Elections & the Democratic Process at The Willows

Across all grade levels at The Willows, students are exploring the election (local and national) and learning about our democratic process and our branches of the government in developmentally appropriate ways. This includes discussions about what qualities does a good leader possess, citizenship, what does it mean to vote, how you vote, and why you should vote to make your opinions heard. Mock elections are being held in some classes. Also, as we did 4 years ago, students will vote on the school-wide theme for next year. Our 8th graders are generating ideas during advisory and after approval, the list will be voted on by our students.
Election Curriculum Overview by Grade
Developmental Kindergarten
DK will be reading books about voting, discussing what voting does, why we do it, and why voting is important. They will organically incorporate voting in their daily activities when they explore concepts like counting, less and more, most, least. They will be voting for two different animals as they talk about and compare and contrast the various characteristics of those animals. Students will receive “I Voted” stickers!
Kindergarten classes will conduct conversations about leadership. One activity will spotlight people in the students’ lives that are leaders like parents, teachers, friends. In math, students will learn how to collect information, organize the data, and draw conclusions. Surveys and graphs will be introduced to help understand the voting process. The entire grade will hold a mock election voting on an animal–one animal from each classification will run for the Head or Leader of the animal kingdom.
1st Grade
Our 1st grade will be focusing on the qualities of a leader that make the leader worth following. They will read books such as Sofia Valdez for Prez, The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade, and The Days the Crayons Quit. They will be integrating the election into the unit of study on insects and the rainforest by exploring the qualities of insects and animals of various species such as:
  • Ant (teamwork)
  • Bee (smart/dependable)
  • Butterfly (patient)
  • Ladybugs (protect)
  • Dung beetle (strong)
Election curriculum will culminate by voting for an animal/insect that will best represent the class.
2nd grade
2nd Grade classes will be exploring:
  • What does it mean to vote?
  • The Qualities of a Leader and reading aloud Grace for President
  • Campaigning – Campaign Speeches & Slogans and asking the big question, “If you wanted to become President, how might you get your message and opinion out to people?
  • Voting in an Election and reading aloud Duck for President
Then they will hold a Mock Election with ocean animal candidates. Students will collaborate to create campaigns for the candidates working on a different portion of each candidates’ campaign.  On election day, a mock election will be held with students voting on the ocean animal of their choice.
3rd Grade
The 3rd grade classes will focus on:
  • Leadership and the qualities of leaders in each student’s life (family, The Willows, the world, book/movie). Students will interview their families and people in The Willows community to discover their stories of how they came to L.A. Then the class will ponder questions like, “What are the qualities of a good leader? Do you have any of these qualities? Do any characters in the books we are reading have these qualities? What about any of the people you interviewed?”
  • The election of a leader from a book that students are reading such as Grace for President by Kirsten Gillibrand or people they have interviewed.
  • The election/campaign process in class and working to persuade their parents that their candidate is the best choice)
  • The class will look at the election process which will finalize in a mock election.
4th Grade
The book Grace for President kicks off the 4th grade Election unit.  Students will learn about the electoral college, the voting process, campaigns, fair elections, infographics, slogans, etc. They will read and explore the book Lillian’s Right to Vote which tells the story of women earning the right to vote. Through research, they will read nonfiction pieces about historical figures and study the qualities of leadership. Persuasive writing will cap off the unit.
5th Grade
The 5th grade students are studying the three branches of the government, the three types of elections: primary, general, and local, as well as propositions. They will define what a proposition is and why they are included in elections. Students will gain an understanding of a few propositions on the California ballot, analyze them, and build an argument PRO or CON, while developing their supporting argument skills. Students will determine who benefits from the proposition, who be opposed, and how they support or refute it, asking if they can see how people might disagree with them.
6th Grade
The 6th grade will be studying voting rights using materials from Facing History and Ourselves. Next, they will study how the U.S. government works, the three branches of government, and how a bill becomes a law.
7th Grade
The 7th grade will be studying political parties and where they stand on various issues according to party platforms. A debate team approach will be taken as students examine the issues and argue for both sides of a political topic. Another focus will be media literacy to help students become smart consumers of information who avoid seeing everything on the internet, even in “reliable” sources, as pure fact. To help students better recognize editorializing in the media, they will engage in a number of activities that require students to apply close reading skills to news headlines and articles. They will study how word choices, phrasing, and tone can indicate where a reporter or publication leans in their view of a particular news item. Voting rights and the importance of voting will be explored looking more closely at how certain groups have obtained that right, and at how those in power have sometimes aimed to keep marginalized groups from exercising that right. This all culminates in a lesson about how important it is to vote when we DO have the right. 
8th Grade
The 8th grade will be approaching the election through a unit on the Bill of Rights, specifically, the 1st, 9th, and 10th Amendments. They have discussed the 25th Amendment, in relation to President Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis. Newseum will serve as a resource for class material. All 8th grade Core sections will be creating “protest” signs based on a cause they feel strongly about.
These opportunities with the election help us and our students to learn to have difficult conversations and more importantly, how to listen to each other. During this uncertain time, there are also historic events that we are all witnessing from the struggle for equity and justice to the celebration of the life of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who was the first woman to lie in state in the U.S. We encourage you to share conversations with your children on all these topics, listen to their questions, and support the voices of our youth.

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