We all know how important it is to vote in elections and teaching students about this civic duty is essential. Teaching students about elections has been one of my favorite projects throughout all my years of teaching. While I was really bummed that we are teaching online this fall, there are still many ways to teach students about voting and elections.  Here are some steps to having your own class election in a variety of classroom settings… 

1. Introduce Elections & Voting

There are a variety of ways to introduce the concept of elections and voting. Last school year, my school had an election for classroom representatives. We were supposed to have two representatives from each classroom and the class representatives would meet once a week as a student council. I introduced the class election by creating and reading a social story about the class election. This year, I am also incorporating some more books about elections including Duck for President, Grace for President and Max for President. You can also start the concept of voting by giving students a simple choice survey (dogs versus cats, pizza versus chicken nuggets, cookies versus cake) and graph the results. 

2. Choose Candidates & Campaign

Choosing candidates and campaigning can look different across classrooms depending on how you are doing a class election, the needs of your students and your current teaching setting. Last year, I picked some students who I thought would be a good fit for being the classroom representatives and asked them if they wanted to run. This year, I am doing a primary where students will pick three classmates to run. Last year, with my students running for office, I would meet with them in small groups and help them to create posters and write speeches. This year, I plan to do the same, but online. I am planning on using this opportunity to teach students how to use some online resources. Students can create paper posters and take pictures of them or I can help them create posters on Google Slides or Google Drawings. Last year, I had students read their speeches to the class the day before they voted. This year, I plan on having students do the same thing, but they will read their speeches on a Google Meet to their classmates.

3. Voter Registration

Last school year, I had students fill out a kid-friendly voter registration form before the election. Having students fill out a “Voter Registration Form” is a good way to have students practice their personal information and filling out a form. This year, I will be sending students a Google Form to register for our class version of “Vote by Mail”. This mimics the process I went through to get my ballot in the mail-I filled out a form online and I received my ballot in the mail. 

4. Set Up a Polling Place or Mail-In Ballots 

Setting up a polling place was probably one of the coolest experiences I have had teaching. Last school year, I had a student who didn’t like school very much. This student was in charge of checking other students in and giving them the correct ballot. I’ve never seen him smile so much! If you are teaching in-person or in hybrid, it may be possible to set up a socially distant polling place.  I had the students help me set up the polling place last year when we were in the school building. We had a registration table, an area in the back with cardboard partitions, two ballot boxes for each class and a sticker station (the “I Voted” sticker is essential). Almost all the students in my class were able to have a role in some part of the polling place, whether it was cleaning tables, making the “I Voted” stickers or helping other students to put their ballot in the correct ballot box. 

This year, I will be doing mail-in ballots. I plan to create a mail-in ballot similar to the mail-in ballot I received with the classroom representatives that were chosen in the “primary”. Of course, I plan on including “I Voted by Mail” stickers and a stamped envelope with the school’s address (I’ll go and pick them up). Although I am bummed we can’t set up a polling place in person this year, I know we will be able to do it again in the future. Also, it’s very relevant to be able to show students how to vote by mail because I think mail-in voting will be more prevalent well after this November’s election. 

5. Vote

Last school year when we were in-person, I had students bring their voter registration papers to the registration table of our polling place. The student “volunteer” at the table would give the student the correct ballot based on the room number. Then the student would take their ballot back to the area with the partitions and vote. Then, students would put their ballot in the correct ballot box and receive a sticker on their way out. This year, it will be by mail, but I’m really excited to see how it turns out.  I will have students share about their voting process during a Google Meet.

I hope this inspires you to have a class election or just simply teach students about voting and elections. Check out The Autism Helper’s Election Unit for Special Education, which includes the 2020 edition. Please share your ideas for having a class election or teaching your students about elections. I hope you are all staying healthy and safe! 

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