Why We Should Explore Compulsory Voting in Our Classrooms

One of the striking parts of election day coverage in Australia is seeing people interrupt their regular Saturday activities to vote. Images of voters in swimmers and towels, sporting uniforms or wedding outfits is not uncommon. It’s one of the side effects of compulsory voting which Senator Herbert Payne probably didn’t consider when he proposed it back in 1924.

So, with compulsory voting just part of life in Australia - why should we worry about exploring it in the classroom. And if you’re teaching outside of Australia, is it a topic which should even come up?

Why should we explore compulsory voting in the classroom, what role does it have in Australian history and how could students learn about it from other countries? A government and civics education blog post from Galarious Goods

The 1922 Australian election saw a dramatic drop in voter participation - a drop which continued a trend which had occurred over a number of elections since Federation in 1901. This concerned a number of government representatives including Senator Herbert Payne who proposed a private member’s bill to make voting compulsory. Since the passing of the bill, participation in Australian federal elections hasn’t fallen below 90%.

This is a fascinating moment to put into the context of history. World War One had been both a devastating and defining moment for the young nation, with the loss and injury of many, a long way from home. Senator Payne and his supporters were concerned that low participation rates at elections would lead to a deterioration of democracy and the laws which were being made.

If the country hadn’t been so young - still working out how to go forward after only 20 years since Federation; if Australia hadn’t just been through World War One where they were called on to work together for an ideal a long way away from their day to day lives - it’s possible that compulsory voting may not have been embraced.

This is not a moment in history which we often look on in Australian classrooms. We don’t spend a lot of time on electoral history - with the exception of a few referendums. But it’s interesting to contemplate what might have happened if Senator Payne and his colleagues had not passed compulsory voting. How might that have changed future elections? And how might that have changed Australian history?

Why should we explore compulsory voting in the classroom, what role does it have in Australian history and how could students learn about it from other countries? A government and civics education blog post from Galarious Goods

While compulsory voting is widely supported in Australia, it’s very rare for a democratic country to have, maintain and enforce compulsory voting. For many in countries with voluntary voting, being compelled to vote appears unfair - even undemocratic.

Exploring the benefits and drawbacks of compulsory voting is an excellent classroom activity. Students can look at how compulsory voting encourages governments to set up systems which make it possible for everyone to vote (especially important when you have remote areas like in Australia) and explore some of the systems in place in Australia. Students can debate whether everyone should get a say in elections - whether they’re informed or interested or not. And students can explore some of the reasons people put forward against compulsory voting and debate whether they are robust arguments or not.

What about students and classrooms outside Australia? Exploring the Australian system of compulsory voting gives students a different idea of what voting can look like - this can be expanded with students looking at other kinds of voting around the world and how they contribute to different types of democracies. Older students may also like to explore why compulsory voting works in Australia and what conditions would be required for it to be successful in other countries.

Why should we explore compulsory voting in the classroom, what role does it have in Australian history and how could students learn about it from other countries? A government and civics education blog post from Galarious Goods

Compulsory voting sounds like a bit of a dry subject on the surface. But a little digging can turn it into a fascinating history or government lesson - the perfect way to stretch your students a little. Have you taught it in your classroom? Let us know in the comments below.

Links to support teaching about compulsory voting


Integrating Civics and Citizenship with Other Subjects

Civics and government are essential subjects to teach, but it can be difficult to fit them into already busy teaching schedules. One way to cover what students need to know is to integrate them with other subjects. Here's a few ways you can do that.

Integrating Civics and Citizenship with Other Subjects - blog post by Galarious Goods


Maths and civics don't seem like a natural fit, but they can work surprisingly well together. Students can easily look at elections, electorates or voting as well as data and statistics. Students can collect data from websites like the Australian Electoral Commission or from polls published in newspapers. They can use these to create graphs or diagrams showing how numbers are used in politics.

Australia's preferential voting system could be part of a maths investigation. Students can investigate how it works (and how to explain that to voters!) and decide whether there's a fairer or better system.

Students could also use data to look at global issues and how you can represent those issues through numbers.


There's some great books which cover issues related to civics and citizenship. These can be read at the beginning of a unit of study as an introduction or used as part of the unit.  Students can compare events in the book with real events and decide whether the book is realistic or not. Books are also a great way for students to gain some understanding of political systems from other parts of the world.

