Election Day presents a teaching opportunity for those working with fifth graders because it offers a real-world view of the impact of their classroom activities. Students in the fifth grade are able to understand the social sciences at a deeper level than other elementary school students. Planning election activities in the classroom can help your students to become better educated about the election process, and provides election excitement at a young age.
Students who have held their own election gain insight into the voting process. Provide a ballot box for your students. It can be as simple as a shipping box decorated in red, white and blue construction paper, provided you’ve cut a slot in the top large enough to fit a ballot through. Print off enough ballots for every student to participate. After you’ve finished preparing your voting materials, recruit volunteers from your classroom to run for president of their class. The students will be responsible for “running their own campaigns” -- writing a list of five reasons why their classmates should vote for them. When they’ve finished presenting their reasoning, hold a class election. Your students will have to think about who they chose for office and why. When the activity is over, count the ballots and name the new class president.
Voting Bias Experiement
Prepare the same ballot box and ballots for your students, but print the ballots on two colors: one for girls and one for boys. Pass out the ballots and explain that your students can vote if they would like, though it isn’t a requirement. Make sure that you have two candidates for president, with one candidate appealing to each gender. At the end of the week, count the number of cast ballots. Based on the results, ask your students to determine a possible gender bias. Were the boys or the girls more likely to vote? Did they vote for the candidate that appealed most to their gender? Have a discussion in your classroom about how the total vote could be affected by the groups of people more likely to make it to the ballot box.
Plan a Campaign
Each of your students is hereby running for president. However, they have to plan their own publicity. Take a look at presidential campaign paraphernalia over the years with your students, and give them free reign over the arts and crafts materials. By the end of class, your students should have created their own campaign poster. Hang up the posters and ask your students to discuss the merits of each poster. Who would they vote for, based on artwork alone? This will give you a jumping off point to talk about how a campaign can affect the voting process.
Branches of Government Activities
In this lesson, students create a rubric that lets them know who makes up the different branches of government. Pass out enough construction paper for your students to have at least one piece of paper each. After giving a lesson on the three branches of government, ask your students to draw an organizer on the construction paper that reminds them of who makes up each group. When they’re done, look for volunteers to show their artwork. The student volunteers should explain how the visual rubric they created works for them.
Suzy Kerr graduated from Grady School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Georgia. She completed her Master's degree in Nutrition Sciences, also at the University of Georgia. Suzy has been a successful health, fitness and nutrition writer for more than 10 years, and has been published in various print and online publications.