Hi, my name is Rachel Collishaw, I’m a teacher and education specialist with Elections Canada. In this video I’ll be showing you how you can teach “Does Voting Matter?”
Does Voting Matter? That’s the inquiry question that students explore in this lesson of the same name. They’ll consider the impact of voter turnout as they engage in a fun series of voting simulations, then, they’ll hear from real Canadians who explain why voting matters to them.
We start with a quick Minds On, the first part of the three-part lesson structure that’s embedded in all of our activities.
These first 5 minutes help students connect their own experiences to the big idea of the lesson. In this minds on activity, students consider what issues they care about through a quick voting activity. As you ask each question, have students simply raise or lower their hands. This is really just meant to activate some thinking about federal responsibilities. In fact, you should make it clear that students should NOT share their opinion on these issues. You don’t want to get caught up in a class discussion here because you’ll need time for the activity portion of the lesson.
Next, show the Dot-Voting Chart: Does voting matter to you? Invite students to respond anonymously on the scale of 1 to 5. There are lots of different ways to do this, but make it clear that all responses are accepted. If they really feel that voting doesn’t matter to them, then they should vote that way.
Ask what students notice about their poll results. Are there trends or patterns? With the Minds On done, you can now move into the Activity phase of the lesson. This takes about 35 minutes.
Explain that students will elect a new class president today, and that there will be four rounds of voting. Choose four students to represent each of the four parties: Captain’s Party, Dinosaur Party, Wizard Party, and Zombie Party.
Choose students who are comfortable reading out loud to the class. You can plan time to have them prepare reading their speech before if you like. There are even Language Learner versions of the speeches on our website that you can download if you need them.
When ready, have each candidate read aloud their speech, encourage them to really get dramatic! If you’ve got a smaller class, this activity still works but use only two or three of the candidates.
Once the speeches are done, have the candidates move to four corners of the classroom.
Explain that students will vote by moving to stand with that party. There will be three rounds of voting like this.
In the first round, everyone can vote. Once all students have moved to their candidates, announce the winning party and have all of the students do the action of the winning party – the dinosaur roar, walk like a zombie, say “Abracadabra” or “Ahoy Matey!” Then, have students discuss, reflect and share. How did the outcome of the vote affect you?
In the second round, the goal is to look at the impact of lower voter turn out. Randomly select up to 5 students to vote. If your class is smaller, select only 2 or 3 students. Once those students have moved to their candidates, announce the winning party and have all of the students do the winning action again. This can usually get pretty silly! Then, have students discuss, reflect and share their experiences in this round.
For language learners, this could be a great time to work on vocabulary development. What are some words that describe those feelings? You could plan to pre-teach some “feeling” words before the lesson.
In the third round, we are looking at the effects of voter participation. Randomly select half the class to vote. Once those students have moved to their candidates, announce the winning party and have all of the students do the winning action again.
After each voting round, the most important thing is that you have to make the students do the silly action of the winning party. This is the key to showing students the impact of voting. If they voted for the Wizard party, they probably won’t like doing the dinosaur roar! We do want them to get a little bit upset, especially if they weren’t able to vote in that round.
Just like in real life, the winning party makes decisions on your behalf, whether you voted or not.
You could ask students now if they think there is a better way to vote. Maybe a way that might reduce the peer pressure that they might have seen in the first three rounds. This is a good way to introduce the final round: a secret ballot. You can use the ballots that are pre-made for this activity, or make your own! Announce the winning candidate and have everyone do the action of the winning party one last time.
Have one more discussion to wrap up all of the voting rounds.
Explain that this simulation helps us to 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.
Next, you can show one or both of the Does Voting Matter? videos. These stories of Canadians explaining why voting matters to them really bring students back from the zany fun of the simulation to real-life impacts.
We have some questions that you can use next. I find these videos so moving, that it often feels more appropriate to have students write quietly and reflect individually, rather than enter into a class discussion right away.
To consolidate the learning, students will now revisit the original poll and respond again.
Like many of our resources, this one ends with an exit card. Invite students to reflect on the prompts and write their responses on the card. You should be able to see from their responses what they have learned about the impact of voting.
I love that we are also inviting them to ask questions and take actions – their participation in our elections and democracy can start anytime, whether they are old enough to vote or not.
We want to know if your students liked the activity. Share your experience and photos on our Twitter and Facebook accounts!