Teaching Politics in the Elementary Classroom can feel challenging, but it doesn’t have to be. With the Presidential race approaching, our televisions, radios, and computer screens are filled with political ads and debates. How do you teach politics so that elementary students can understand without getting too involved with each side?
Teaching politics: Learn about past Presidents
By exploring the past, we can see the crucial decisions that Presidents have been a part of in our country’s history. Students will learn the impact the presidency of the United States of America has had on our country by looking at the events that resulted from an individual president’s decision (for better or for worse). There are many resources for exploring past Presidents with your students, but here are some resources that I would especially recommend.
Teaching politics: understanding the voting process
Your elementary students aren’t yet able to vote in an election, but they have family members who can, and they hear about it at home and through the media. Your students may even encourage the adults in their lives to get out and vote. Help your students understand the voting process. Who can vote? How old do you have to be? What do you have to do to register to vote? Why should we vote? Here are a couple of book resources to help you teach the voting process.
Teaching politics: the candidates
Older students, especially, may be interested in the actual candidates. Make sure to set guidelines for conversations. Ask your students to present their beliefs using facts. Teach them to respect others’ opinions even if they disagree with them. Your students have probably heard strong opinions about one or both candidates outside of school. They should be reminded that there are always two sides to every story.
Older students can be encouraged to analyze the media. Ask them to watch two different media outlets that favor opposite sides of the election. Have your students write a few paragraphs on how each side can strengthen their debate. There will undoubtedly be a new vocabulary for your students in their research. Ask them to define words they hear associated with the campaign that are unfamiliar to them, and share with the class to teach one another.
Encourage different viewpoints
Help your students understand how important the job of the President of the United States is by exploring past presidents. Take your students through the voting process to learn how important it is to vote and why it is a privilege that we all share.
Use this election as an opportunity to encourage them to explore both candidates to see what they stand for and to dive deeper into the issues that are important to your students. Encourage your students to be respectful of different viewpoints and help them to see that even though you don’t always agree with someone, that person’s opinion is just as important as their own. We could always use a good reminder of the lesson of respect.
Here are a few Boom Cards that you can use in your classroom: