resources include Teaching Ideas to explore election news and related history and Explainers to introduce key terms and concepts. These resources and activities can be used for all or part of a class period. Also available are classroom routines and guides geared towards community-building and fostering inclusive, constructive discourse among your students in both remote and in-person settings. And finally, they also have online professional development, including webinars and workshops focused on teaching during an election year and how to build connections between history, curriculum, and students' everyday lives. We find their site to be well organized and easy to navigate to specific lessons and routines.
iCivics has created their set of Curriculum & Teaching Resources for elections. This site offers a plethora of choices for teachers and students to engage in. These range from games to lesson plans to webquests. A free login is required to access much of their content and can be time consuming to sift and sort through. One place to consider starting is a blog post titled The Top 5 iCivics Election Teaching Tools to Explore. If you are thinking about doing a mock election, this is a lesson option from iCivics that focuses on students supporting, campaigning, and voting for class policies to learn about the election process. iCivics also has several “games” available in Spanish, such as Win the Whitehouse and Cast your Vote.
And Teaching Tolerance has published their collection of resources organized by the themes Countering Bias, Civic Activities, Getting Along and How To that offers a range of resources for engaging students on some of our most pressing societal issues in their Voting and Elections | Resources for a Civil Classroom. Again, this site offers a plethora of choices. The Civic Activities portion offers options such as stories from Rock the Vote to Do Something tasks for all grade levels to build civic engagement awareness. There is also a portion under How To for school administers.
Teachers may also want to think forward and provide some answers to possible student questions or concerns before they arise . One example of a lesson to consider is Contentious Elections And The Peaceful Transition Of Power from the Bill of Rights Institute. Another option could be The Election is Over... Now What? from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
Overall, we thank you for your interest in building civically-minded students, we know it is important and sometimes intimidating. We would like to end this post with some District reminders about engaging in the political process as an employee.
Curriculum & Instruction