Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Election lessons

I know we are past the election now but I had a fabulous time teaching the election process with my fifth and sixth grade classes this year! So I thought I'd share. I started off by researching several ideas on the internet (candy bars, pop, etc). I even bought a mini unit on Teachers Pay Teachers. I didn't like anything that I found just as it was So… I did what a good teacher does and I adapted other peoples' ideas to fit my needs. I chose to hold a candy bar election.

I started by having each class brainstorm (or add to earlier brainstorms) a list of chocolate candies and then chewy candies. The next day everyone nominated their favorite in each category. I calculated to find the top 3 chocolate candidates and the top 3 chewy candidates.

Next it was time for a lesson on Presidential primary races. We talked about what happened in the spring of 2012 and how Mitt Romney became the republican nomination and why President Obama did not have to run against anyone in a primary this year. Students were asked to make a Voter Registration card which they were responsible for keeping during the ENTIRE process.

Then, during station (center) time, I asked students to research and find our candidates slogans. I asked them if they could create a better slogan. I allowed a few days for this process.

After that, we held our primary elections. Students had to show their registration identification card in order to vote. Now, after many hours of calculating votes, we had our candidates for top candy. For this year it was Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups vs. Gummi Bears.

At this point, the students chose sides and made campaign posters and “buttons” (Avery labels 8293).

Students were asked to make campaign speeches. I chose one from each candidate and asked the student who wrote it to go on the morning announcements to give their speech. It was great to hear “…There’s no wrong way to eat a Reese’s, so you can't go wrong voting for Reese's Peanut Butter Cup.” But my favorite was when the chewy representative stood up and talked about “… Bringing tasty back…” our new slogan for Gummi Bears.

I created a ballot, printed out Vote stickers (labels 8293), and handed out ballots/stickers to the teachers of 3rd and 4th grades. On Election Day, I gave students each one Reese’s and 4 or 5 Gummi Bears. I asked them to consider which candidate best met their needs. Then I made students in 5th and 6th grade show their voter id to get a ballot. When they turned in their ballot they got their vote sticker.

In the end, Reese’s won (I still think we need a recount). I waited a week before asking the students what they learned from the experience. I wanted to see if the excitement was about learning or about the candy. I was happy to find out that many students retained an understanding of how the election process works.

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