Students can also engage with non-fiction texts related to civics and citizenship - including websites, fact sheets, newspaper and magazine articles and opinion pieces. As well as reading them, students can create their own. One investigation may involve students examining election material from a range of elections and look at what makes them persuasive to audiences. Or they could compare election campaign material from an earlier time with more recent election campaign material.


Students can also use campaign material for art lessons. They can examine how different political parties use colour and shape, then use the information they gain to create their own campaign material.

You can also get creative with art and look at how students could represent something like law making or different types of laws through 2D or 3D arts.


I've talked about using educational songs in the classroom before, and this is a great place to combine music and civics. Students can explain complex issues through their own songs and share them with their classmates.

Students can also look at songs which have political messages. Protest songs and fundraising songs have a fascinating musical and civics history and can be interesting to listen to and analyse.

History and Geography

These are obvious places to learn more about government and civics. Whether it's how the constitution of a country was formed or what political decisions have had big impacts on the history of a country, or how different geography can explain voting decisions. It can take a little work to match together different curriculum needs, but it can be incredibly satisfying when you get it.


Role play, role play, role play! Students can get so much out of role playing in the classroom and exploring different topics. It's great to focus on smaller parts of a complex topic when you're role playing. Alternately, students can create their own small plays or videos to share what they know about different topics.

Have you got any other ways to integrate civics and other subjects? Leave a comment below.

Find a large range of civics and citizenship resources at Galarious Goods.



4 High-Interest Ways to make Law-Making Lessons Fun

(While avoiding role-playing!)

This post is totally inspired by a question I saw a few weeks ago - how do you teach law-making in Australia in an interesting and engaging way? How do you make sure students really understand the law-making process? How do you avoid the knowledge and understanding test and find other ways to assess student understanding.

So often you see role-playing as the only option put forward. However, although it's fun to pretend to be the Prime Minister, it's not always practical for time or space considerations. Or you may not have enough students to play all the needed parts. And some of the role-playing scripts out there are decidedly uninspiring or require a lot of explaining to allows students to understand what's going on.

So my goal was to offer an alternative! Four different ways to explore and assess law-making which don't include role-playing! (You can still pretend to be Prime Minister though)

4 High Interest Ways to Make Law-Making Lessons Fun - by Galarious Goods

Create or Play A Game

Passing a bill through Australian Parliaments looks like a fairly straight-forward process to start with. However, input from different interest groups or departments, media reports, backlash from the voters or disagreements in the party room can definitely throw hurdles in the way. This makes it perfect to turn into a game. 

Once students understand the basic processes of how a bill is prepared for parliament and passes through parliament, they can brainstorm possible hurdles (or helps) and consider how they might make a game board. A snakes and ladders or beginning to end style game could work very well, as could a quest like game. Or students could turn it into a human size game using hoops, large dice and A4 sized cards.

Need a Passing an Australian Bill Activity? Get yours here.

Teacher Created Option: You could create a game board, or a series of game boards or card games yourself and have them available for students to play as part of rotations or small group work.

Create or Play a Game - High Interest Ways to Make Law-Making Lessons Fun

Create a Social Media Campaign

Social media is increasingly becoming a way to share information with other people, with government departments using it to teach citizens about new laws, important public service messages and other advice they might need. It can be fun to use the structures of social media to explore ideas in the classroom, especially when students have to think about what would be attractive or what limitations they might face.

Students can share information about law-making by making videos (like YouTube), image based posts (like Instagram or Snapchat), short text posts (like Twitter) or a mixture (like Facebook). They can start with the basic information and think about how it can be summarised, what information is most important and what is the most effective way to share it. Students can plan entire social media campaigns, or focus on one element of law-making or one style of social media.

Teacher Created Option: Present the law-making information to your students in the form of social media. You might like to collect videos, images or posts which students can work through to gather information, or create your own. This can be a great process for students to think about what information is important and what isn't!

Social Media Campaign - High Interest Ways to Make Law-Making Lessons Fun

Turn it Into a Song

I think almost everyone has seen the video about how a bill becomes a law in the United States. But what about governments outside of the USA? Educational songs are surprisingly big on YouTube, with professional musicians, teachers and students creating songs to share what they know (as well as some pretty awesome videos.) So turn it over to your students and ask them to create their own songs which share all they know about the law-making process. 

