Teaching "Voting Rights through Time" - Video Transcript

Hi, my name is Rachel Collishaw. I’m a teacher and education specialist at Elections Canada. In this video, I’ll be showing you how you can teach “Voting Rights through Time.” 

How inclusive is our democracy? That’s the inquiry question that students explore in Voting Rights through Time. Students examine a case study in voting rights and work together to understand events in Canada’s history. We use a three-part lesson structure: Minds on, Activity and Consolidation. 

The Minds on here is a quick 5-minute activity to help students connect their own experiences of inclusion and exclusion to the big idea of the lesson. 

Ask students to think about a time when they were excluded from something and to think about how it felt. Then have them write those feelings on a sticky note. What you’re looking for are descriptive words, not the actual events or experiences of exclusion. You also want to make sure that students remain anonymous to make sure that you maintain a safe classroom environment for all students. 

Next, have students think about a time when they were included in something, and invite them to write some descriptive words about that experience on another sticky note in a different colour. Then, gather the sticky notes on the board and read out some of their words, or have a student read them. 

These descriptive words can now help your students understand the effects of inclusion and exclusion. I like to write them a little bigger so that they can use them as a reference during the activity. This quick 5-minute activity can also tell you a lot about the literacy level in your classroom. If most of their words are simply “happy” or “sad,” you’ll know that you might want to spend some time on vocabulary building!

To get into the Activity of the lesson, give each small group of students the materials. When you order the kits, you’ll get enough for one classroom working in small groups. If you need more materials, everything is also available to download and print from our website.

Start by having students read aloud the context card in their groups. This gives them an overview of the case study and allows them to quickly jump into the critical thinking and analysis. 

For students who need more literacy support, we made a language-learner version so that language level is not a barrier to their engagement. 

Next, students read aloud the case study cards one at a time and place them on the timeline according to the date and where they think it sits on the inclusion to exclusion scale. This is where the conversation really gets interesting! 

You can suggest that they take turns reading to encourage more engagement from all students. Groups should try to come to a consensus about the card placement by listening to each others’ points of view. This is a great time to have students apply their collaboration skills. You could even do some observation of these skills while they are working. 

Not sure what to look for? We’ve got an assessment rubric that you can work with to get you started.

Students are now creating a “Timeline with Attitude.” It’s a really visual tool to help them see continuity and change over time. There is no right or wrong placement of the cards. The important thing is that the students have a reason for the placement they choose. In my experience, you will see very different thinking from group to group.  

If some groups finish before others, you can extend their learning by introducing the concept of a turning point. Give out the Turning Point Frames and have them consider these questions.

Have them place the turning point frame and be ready to share their reasoning with the class.

Now, students can stand up and walk around the classroom to have a look at the other timelines. 

They’ll notice that the choices that they made with their cards might not be the same as the other group with the same set of cards. They can visually see how the same body of evidence can be interpreted differently.

I like to ask what they notice about the shapes of the timelines. How would you describe the shape? Is it a diagonal line? A checkerboard? Or something else? 

Once the students come back to their own groups, you can move into the Consolidation phase. Start by asking them to report from their group. We’ve suggested some questions for discussion, but you know your students and your curriculum best.

To bring it back to the big picture of voting rights in Canada, you can show our short consolidation video, or have students analyse the infographic. Students are usually surprised how few people had the right to vote in the first federal elections, and they can see that most Canadians have that right today.

The activity ends with a few questions for individual reflection. These will let you know what they learned and what they want to know now. When they do want to learn more, we’ve got you covered with lots more background information in the teacher’s guide to help you support their learning.

For reflective questions, I like to use thinking journals in my classroom where students can write reflectively and see how their thinking progresses over time. You can use the thinking guide we provide or even make your own exit card. No matter what format you choose, regular reflective writing can help students really see their own learning over time. 

Voting Rights through Time can be a really great springboard into a lot more topics, but the goal is that students can appreciate voting rights today because they now understand the stories of Canadians who didn’t have those rights in the past. 

Hopefully, they will feel a personal connection to the past and will want to learn more about elections and democracy. 

We want to know if your students liked the activity. Share your experience and photos on our Twitter and Facebook accounts!