Monday, October 5, 2009

Voting Rights

Recently, Megan from Learning to Teach and I created a "Voting Rights" podcast collection using a few podcasts found on iTunes U. We were able to find podcasts on women's suffrage and African-American voting rights.

Unfortunately, Megan already mentioned that she would like to have students take a literacy test (as mentioned in one of the podcasts), like many people used to have to in order to vote, to give them a better idea of what they were like. I think that's a great activity and she linked to one that's on the Civil Rights Movement Veterans website.

Since she stole my thunder, I'd have to say that I think that students would get a lot out of these podcasts. In particular, I think it would be fun for students to, during a unit on voting rights, use these podcasts as inspiration (particularly the one made by a New Jersey middle schooler on Women's Suffrage) for either their own podcast or a digital storytelling project. Using information they learn during the unit, they could possibly put together a synthesis of what they learn into a video or audio podcast for other students. There is a lot of information out there on minority voting rights that the students could pull from to do this project.

PBS Teachers also has a great activity that I think would work well as part of this collection, to have students think critically about voting and their own civic participation. I would play around with the actual lesson plan because I think it has a lot of room for improvement, but the point is to have students write in to their congressperson their support (or non-support) of a fake federal amendment to lower the voting age from 18 to 16. This way, students have to think as those who they're learning about did: there's a right they're being denied that they want and are willing to work really hard for. There are actually some groups out there working for this, like Youth Rights and several countries that have changed their voting age to 16, including Austria, Brazil, and Nicaragua. At the very least, bringing this up in class might raise a few eyebrows and get a few students thinking...


  1. Thanks for the PBS link! I like your youth voting lesson plan idea. It is important that students actively engage in politics and this is an excellent approach to get students actively thinking about politics. In my practicum we did a lesson with some similar ideas: students listed laws that they think should be passed/removed in groups, and then as a class we discussed why or why not they should be as a class. There was a lot of student participation, and I was surprised to see how excited they got and how seriously they approached the scenario. Once again, great find. :)

  2. I had never thought about incorporating voting in other countries. Students would definitely be interested in how the rights of other young people abroad include voting rights. Voting rights can be so distant and boring for students but your lesson makes it relevant and applicable. Greta idea, also I love the PBS site too, I found a few resources there myself. Writing a literacy test is a great idea as well, any way that you can get students to write with purpose is a good thing!