Get an assessment piece like this with supporting materials at the Galarious Goods shop

Teacher Created Option: Embrace your inner Lin-Manuel Miranda and make government processes interesting with your own song. I don't guarantee you'll have a Broadway musical out of it, though . . . 

Turn it Into a Song - High Interest Ways to Make Law-Making Lessons Fun

Museum Display

Museums are well known for collecting images, text, artefacts and interactive elements to share information with viewers. Challenge your students to explore one or more aspects of the law-making process by creating their own museum display. Students will need to think about what kind of images, text and artefact they might need and how they could include an interactive element, or something like video or audio. 

Get an assessment piece like this with supporting materials at the Galarious Goods shop

Teacher Created Option: A museum display on a noticeboard or a spare table can be a great way to spark questions and thinking, especially at the beginning of the unit. Students can identify vocabulary they might need, as well as information they would like to explore further.

Museum Display - High Interest Ways to Make Law-Making Lessons Fun

6 Great Books to Integrate With Australian Social Studies

There are so many different ways to explore Australian social studies (or Humanities and Social Sciences as it is described in the Australian curriculum) in the classroom. One of the best ways is to use books - fiction and non fiction - which relate to the themes, ideas and events our students are exploring. I'm pleased to present six books covering Australian social studies which are perfect for middle grades classrooms.

6 Great Books to Integrate With Australian Social Studies - Galarious Goods

I'm Australian Too by Mem Fox and Ronojoy Ghosh

While the text seems simple at first, there's a lot in this picture book to explore and discuss when it comes to Australian identity, those who come to Australia and things which represent Australia. Students can look at and research some of the different reasons people come to Australia, comparing and contrasting different stories. They may also like to contribute their own stories or interview someone who has travelled to Australia and become an Australian citizen. It would definitely be a great book to extend ideas when looking at citizenship and modern Australian history. You can also use the book to discuss global citizenship and the responsibilities different countries and individuals have - or should have - to people in other parts of the world.

You can get an I'm Australian Too Book Study resource at the Galarious Goods Shop


How to Build Your Own Country by Valerie Wyatt and Fred Rix

This is a brilliant non-fiction book for any classroom covering government or economics! What would you do if you had your own country? What would you need to know? How do you stop your country from falling apart? While this book walks you through the process of setting up your own country, it also looks at the knowledge which will help any young country builder make their country an excellent one. You can use it as the foundation of a teaching unit, dig into bits of it for different activities or make it available for those students who want to explore further. It's not an Australian-centric book, but it's a great general look at some really important topics.


Book Trailer for How to Build Your Own Country


The Mostly True Story of Matthew and Trim by Cassandra Golds and Stephen Axelsen

Australian history told through a graphic novel? Yes please! This graphic novel tells the story of Matthew Flinders who circumnavigated and mapped Australia. You can use this in small groups in the classroom, with students comparing the graphic novel retelling with other histories of Matthew Flinders. Students can discuss why Flinder's story is important and what his achievements meant to Australia and compare him to other explorers and map makers. Students can also look at the geographical challenges of map making and make their own maps - an activity which can also integrate reading and social studies with mathematics!


Say Yes: A Story of Friendship, Fairness and a Vote for Hope by Jennifer Castles and Paul Seden

This beautiful book is centred around the friendship between an Aboriginal girl and a non-Aboriginal girl and the 1967 Referendum in Australia. Including images, paper ephemera and newspaper clippings from the time, it explores how many laws at the time were unfair to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia and invites readers to think about how things could be better going forward into the future. It's a perfect social studies book, which can be related to law making and the rule of law, to referendums, to what a census is and how it impacts decision making as well as modern Australian history. Examining the images in the book could also give students inspiration when they're sharing their own history research.


News story about the friendship behind Say Yes - A Story of Friendship, Fairness and a Vote for Hope


Boy Overboard by Morris Gleitzman

It can be really meaningful to students to link a class novel study with a social studies unit. Morris Gleitzman's Boy Overboard is an excellent book for any class examining why people come to Australia and what it means to be Australian. The story of Jamal and his family who flee the Taliban in Afghanistan for the safety of Australia, readers get to see the difficulties refugees can face and the motivations which can turn people into refugees in the first place. It's a great book to read while looking at modern history, those who have come to Australia over history or global citizenship and one which students can study and read as a class novel or investigate as a teacher read-aloud.

