Does Voting Matter?

Experiencing the effects of voting

Teacher's guide

Overall description

This activity is designed for a social studies, politics, civics or citizenship class.

In this activity, students explore how much they care about decisions that are made by the federal government and how much voting matters to them. Students then engage in a series of voting simulations where they can see in a fun and engaging way how voter turnout affects choices and decisions. Finally, they view a consolidation video and reconsider their response to the question “Does voting matter?”

 

Time needed

60 minutes 

 

Big idea

In every election, whether voter turnout is high or low, one person is elected in each electoral district and ends up with the power to make decisions that affect all of us.

 

Inquiry question

Does voting matter?

Competencies and skills

Students will

  • think critically about how voting can affect individuals and society
  • apply citizenship skills as they assess the consequences of voting decisions on individuals and communities
  • communicate their understanding and express their conclusions in whole-class discussions
  • through personal reflection, become self-aware of any changes in their thinking since the start of the activity

Getting ready

Materials

The following materials are provided in HTML for accessibility purposes. For the hands-on classroom experience, download the printable version (PDF).

Minds on

10 minutes

 

Part 1: What do I care about?

To introduce the big idea that elected officials make decisions that affect all Canadians, ask students to reflect on whether they care about the following federal issues. (They are to raise their hand if they care.)

Do you care if the government:

  • changes rules about immigration to Canada?
  • makes it more difficult for seniors to receive the Old Age Security pension?
  • places penalties on businesses that contribute to climate change?
  • joins a military alliance that could lead to war?
  • changes prison terms for serious crimes?
  • removes coins as a method of paying for items?
  • negotiates new agreements with Indigenous peoples?

Explain that the Government of Canada makes decisions about each of these matters through our elected members of Parliament. Whether we realize it or not, and whether we choose to vote or not, many aspects of our lives are affected by the government’s priorities and by the decisions of law makers.

 

Part 2: Class poll

Ask students: Does voting matter to you? Using a traditional dot-voting chart, invite them to respond by placing a dot on the chart. They will use a scale from 1 to 5, where 1 = It doesn’t matter to me, and 5 = It matters to me a lot.

You can use the dot-voting template provided. You’ll need to enlarge the template or create your own poster using chart paper. Alternatively, you can use a polling app or other online voting tool such as Polleverywhere, Kahoot, Google Classroom or Google Forms.

Explain that students will revisit the inquiry question “Does voting matter?” at the end of the lesson.

Activity

35 minutes

 

Part 1: Voting Simulation

Explain that students will elect a new class president today. You will lead them through four rounds of voting, using different scenarios for voter turnout.

Select four students to represent each of the four parties: Captain’s Party, Dinosaur Party, Wizard Party, Zombie Party. Make sure to select students who are comfortable standing up and reading aloud to the class.

Ask each candidate to read their campaign speech. Encourage them to add their own dramatic and comic flair.

Round 1: Free vote
  1. Tell students to go to the corner of the room featuring their preferred candidate. If students choose not to vote, they must remain seated.
  2. The candidate for the party that receives the most votes wins the election. There can be only one winning candidate. Ties must be broken with a coin toss or other tie breaker.
  3. Use the Summary of Party Platforms to announce the activity associated with the winning candidate’s party platform (such as “make a dinosaur call” or “move like a zombie”).
  4. All students must do the activity associated with the party platform.
  5. Ask one or two students from each group the following question: 
  • How did the outcome of the vote affect you?
Round 2: Low voter turnout
  1. Randomly choose five students to vote for the candidate of their choice. All other students are restricted from voting and must stay seated.
  2. Use the Summary of Party Platforms to announce the activity associated with the winning candidate’s party platform (such as “make a dinosaur call” or “move like a zombie”).
  3. All students must do the activity associated with the party platform.
  4. Explain that you had only five students vote to represent low voter turnout. Ask students the following questions:
  • For the voters: How did your vote affect the election?
  • For non-voters: How did you feel about not being able to participate in the vote?
Round 3: Fifty percent turnout
  1. Randomly select half the students in the class to vote for the candidate of their choice. All other students in the class are restricted from voting and must stay seated.
  2. Use the Summary of Party Platforms to announce the activity associated with the winning candidate’s party platform (such as “make a dinosaur call” or “move like a zombie”).
  3. All students must do the activity associated with the party platform.
  4. Ask the whole class:
  • How did the outcome of this vote compare to the previous two votes?
  • How might the outcome have been different if the other half of the class had voted?
Round 4: Secret ballot
  1. For this round, students mark their ballot in secret. All students may vote if they wish. Distribute one ballot to each student. Instruct them to mark the ballot with an “X” or a check mark to vote for the party of their choice. Caution them that if they vote for more than one party, their vote will be considered spoiled and will not be counted. Have them place their ballots in a box. For a quicker vote, you could use polling technology for this round or simply have students put their heads down on their desks and raise their hands to vote for their preferred candidate.
  2. Assign two students to count the ballots, or do it yourself.
  3. The candidate for the party with the most votes wins the election. There can be only one winning candidate. Ties must be broken with a coin toss or other tie breaker.
  4. Use the Summary of Party Platforms to announce the activity associated with the winning candidate’s party platform (such as “make a dinosaur call” or “move like a zombie”).
  5. All students must follow the activity associated with the party platform.
  6. Ask students the following questions:
  • How was the outcome of the election the same as or different from the first vote?
  • Did you vote differently knowing that your ballot was secret? Why or why not?
  • Does voting matter? Explain your answer.

 

Part 2: Impact in Real Life

Explain that this simulation helps us understand how voting (or not voting) affects the outcome of an election. In real life, the decisions that elected officials make and the laws they pass could affect the lives of millions of people, whether they voted or not.

Show the Does Voting Matter? video to the class and discuss it with your students afterwards.

Example of discussion questions:

  • Did voting have an impact on their lives?
  • How have their experiences influenced their attitudes to democracy and voting?
  • How would they answer the question: “Does voting matter?”

Consolidation

15 minutes

Return to the original poll from the minds on phase. Ask students to respond again to the question “Does voting matter?” If you are using the dot-voting method, use a new colour of dot or marker so you can compare the two polls.

Ask students to reflect on the class responses to the question before and after the activity. Did the opinions of the students change? Invite students to make observations (notice) and ask questions (wonder).

Give each student an exit card. Invite them to reflect on the following prompts and write their responses on the card:

  1. One thing I learned is…
  2. One question I have now is…
  3. One action I will take as a result of this learning is…

Enhancements

Optional extension activities

  1. Select an issue from a past federal election campaign and investigate whether voting mattered in the outcome of that issue.
  2. If an election campaign is happening now, predict whether you think voting will have an impact.

Teaching tips

  • The “Do you care” questions in the minds on phase relate to laws enacted by the government at the federal level. You may also wish to include provincial and local laws.
  • Polling students before and after a learning activity can increase the learning during the activity. This approach engages students in the content and introduces a metacognitive element. It gives the teacher instant feedback on what students are thinking before and after the activity.
  • A dot-voting system (also called “dotmocracy”) is a safe and quick way to do an anonymous poll.
  • Exit cards require students to write in response to prompts or questions based on the lesson. The cards provide immediate feedback to help you assess students’ understanding of content, gather feedback for your teaching, and see what questions students are asking to suggest new areas of learning. For students, exit cards provide a reflective space to consolidate and reflect on their learning and to enhance their metacognition.

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