The motivation for this unit came from a discussion I had with my class about the presidential race. I was quite surprised by how much the election had affected them, how varied their reactions were, and the gaps in their knowledge about the election process. Even though the election is months away, many had made up their minds about who they would vote for. Some students said that their parents are refusing to vote because of what the candidates represent, while other students are fearful of what might become of their families and the nation if Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton becomes president. Others have said that even though their households are divided between Democrats and Republicans, they are not swayed either way to vote for candidate. Some of my students are quite cynical. One of my students said that, “the candidates will not follow through with their stands on the issues.” Some had fairly sophisticated sense of the issues, while others were having trouble sorting truth from fiction. All of the students were curious about the people behind the personas and interested in finding out if the candidates would be true to their word, or just making promises that cannot be kept.
It was just as surprising to hear the students’ reactions to comments about voting during our discussion. One student said that even though voting is a right that we all share, it is not something he plans on doing when he gets older because politicians are dishonest. I found it heartbreaking that my young students were already giving up on the right to vote. I designed the unit because I wanted to think hard about how we, as educators, can change our students’ mindsets about politics and their civic duty to vote. I want to teach my students why the right to vote is so important by leveraging their interest in this election. For the majority of the students, the background knowledge about the upcoming Presidential elections is the key to enhancing their comprehension of the subject matter. I hope not only to answer the students’ questions, but to help them draw conclusions about the importance of exercising their basic rights. I also hope they will understand the facts and correct the misinformation they picked up. The current election makes it clear why the past matters so much. Once the students have the right historical framework, their understanding of the past will become more applicable to the present. Student-centered discussions can build upon prior knowledge, so that the students can filter information and teach others about it during whole-group instruction. The lessons will initiate purposeful class discussions and will provide the students a chance to showcase their knowledge using a variety of visual arts (dance, theatre, technology), in addition to the art of speaking and listening.
Whether or not Hillary Clinton is elected president, her candidacy raises crucial questions about voting rights, the fight for gender equality, and the reasons so few women run for governmental positions. The election thus provides a perfect opportunity for discussing why women are underrepresented in the government and will allow us to look at statistics of female occupancy in the House and Senate. The unit’s theme will get even more specific as it examines key people from the suffrage movement. We will start with historical figures like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony and then progress toward modern day Geraldine Ferraro- all of whom, paved the way for our current Presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton. This study of specific women will allow students to see the connection between the women’s struggle for equality and our present-day Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, as she tries to win the White House.
The unit will include reading, writing, and researching. The new background knowledge that the students will acquire will invite vivid connections to the real world and get the students actively involved in their own learning. The unit will appeal to students who are auditory, visual, kinesthetic, and linguistic learners because it deploys multiple resources throughout the unit.