Voting! What's It All About?

3 - 5
Lesson Plan Type
Estimated Time
Eight 50-minute sessions
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Students begin this unit by writing about what they know about voting to provide a basis for future discussion. Students discuss information read aloud from a variety of sources. Throughout the unit, students collect images, articles, and other things they can use to create a graffiti wall about voting. They create a chart listing what they know about the current election and how they know it, then examine the chart to determine which items are fact and which are opinion. They explore the history of voting and voting rights and create a timeline of voting history. Working in small groups, students explore election information from current sources and record information on sticky notes for the fact/opinion chart and the graffiti wall. Finally, students use the notes and materials they have collected to create the graffiti wall. They write about which candidate they would vote for, focusing on fact over opinion.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

As Helen Dale explains in her Co-Authoring in the Classroom, "Working together on a shared goal leads to higher achievement than working alone, and it leads to gains in the kinds of thinking teachers like to model for students: high-level reasoning, generation of new ideas, and transfer of knowledge from one situation to another (Johnson & Johnson, 1994)" (5). Collaborating as they research the election process and compose their graffiti wall, students participate in the cooperative learning experiences which Dale identifies. In addition to the cognitive gains that students make as they collaborate, Dale states, "Working together on a project can involve authentic learning for students. Peer groups concentrate on what the student learns, not on what the teacher knows." Furthermore, as Dale writes, "In groups, students need to do something: communicate, organize, interpret, or apply" (6). That is exactly what will occur in this lesson: students will be doing something together, as they work to explore a variety of resources in this ongoing inquiry project.

Further Reading

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
  • 2. Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.
  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
  • 7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
  • 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
  • 9. Students develop an understanding of and respect for diversity in language use, patterns, and dialects across cultures, ethnic groups, geographic regions, and social roles.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Materials and Technology

  • Sticky notes

  • Writing paper

  • Chart paper and white butcher paper

  • Daily newspaper

  • News magazines

  • Wall space

  • Large basket (optional)

  • Voting and Election Book List




  • Collect a set of books for read-aloud and student reading. Suggested titles are available on the Voting and Election Book List.

  • Explore background information on creating graffiti walls.

  • So the students understand their goal, create a graffiti-wall mural on another topic for students to use as an example. Your example can focus on a recent unit of study or a completed book.

  • Select a few appropriate newspaper or magazine articles about voting to get student groups started.

  • Get a local/national newspaper subscription for the classroom (optional).

  • Make copies of the Fact-Opinion Writing Rubric if you plan to use it as part of your assessment of this lesson.

  • Arrange for appropriate technology resources for the sessions you or the students will be doing work on the Internet.

  • Bookmark the Election Websites page for student use.

  • Test the Persuasion Map and Timeline Tool on your computers to familiarize yourself with the tools and ensure that you have the Flash plug-in installed. You can download the plug-in from the technical support page.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • share prior knowledge about elections.

  • actively listen to books about the voting process, both fiction and nonfiction.

  • discuss information about the voting process, as presented by a variety of text sources read with partners.

  • use the Internet to gather information about voting.

  • participate in creating a graffiti-wall mural on the topic of voting.

  • write an opinion essay about their favorite candidate.

Session One: Introduction---What is Voting?

  1. Before introducing the lesson, have students respond in writing to the prompt, "What I Know about Voting." Allow students to write in any form they prefer: paragraphs, lists, or graphic representations. This information will be a guide to the discussion, so it's important to do this writing before any reading or discussion about the voting process.

  2. After students have finished writing, collect their papers and ask the following questions to generate discussion:

    • What is voting?

    • Why do people vote?

    • What are some things we vote about in the classroom?

    • What different kinds of elections are there?

    • What do you know about the upcoming election?
  3. Give all students the opportunity to respond to these questions, and any others, that may come up in discussion. If desired, some key points or questions for further exploration can be written on chart paper.

  4. Read aloud the book Duck for President by Doreen Cronin.

  5. Use the following questions to generate discussion about the story:

    • How did this story begin?

    • What did Duck want to do?

    • What happened next?

    • What did the other animals think about Duck?

    • How do you think this story is like elections in real life?

Session Two: Read-Aloud and Exploration

  1. Read aloud the book Election Day by Patricia J. Murphy to introduce the students to the basics of the election process.

  2. Ask students to respond to the information according to what they already knew and/or what is new information for them.