You can get the Boy Overboard Complete Novel Study Bundle at Galarious Goods


Refuge by Jackie French

Jackie French has so many books which are excellent to tie in with Australian social studies - I could make an entire post containing only her books! Refuge is a really interesting book to read - it went in a totally different direction from what I expected. I think this one would make a particularly good read aloud - particularly if students make predictions about the story before it began. Refuge looks at different people from different time periods who have come to one land as refugees and find themselves in a rather odd place. It is very good to connect to Australian history and I highly recommend it.

You can read more about Refuge at Jackie French's website

Find a wide range of teaching resources at Galarious Goods


Four Ways Students Can Find More Information And Get Involved

Collecting information is an essential part of getting involved with issues which we care about. It's important to look around us to see where and how our students can get information which will help them get involved in creating a better world.

Four Ways Students Can Find More Information and Get Involved

1. The Media

There are often criticisms about the media and how events are reported. However, the media - both small and large - is often essential in bringing our attention to what is happening in our communities. When our students look at the news they can see what politicians, officials and other residents are doing around them and they can search for ways they can step up or get involved to make a difference.

Students can also use the media to share their knowledge, responses and actions - they can write letters to the editor or even contact local media with their own news stories.

2. Organisations and Advocacy Groups

Almost every time we uncover an issue we're passionate about, there's already a group of committed individuals working on the same goal. These organisations often include a lot of information on their websites or they may have local representatives who are happy to be contacted. 

As well as information about the issue, organisations and groups may have ideas about how students can get involved. They might be fundraising for a particular outcome or contacting political representatives to suggest a change or improvement in the community. Students can also be inspired by looking at what those organisations and groups have done in the past.

3. Interviewing Others

If students are looking to make a difference in their own community, they should begin by looking at what their own community wants the most. They can uncover this information by interviewing local residents, including people their own age, their parents and other adults. They can also talk to political representatives about what they'd like to see in their local community. 

Once they have collected information, they can sort it to see what ideas are most popular. It's important then to decide which of the popular ideas are viable - it might be nice to have more koalas in the local area, but if you don't live in a koala zone, it's not the most practical of ideas!

4. Learning More About Civics and Political Processes

If students are really looking to make a difference in the world around them, it is worthwhile to learn more about civics and political processes. It's important to know who your representatives are, what they are responsible for and what they are able to do to help you. It's also good to know about different ways of contacting representatives and other public figures, as well as other steps you can take as an involved citizen.

As well as researching the political process, you may like to ask one of your local representatives to come and talk to students about the political process. They would be more likely to be able to give the 'behind the scenes' look at how laws are created and how decisions about public money are made. They can also offer more information about how citizens can work with representatives to make a difference in the community.

The more knowledge our students have the better prepared they are to make a real difference - now and into the future!

Looking to get your students involved today? Check out the Getting Involved Lesson Bundle, now available at the Galarious Goods shop. This eight lesson bundle covers reflection, research, sharing information and taking action and includes bonus presentation files!


Five Times Young People Got Involved and Took Action!

If we look at the world around us, there are some great real-life examples of young people getting involved with causes and issues which matter to them. We can explore these examples with our students - using them to help our students make their own positive mark on the world!

Five Times Young People Got Involved and Took Actions

1. The New York Newsboys Strike of 1899

In 1899, young boys - often orphans and runaways - used to sell newspapers on the streets of New York. They were required to buy these papers in advance, then hope that they sold enough to cover the costs. In 1899, two newspaper publishers were selling their papers to the newsboys for such a high price that it was nearly impossible to make money.

In July 1899, a large number of newsboys decided to go on strike and not to sell the papers of those two publishers. They used public demonstration and appeals to the public to disrupt newspaper sales. Finally the publishers agreed to buy back unsold papers, which meant the newsboys weren't out of pocket at the end of the day, and the strike ended. 

The newsboys were credited with inspiring other strikes in other parts of the United States.

