Teaching about the Election

If you’re like me, you’re compulsively reading news about the candidates for president, thinking about the state of our democracy and anxiously waiting for Election Day. Recent news has probably come up in discussion among your students as well. This is a great opportunity to connect your curriculum with the issues at play in this election, but it’s important to have appropriate materials and advice for handling these discussions.

Luckily, the New England Literacy Resource Center (NELRC) has put out a great collection of resources on teaching the election in adult literacy, HSE and ESOL.

A sample of useful resources:

  • Ballotpedia: When you put in your address, you will see a list of all the people up for election in your district, from the president to senators to local judges, along with bios and links to further information.
  • Electing a U.S. President in Plain English (video): Straightforward explanation of the electoral system. I do wish the video explained some of the problems with the electoral system (you can win the popular vote and still lose the election, .
  • History of Voting (Rock the Vote Video): This engaging presentation created for young people, featuring musicians, actors and bloggers could be paired with materials from the Change Agent (below) on the history of voting in the US.
  • Race and Voting Rights Lesson Packet: Probably the most useful resource here are the links to Change Agent lesson plans and articles (see Democracy in Action issue below), which are written for and by teachers and students in adult education.
  • Democracy in Action issue: NELRC has generously made this entire issue available here for free (usually it is available by subscription only). Among other things, the issue includes quotes from students on their opinions about voting, which would be great for starting discussion in a non-judgmental way, an article on the history of voting, a lesson how the president is elected, and an article from Howard Zinn on how progress is made through the actions of ordinary people in social movement. The article from Zinn would be interesting for students to consider along with the question of whether it is important to vote. There are also a couple good math activities that are ready to use, one on national voter turnout in presidential elections and the other on contributions to political candidates.

Less useful for teachers outside New England:

This is a small sample of what’s available at this site. Please let us know in the comments in you use any of the materials and what was most useful. Please also let us know if you have find other resources that have been useful in your classroom.

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About Eric Appleton

Eric lives in Sunset Park, Brooklyn with his wife Nancy and a poodle mix named Nina. He rides a bike to clear his head, but also enjoys long subway rides scribbling numbers in a notebook. Eric has worked in adult ed since '99. He is a founding member of the NYC Community of Adult Math Instructors (CAMI).

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