Every year when I teach my government class my students are super excited to learn about voting in America. I teach them about the voting process and how important it is to our democracy through this voting lesson.
I can’t think of a better way to get them civically engaged than to teach my students about the importance of voting, reasons why people do and do not cast their ballots, why low voter turnout is a problem, and how voting is essential to our democracy.
Text a Friend or Family Member
I start the lesson with them opening up a text message, which intrigues and excites them right from the start. I ask them to send a text to someone over the age of 18 who will respond and not be annoyed. Their task is to ask a family member or friend, “Did you vote in the last election? Why or why not?” I then have them flip their phones over and ignore them until the end of the lesson.
Four Corner Demographics of Voters
Next, I have them respond to my prompt, ” Is low voter turnout a problem?” This begins an interesting discussion about why voting is crucial to our democracy.
Before class, I hang signs about race, age, socioeconomic status, and college degrees in the four corners of the room. I then ask them to speculate on which race votes more, based on voter turnout, and they go to the appropriate corner depending on the group they choose. We have an amazing discussion with students standing in all four corners trying to defend why they think their chosen category votes more. When I reveal the answer, they are often shocked and this usually generates even more lively conversation. We do the same for college degree, income, and age. This activity works so well and really gets them discussing demographics and why people vote.
They analyze two low voter turnout political cartoons to continue the conversation. We discuss the main factors of why people vote and the reasons for low turnout in the United States. We explore the reasons voting has declined, why voting is higher in presidential elections than in midterms, the National Voter Registration Act, and the amendments that deal with voting.
I conclude the lesson with a video about the importance of voting and finally, they share the text messages they received from family which brings the real world into the classroom. I love incorporating parents into the lesson in this simple way. I also love that I know my students’ parents will probably discuss the lesson at dinner.
Registering them to Vote
The next day I have a guest speaker come in to talk about the importance of voting in local elections and how one vote can make a huge difference. We then register them to vote if they want to with the official voter registration form. I save the registration forms until January 1st of the year they turn 18 and then mail them in, which is allowed in New York State.
Once they register to vote I have them complete the statement “I’m registering to vote because….” I then have them take their responses and hang them around the school. It makes a great lesson to raise civic engagement and awareness in our community.
“Awesome resource! Highly recommend” – Catrina C
“Looks great! Can’t wait to use in class!” – Aaron W
You may also want to check out my George Washington Stations Lesson Blog Post!