2. Ruby Bridges

In the 1950s, schools in the southern United States were segregated, with white students and African-American students attending different schools. When the courts insisted that the schools be desegregated, New Orleans schools set a test to decide which African-American children would be allowed to attend 'white' schools. At 6 years old, Ruby Bridges was one of the few students who passed the exam and became the only African-American student enrolled in her local school. 

For her safety, Ruby was escorted to school by federal marshals, but she was still required to walk past protesters yelling at her. She was also the only student in her class, as parents refused to allow their children to be in class with her. Despite the insults which were yelled at her, Ruby continued to attend the school, following the advice of her mother to be strong.

Ruby's example allowed more schools to become desegregated across the United States and was a big part of the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

3. Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai was born in Pakistan, in a region which was increasingly coming under Taliban control as she was growing up. In 2008, at the age of 11, she gave a speech asking why the Taliban was taking away her right to education. In 2009 she began keeping a blog for the BBC, talking about the right to education for girls and women, as the Taliban continued to close girls schools in the region.

As Malala continued to speak out against the Taliban in Pakistan, they began to see her as a threat. In 2012, when she was 15, a gun man boarded her school bus and shot her. She was given medical treatment in Pakistan before being transported to the United Kingdom for further care. She was able to recover there and has been able to return back to school and to continue her advocacy for education for all girls and women.

Through the Malala Fund, she has been able to bring more attention to educational choices for girls, including opening a school for refugee girls near the Syrian border. 

4. Little Miss Flint

In 2014, officials decided to use the local river to provide water to the people of Flint, Michigan in the United States hoping to save money. Unfortunately, the officials didn't require safety regulations to be met and the water was contaminated with lead - a contamination which is particularly dangerous for children.

In 2016, 9 year old Mari Copeny decided to write to the President of the United States, Barack Obama, hoping to lift the spirits of her fellow Flint residents and to bring more attention to the lack of safe drinking water in Flint. Since then, Mari has met with President Obama as well as other politicians, and continues to point out through social media and speeches that water safety for children and other residents in her town still needs to be addressed. 

5. Campbell Remess

Campbell Remess really wanted to buy Christmas presents for the children at his local hospital. When his mother said that wasn't possible, he set out to learn how to sew and started making teddy bears to give away. 

At 12, Campbell had been making bears for three years and had pushed himself to make a bear everyday. He's also been involved in organising fundraisers for local charities. His hard work has encouraged other people to donate to his cause - providing him with the fabric and materials he needs to make his bears.

These stories of young people taking action allow our students to see some of the different ways they can take action - whether it's standing up for what's right, speaking out when something is wrong, looking for ways to take care of others or being strong in the face of adversity. They give our students examples to reflect on and inspiration to make the world a better and kinder place.

Looking for more ways to help your students to take action? Check out the Getting Involved Lesson Bundle at the Galarious Goods shop. This bundle includes eight lessons covering reflection, research, sharing information and taking action.


Get Students Involved to Make a Better World

There's been a notable increase with all sorts of activism in the past year, with a lot of people getting more involved in issues which matter to them. For many, it's one way of creating a better world - a world we'll be proud to pass on to those who come after us. But how can we get our students involved in making a better world? What can children do?

Get Students Involved to Make A Better World

1. Learn about Local Issues

A great way for students to become more involved is to learn about what is happening in their local community. Are there local groups working to make improvements? Are there decisions being made by local government which will improve the community? Or are decisions being made which should be challenged? 

Students might begin this look at local issues by looking at their school. What do students love about their school? What improvements would they like to see? What are some of the ways students can create a happier, more productive learning space? How can they work to create a community which is supportive of everyone learning and working within in? 

2. Learn about Global Issues

Students may already have an interest in wider issues such as the environment, world peace, poverty, access to education and equality. These can seem like massive, overwhelming issues, but they can also be broken down into more manageable ideas which have real actions. 

One of the best ways to learn more about global issues is to look at the organisations which are already engaged in working on those issues. Often those organisations have research publications or links to more information on their websites. They might also have ways for students to get involved or inspiration for students to plan their own involvement.

3. Changing Personal Behaviour

Sometimes the easiest way for students to get involved in issues is to change their own behaviour. Students can brainstorm a range of different ways they can make small changes to improve the world, then pledge to make those changes in their life. They might even like to organise record keeping sheets, develop products or posters to help them make those changes or expand the challenge to other members of their school community or local community.

