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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Get out the vote! Election Read-Alouds

It's election time again. The news is full of election antics from candidates running for dog catcher to president. We're reposting a piece from October 2012 that describes an excellent election-themed Read-Aloud at Woodbury Park. Here's a short video of a bit of the Read-Aloud:

One of the things that makes this an especially good Read-Aloud is that the volunteers created an activity allowing the kids to experience the ins and outs of voting firsthand, and they made the activity meaningful by using the results of their elections to determine future Read-Aloud snacks and themes.

Doing a Read-Aloud on elections is a great way to connect what the kids are hearing about in the real world with books, reading and fun activities. 

Here's the 2012 post: 

In anticipation of Election Day, we organized a theme around elections, voting and democracy. We began the session by discussing ways in which the children already get to vote, whether for their favorite food at home, for a class representative at school or about what to do with their friends. 

We first read Duck for President by Doreen Cronin, in which Duck is tired of doing his farm chores so he holds elections to take over the farm from Farmer Brown. In an entertaining story, Duck continues to run for higher and higher office to redress certain grievances.  

We also read Max for President by Jarrett Krosoczka. Max and Kelly decide they both want to be class president in a tale about election processes and compromise.  

And finally, we read Otto Runs for President by Rosemary Wells.  It presents a similar theme of class elections, but shows what happens in a “race to the bottom” filled with unrealistic campaign promises. 

Other election books we brought to the Read-Aloud included: 
Vote! by Eileen Christelow
If I Ran for President by Catherine Stier
Larue for Mayor by Mark Teague
I Could Do That! by Esther Morris
Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio
Woodrow, the White House Mouse by Peter and Cheryl Barnes
Clifford for President by Acton Figueroa
My Teacher for President by Kay Winters
D is for Democracy by Elissa Grodin
Why Are Elections Important? by Jacqueline Laks Gorman
Voting in an Election by John Hamilton

We then demonstrated democracy in action by voting at multiple polling stations. To prepare for the voting, every child made a Voter Identification card and every volunteer an Election Official card. The children wrote their names on preprinted identification cards, then hole-punched them and tied a yarn “lanyard” through them. At the same time, the Central Election Official also set up three separate tables for polling places

When everyone had their IDs, we divided the kids into three groups and assigned the voters and election monitors to their first polling place. To be successful, following directions was important, much like in real-life voting. The volunteers helped the children understand the question they were voting on and the procedure for voting at each station. 

At each station, the election monitors checked the voter IDs, verified that each child had not already voted, explained the voting question and helped the children cast their vote.  

At the first polling place, the children marked a paper ballot and deposited it in a box. At the second, a marble was added to the jar representing their vote and at the third, the voters selected from multiple options on a computer. The team used this last vote as a way of determining the interest level in certain topics we were considering for future Read-Alouds. 

About every 5 minutes, once everyone had voted at their polling place, the Central Election Official called time and each group moved to the next polling place. After everyone had voted at all of polling places, the volunteers and one or two Deputy Monitors tallied the vote, and then the deputies delivered the official results to the Central Election Official. 

We then discussed the differences among the voting methods, revealed the overall results to all the children on a white board, and informed them that they (unknowingly) had voted for a treat at a future Read-Aloud (the snack choice vote). 

Everyone really enjoyed the voting. It was entertaining to see the children and volunteers take their roles seriously and to watch the children try to influence each other.  

Guest blog post written by Jason Dutil, volunteer at Woodbury Park.

To receive credit for this online training, please fill out the form here.

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