Instructor magazine: Election activities for your classroom
By Guest Blogger on October 18th, 2012
A regular guest blogger on OOM, Tara Welty is Editor of Scholastic Instructor magazine. Here she gives you a preview of the Fall 2012 issue, and shares some election-related activities for teachers to use in the classroom. Thanks, Tara!
At this point in the election cycle, it can be easy for us as adults to feel campaign fatigue and, yes, even a bit cynical (especially for those of us who live in swing states airing constant attack ads). But for kids, the presidential election offers endless learning opportunities—from building research and critical thinking skills to understanding how our government works and developing a lifelong sense of civic responsibility.
In the new issue of Instructor magazine, we’ve got a great collection of election-themed activities that you can use at different grade levels. I’ve posted some favorites below, but you can check out the full list here.
GRILLING A POL
Children make great interviewers, says Paula Rogovin, a first-grade teacher in New York City and author of the book Classroom Interviews. In fact, they never stop asking questions! Take advantage by having your class interview an elected official.
The Setup: Ask your students what they already know about elections. Then ask how they know what they know. Inevitably, someone’s aunt is on the local school board or knows an elected official, says Rogovin. Your students are your best source for finding an interviewee. Beforehand, give the class a chance to rehearse. Say, “Tomorrow we’ll be interviewing a city council-woman. Talk to the person next to you about the questions you want to ask our guest about her job and how she got elected.”
Main Event: Remember: The kids should be doing the asking. Occasionally you might translate a question from “first-gradese,” or suggest a question for someone who’s having trouble formulating one. Students should be taking notes, using pictures or words. Pause the interview occasionally to give them an opportunity to record their impressions.
Going Further: Compile students’ notes to create an interview book for their families.
DEBATE THE ISSUES
Students will hear the spin about the candidates at home or on TV. At school, have them practice civil debate.
The Setup: Divide the class into three groups—two will represent the candidates and one the moderator. The candidates will research their positions on various topics, such as taxes, health care, and education. The moderators will prepare questions and set the rules for the debate.
The Debate: Students in each group should take turns playing the roles of candidate and moderator. If one speaker gets stuck, he or she can “tag” a teammate to jump in.
Going Further: Students can participate in a mock election, with voting booths and secret ballots. Don’t worry if the results fall along partisan lines—your “independent” moderators have the opportunity to swing the vote!
CONGRESS AT WORK
Convene the class as a congressional committee to draft a law that solves a local or national problem. Deliberation on the pros and cons of various policy options can get kids past their initial assumptions and put them in other people’s shoes, says Epstein. “That’s an important critical thinking skill in general.”
The Setup: Explain that Congress drafts laws in committees (visit house.gov/committees for a full list, and to learn more about how they operate). Find an authentic issue your class wants to tackle, and schedule a working session of the appropriate House committee.
Research: Guide students toward coverage in the national press and to relevant policy groups. Also, the National Issues Forum (nifi.org) has compiled material on scores of issues designed to stimulate deliberation.
Deliberate: Students should talk through the pros and cons of various legislative possibilities. See which ideas are gaining the most support. Then hammer out a compromise bill that’s acceptable to a majority of the committee. End with a vote. If the bill passes, tell the class that it will then proceed to the entire House for further deliberation (and compromise)!
Going Further: The Center for Civic Education’s Project Citizen can help your class put its policy solutions to work in the real world.
Posted: October 18th, 2012 under Education. .