Changing personal behaviour to make a difference

4. Communicating

When students have identified and learned more about local or global issues which matter to them, they can engage by sharing that information with others. They might wish to write to their government representatives, write letters to their local newspapers or create websites or printed materials to share what they know. 

This way of getting involved with issues is great for integrating with writing and reading lessons. Students can examine ways that other people have shared information and experiment with different types of writing.

5. Organising Events

Events are a great way of bringing attention to a particular issue. Students could hold a special assembly or dress up day at school, run a booth at a local market or run lunch time or after school activities. The events could be about raising awareness - like making students aware of bullying and the language they use at school - or could be fundraising events. 

It can be easy to feel a bit overwhelmed at the big challenges in the world, but there are so many ways for students to be more involved as citizens looking to make a better world. 

Wanting to take a deeper look at getting involved in the classroom? The Getting Involved bundle is now available at Galarious Goods. This eight lesson bundle gives you a complete civics and citizenship unit of work and allows students to see where they can really get involved.


7 Things You May Not Know About Government in Australia

Are you thinking about teaching Australian Government in your classroom? Did you know these facts about the Australian political system and Australian political history?

7 Things You May Not Know About Government in Australia. A sneak peek into the government systems of Australia - perfect for social studies and government classes around the world. A Galarious Goods blog post

1. Australians Do Not Directly Elect the Prime Minister

Unlike the United State of America, Australians do not make a direct vote for the political leader of the country. Instead they vote for local representatives who are usually members of political parties. The political party with the most representatives chooses one of the representatives to be Prime Minister.

2. This Can Lead to Sudden Changes . . . 

Political parties can choose to change the Prime Minister without a public election - this often happens when they disagree with the leader or they think a new leader will do better. In 2010 there was a sudden change when the representatives of the Labor Party decided that Julia Gillard should replace Kevin Rudd. In 2013 they went back to Kevin Rudd. In 2015 the Liberal Party decided to change from Tony Abbott to Malcolm Turnbull, then in 2018 they swapped from Malcolm Turnbull to Scott Morrison. The main two political parties in Australia have made changes to stop this happening in the future - but it is totally legal and acceptable under the Australian constitution.

3. The Prime Minister is Not the Head of State of Australia

The head of state of Australia is Queen Elizabeth II. She has representatives in Australia - the Governor-General and the Governors. In 1999 there was a referendum vote to decide if Australia should become a republic with an Australian head of state. However, the Australian people voted to remain a monarchy and the Queen remains as the head of state.

4. Australia has Compulsory Voting

All Australian citizens over the age of 18 are required to register and vote - it's considered one of the responsibilities of citizenship.

5. Australians Usually Use a Pencil and Paper to Vote

All voters in Australia are given paper ballots and all voting booths provide pencils. Australia started using pencils because they were quicker to use than ink pens, but they continue to use them because they are easy to prepare, store and maintain. You can bring your own pen to voting if you wish.

6. Australians Vote on Saturday - and Eat Sausages!

Voting in Australia is held on Saturdays when most Australians are available to vote (although you can vote earlier if you need to). Voting is usually held at schools and churches and they often hold sales to raise money. The most popular sale is a sausage sizzle - barbecued sausage on bread with sauce. At recent elections voters have compared the best sausage sizzles and shared photos of their sausages on social media! Check out the #democracysausage tag on Instagram!

7. An Australian Prime Minister Once Went Missing

In December 1967, Prime Minister Harold Holt went swimming and never came back. Although it is presumed that he was drowned, his body was never recovered. After his death, a swimming pool complex was named in his honour.


Teaching the Government of Other Countries - Why and How?

Teaching about the government of your own country can get complicated enough (preferential voting, anyone?!) without bringing other countries into it. But, learning about governments around the world can be incredibly valuable to students and it's definitely worth adding to your classroom.


Why should you teach about the political systems of other countries?

  • We live in a global world - what happens in one country can influence the events in other countries. Understanding the domestic political systems of other countries can help students gain a better understanding of treaties, interactions between leaders and the actions of international organisations.
  • Learning about other countries allows students to make comparisons. Making comparisons is an important skill for students to develop - especially when they understand why there are differences and similarities in different systems. The better they understand different systems, the more nuanced their comparisons can be.
  • Investigating the political systems of other countries fosters an interest in the world. The political systems are usually influenced by the history of a country and changes usually reflect the people. Learning about these elements allow students to develop a world view.

