Prioritizing Civil Discourse

It is Tuesday, November 3, 2020.  Election Day.  A day that fills many of us with patriotic excitement with a strong dose of anxiousness.  This federal election cycle has been the most divisive election of my lifetime. And if I feel that was an adult, I know my students are feeling it too. 

Talking about voting and demonstrating that you have exercised your civic duty with your students promotes civic engagement and prepares students to recognize the importance of their vote in the future.

Therefore, this week in class, I am providing lessons that I know will lead to an age-appropriate civil discourse. Many teachers shy away from all topics “political” because of their own discomfort, the potential of inappropriate comments from students, and a fear of a potential of parental backlash; but if we want future generations to be civic-minded individuals and educated future voters, then we need to promote these moments of appropriate civil discourse in our classrooms today.  

There are resources out there to help you get started and I have assembled some of my favorites for you to utilize! 

Let’s define civil discourse for us as teachers as an engagement in discourse (conversation) intended to enhance understanding. Here is a resource from American University and the United States Courts to further your own affirmation that these conversations belong in our classrooms.

First, take the time to frame and re-establish your classroom space as a safe and inclusive environment where we, as individuals, can have different ideas and views while sharing mutual respect and empathy for others. This is a crucial step.  It sets the stage for your students to be able to have that reminder and sets a boundary should you need to redirect a comment within the conversation. Here is a resource from Teaching Tolerance about preparing for tough classroom conversations and from the Anti-Defamation League on creating safe and inclusive schools. 

Next, decide which route you want to take to lead to civil discourse.  Many reputable, nonpartisan organizations have entire resource webpages dedicated to the election and civil discourse and include crafted lesson plans and activities:

Free Resources: 

Teaching Tolerance – Voting and Voices for K-8 schools

Image from Teaching Tolerance’s election resource page.

The Anit-Defamation League – “Teaching About Elections”

Image from Anti-Defamation League’s election resource page.

PBS – “The Election Collection”


Paid Subscriptions Options

Discovery Education – “Election 2020”

Scholastic Scope Magazine

Newsela – Various Articles 

Mr. McNicholas’ lesson plans for the week of the election, November 2-6, 2020.

In preparing to teach this week, I have an election theme for the week. You can access my Google Slides here. If you want to promote civil discourse, but are apprehensive to begin the conversation because you don’t want to talk about particular candidates, this is a starting place. Please note that the two infographics utilized in the lesson on Monday and Wednesday are accessed through a paid subscription that requires a log-in so I cannot share those resources publically.  

Happy Election Day; VOTE! Remember, our children are watching us. 

Students analyze a nonfiction infographic about the Electoral College as part of the election activities in language arts class with Mr. McNicholas this week.

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