  3. Explain that students will be learning about voting and elections in the coming days. While they are learning about elections and voting, they will also be recording facts on sticky notes and looking for images to use on a graffiti-wall mural, which is a visual way of representing material learned or discovered. The students will be taking notes and finding images about the topic of voting and elections.

  4. To demonstrate the project, share the example graffiti-wall mural that you have prepared for the class.

  5. Show and read a couple of short newspaper articles, then store them in the basket or pin them on a voting bulletin board.

  6. Invite students to bring in newspaper or magazine articles about the current election. Explain that articles brought in by students will be shared aloud with the class then kept in the basket for browsing or posted on the bulletin board.

  7. If you have a local/national newspaper subscription, designate a place for the daily newspaper. You can also use newspapers and magazines online. Feel free to use both local and national newspapers.

    • As students bring in materials, it would be a good time to talk about the currency of materials. Since fewer books about the current election are available than other types of media, they will need to rely on TV, computers, magazines, and newspapers.

    • Since the students are going to be working online, it is a good idea to discuss with the students about choosing Websites and their validity. If desired, take the opportunity for a mini-lesson on the topic, using some of the ideas from the ReadWriteThink lesson plan Examining Electronic Sources.
  8. Give students about twenty minutes to informally explore books about voting and elections. Then gather students together and have them share information about what they may have discovered. If desired, write some key points or especially interesting findings on chart paper.

Session Three: What About THIS Election?

  1. Post a large sheet of butcher paper horizontally. Divide it into three columns, labeled FACT, OPINION, and NOT SURE.

  2. Introduce the chart to the students. Ask them to define and clarify the difference between facts and opinions.

  3. Make sure students understand that facts are verifiable as true or not true, while opinions are not verifiable.

  4. Ask students the following questions, allowing for as many responses as there is time:

    • What do you know about this election?

    • How do you know?

    • What do you know about the candidates?

    • How do you know?
  5. As each response is given, ask the group to evaluate whether the statement is a fact (provable) or simply someone's opinion. Write the statement in the corresponding column. If consensus is not reached for any statement, write it in the "NOT SURE" column.

  6. When all responses are given and posted, review the items in each column. Discuss whether any of the items in the "NOT SURE" column are verifiable.

  7. When reviewing the "OPINION" column, be sure to address the idea that opinions are not invalid, and talk about what makes them valid (different ideas, goals, perspectives, and understandings).

  8. You can also examine the newspaper/magazine articles that the students bring in. Some might bring in editorials, political cartoons, or news articles.

Session Four: History of Voting

  1. Begin this session by asking the students about the right to vote:

    • Who can vote?

    • Has it always been that way? Why or why not?

    • What groups have always had the right to vote? Who was left out?

    • What challenges had to be overcome for the right to vote?

    • Who can vote now?
  2. Visit the History of the Vote Website. This can be done on an LCD projector or with students in a computer lab. Read and discuss the different events listed on the timeline.

  3. Back in the classroom, ask students to work in groups to recreate the timeline. The teacher can assign different events in history to the groups or students can choose their own suffrage topics, such as women, African Americans, immigrants, and so forth.

  4. The timelines can be created on paper or online using the Timeline Tool.

Session Five: Exploring Internet Resources

  1. Point students to the Election Websites page that you bookmarked earlier. Let them know which sites they should visit.

  2. Post a large sheet of butcher paper for the graffiti-wall mural.

  3. Explain to students that they are going to work with partners or groups to document information for a graffiti-wall mural using both writing and pictures. They will have access to any information that has been gathered during the project, including the chart with the sorted sticky notes, newspaper and magazine articles, and any pictures which have been downloaded from the Internet.

  4. Assign, or have students choose, partners. Have the partners work together to brainstorm their thoughts and have a plan for what they will be searching for.

  5. Bring students' attention to the sticky notes on the chart paper from Session Three. With student input, move the notes around, posting together those that are similar in topic.

  6. Explain to students that they will be adding more sticky notes to the chart, and that they should continue to sort them as they are posted. Give an example if students are not familiar with sorting. Make sure students understand that they should not be duplicating information that is already on the chart, but that they can refine information with additional details.

  7. In whatever way is most efficient for the classroom set-up, introduce students to the Internet Web browser and the sites they will be exploring, demonstrating the bookmarked page that you arranged prior to the session.