How can you teach about the political systems of other countries?

  • Pick one country to look at in-depth. Examine what the elected positions are, how people vote for them, how the electoral systems have changed over time. Look at what outside influences have altered the political systems of the country.

  • Pick one country to look at side by side with your own country. Create timelines of major electoral events. Examine the responsibilities of different elected roles. Look at who can vote and when different groups of people received the right to vote.
  • Pick one element - like elections - and examine a range of countries. You might like to create a 'day in the life' of the political leaders or write instructions for first time voters in each country.
  • Break students into smaller groups to examine different elements or different countries. Bring students together to share their learning or create a display for students, other classes and their families to explore.


Whether you look at other countries for one or two lessons or you create larger comparative units, including other countries in your government and civics lessons can create students who have a more inclusive understanding of how politics works around the world.


Elections in the Classroom - 7 Tips for Real Learning with Minimum Controversy

Learning about real life elections in the classroom sounds a lot like a disaster waiting to happen - especially in heightened political situations. However, there are definitely ways we can talk about political situations in the classroom so our students are informed and we don't attract controversy.

Elections in the Classroom - 7 Tips for Real Learning with Minimal Controversy. An insight into how to teach elections effectively in the classroom and to make sure you don't have a classful of parent complaints the next day. A thoughtful look at staying objective at election time. A Galarious Goods Blog

1. Don't Avoid Talking About Elections

Elections happen and they're important topics to cover in the classroom. Students are future voters and they deserve to have a good understanding of how elections work so one day they will be informed voters. Avoiding the topic in front of students might keep things from becoming controversial, but it can also be a disservice to our students who should be educated about the electoral system.

2. Keep Your Feelings Out of It

You might have really strong opinions about a particular candidate or a particular political party, but it's best to work to keep a neutral approach when you're talking about politics in the classroom. Students don't need to know about how you might be inclined to vote - it's ok to talk about how voters often prefer to keep their votes to themselves. It can also be an opportunity to talk about the use of secret ballots in elections and why they are used.

3. Set the Ground Rules for the Students

Classroom discussions about elections can get heated, especially if students or their parents hold strong opinions. Establish some strict ground rules early, ensuring students participate in lessons in a respectful, considerate manner. Make the rules explicit, write them down and refer back to them if required.

4. Use 'Primary' Sources

If you want your students to investigate to political positions of the candidates or how they use language in speeches turn to the words of the candidates themselves. Look for speeches on similar topics or speeches from similar events (like campaign launches or party conventions). Comparing the words of the candidates side by side allows students to see both sides of the political arguments and can also serve as a informational reading lesson.

Elections in the Classroom - 7 Tips for Real Learning with Minimal Controversy. An insight into how to teach elections effectively in the classroom and to make sure you don't have a classful of parent complaints the next day. A thoughtful look at staying objective at election time. A Galarious Goods Blog

5. Take a Technical Approach

It's possible to talk about elections in the classroom without focusing too much attention on candidates or political parties. Your students can look at how elections work, what people need to do to vote, how votes are counted. Look at the levels of government and what the different electable positions are. You can even take a look into how the government works. Taking a technical approach allows students to look more critically at the political process and how they can be involved in it.

6. Take a Historical Approach

Instead of focusing on a current or more recent election in the classroom, take a look into the past. What were earlier elections like? How have political parties changed over the years? What are the notable or interesting elections of the past? So much of history shapes the events of today - learning about the past can allow students to understand how we got to current political situations.

7. Take an International Approach

Lots of countries have democratic systems and elections, but they all have their own ways of voting and forming governments. Take your students on a look back at Ancient Athenian Democracy or take a peek into elections within other democratic countries. Compare and contrast the electoral systems and their principles with the electoral systems of your own country. Taking a wider view of elections can allow your students to have a better understanding of the electoral systems of their own country - and a global understanding of political events.

A controversial election can make the idea of teaching government in the classroom seem scary. But with some firm ground rules and interesting side journeys, you can make the most of election season while avoiding controversy.