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Teaching About Voting and Elections

Teaching About Voting and Elections

To help teachers, counselors, and administrators develop an environment that supports civil discourse and supports a positive climate, SDCOE has gathered resources that can be used to discuss topics related to elections.

By creating classrooms that support civil discourse on current issues and events, students learn how to be engaged citizens now and through adulthood. One of the Six Proven Practices of Civic Learning is to provide opportunities for “discussion of current local, national, and international issues and events in the classroom, particularly those that young people view as important to their lives.” According to the National Center for Learning and Civic Engagement, by providing opportunities, educators allow students to “learn how to engage productively with the issues and events that animate our political system today and will continue to do so in the future.” 

Find professional learning opportunities to encourage civil discourse throughout the year on SDCOE's History-Social Science webpage

Promoting Civil Discourse

Recent elections have evoked high levels of emotion from students and sometimes created extreme discord in the class. Therefore, educators should ensure that they have created an environment that supports civil discourse.

Teaching Resources for Leading Up to Elections

Below are resources that educators can use to teach about voting and elections. They are provided for informational purposes only. Educators should review them thoroughly and determine their appropriateness for their students.

For young children

Lesson Plans

Voter Information/Voter Outreach

Current Events and Media Literacy

Additional Resources

Equity Resources

To help district and school leaders develop an environment that supports civil discourse and supports a positive climate, SDCOE teams put together these resources with an equity lens that can be used to discuss polarized topics.

Considerations

  • Consider the vision and values of our school and help each member of the school community stay grounded in our collective purpose as we navigate challenging times.
  • Consider engaging staff and students in a dialogue about the importance of being a community- What does community look and sound like? 
  • Consider the roles of school staff in supporting students and community in challenging times.
  • Consider how to support staff and students in developing effective ways to respectfully communicate and express one’s perspective in ways that align to our school values
  • Consider what is appropriate and not appropriate freedom of speech: 
    • The roles of school employees  during work hours (Review district policies and procedures for specific guidelines. Seek guidance from Human Resources.) 
    • Students’ freedom of speech rights - What is appropriate in a classroom setting and how to establish an environment that supports civil discourse? 
  • Consider how to support staff and students in developing the ability to reflect, to become aware, and to name the ways in which individuals respond to stress, fears, threats, and uncertainties
  • Consider how to help staff and students explore their fears, while managing social and emotional needs

Guiding Questions for School Leaders

  • How will we message our collective vision, values and commitments to help our school community stay grounded throughout the next few weeks/months? 
  • How will we engage stakeholders in this discussion? 
  • What might be the different perspectives among stakeholders? What potential conflicts may arise among individuals?
  • How do we differentiate readiness levels for teachers in addressing the topics such as the election, the pandemic, racism, and social justice?
  • What communication vehicles are available to reach different audiences (students, parents, staff, community members)?
  • What district documents, policies, and processes are established to support our election response?
  • What in-house resources and supports do we have available to respond to students, staff, and families in crisis?
  • How do we differentiate age-appropriate messaging for student groups?
  • What potential fears of staff, students, and families do we need to prepare to address? 
  • What are my fears? What resources and support do I need? 

Taking Action

  • Communicate with staff, students, and families the recognition and value that a community is made up of a group of people with variation in perspectives and opinions by holding space for healing dialogue.
  • Administrators coordinate staff calibration on classroom expectations and practices 
  • Teachers set respectful tone and dialogue in their classroom expectations and practices  
  • Share resources with staff and families
  • Identify and communicate accessibility for support and questions, such as office hours, electronic communication, staffed phone numbers 

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