  8. Choose one of the Websites and navigate through it with students watching and providing input and suggestions.

  9. Invite a few students to write any unusual information on sticky notes and post them on the chart.

  10. This would be a good time to have a short discussion about copyright and the related laws. Since the images and material used here will be used for educational purposes, the students simply need to cite their sources. However, point out to the students that if they were going to sell or publish their graffiti wall mural, they would need to adhere to the copyright policies.

  11. Show students how to download images:

    • On a Macintosh, click on the image and drag it to the desktop.

    • On a PC, right click on the image and save it to the desktop.
  12. Create a special folder for downloaded images and show students how to use it.

  13. Print out one picture that has been downloaded. Label it and have a student add it to the information basket or the news bulletin board.

  14. Make sure students understand that they need to get permission from you before downloading or printing any images.

  15. If there are enough computers in the classroom, give students some time to explore the Websites briefly in groups, with the understanding that they will have more time in the next few days.

Session Six: Ongoing Exploration of Voting Resources

  1. Continue gathering information and pictures for this session (and as many additional as is appropriate)-reading aloud and discussing selected texts, having students read with partners, and exploring Election Websites on a rotating basis.

  2. As students read books and Websites, make sure they have sticky notes so they can add to the information chart.

  3. At the end of each exploration session, bring students together to share information, either in literature group discussion format or whole group discussion format.

  4. Encourage students to share new information for the "Fact/Opinion" chart.

  5. Finally, revisit the sticky notes chart every day to make sure the notes are continuously being sorted and resorted.

  6. Be sure to show students that the sorted groupings are not permanent, and that subtopics can become topics of their own.

Session Seven: Creating the Graffiti-Wall Mural

  1. As students are working, circulate among them offering any appropriate suggestions to help them with their work, and help them locate needed pictures and/or details for their work.

  2. Encourage students to be creative with color and pictures. As students finish, have them glue their contributions to the butcher paper.

  3. When the graffiti wall is complete, leave it on display. If there is still room, students can continue to add information on an individual basis as they follow the current election and/or gather more information.

Session Eight: Fact/Opinion Writing

  1. Review the "Facts/Opinions" chart with students. Tell them they will be doing some writing and can use the chart for reference, although they are encouraged to use additional information as well.

  2. Give directions for writing to the prompt: "Why I Would Vote For ________."

    • Ask students to choose their own candidate.

    • Explain that there should be more facts than opinions in their response and that they will be adding up the facts and opinions when they are finished.

    • If you plan to use it later to assess students' work, share the Fact-Opinion Writing Rubric with students and discuss the requirements for their responses.

    • Let students know that content is more important in this writing than spelling and/or conventions, because we are looking for information right now.
  3. While are students brainstorming their writing, they can use the Persuasion Map which will guide the students through their points and details. It can be printed out for teacher review.

  4. Give students ample time for writing.

  5. When they're finished, have students read their essays aloud to the class.

  6. Allow them to discuss each others' ideas. Have students identify both facts and opinions in their own and other students' writing.

  7. After sharing and discussion, have each student choose two different crayons or two different highlighters.

  8. Ask them to read back through their writing, and to underline or highlight facts and opinions with different colors.

  9. When they are finished, have them count the facts and opinions: each fact is one point, while each opinion is minus one point. Any positive score will show more facts than opinion in the writing.

  10. Have students submit their papers so that you can review their work.


  • Use the voting process to make classroom decisions whenever possible.

  • Have students write directly on the graffiti wall during the entire information-gathering process instead of using it as a culminating activity.

  • If students at your grade level will be doing a persuasive writing assessment, you may want to spend more time on the "fact/opinion" writing piece.

  • If computer access is limited, students can create a graffiti wall using pictures from newspapers and magazines and items that students bring in.

Student Assessment / Reflections

  • Use kidwatching techniques throughout the activity to monitor students’ work process as well as their progress. If you identify students who need more practice or additional instruction, provide them with one-on-one assistance in later sessions or create opportunities for students to work in pairs or small groups so that they can benefit from collaborative work.

  • At the end of the unit, have the students revisit their initial writing piece, “What I Know about Voting.” Allow the students the opportunity to revise or add information to their writing.

  • Review quality of work on graffiti wall contributions as well as partner work.

  • Assess the students with Fact-Opinion Writing Rubric.