Why We Need to Teach Australian Elections - and Resources to Help You

With all the noise around politicians, elections, campaigns and promises, it can be tempting to tune it all out. However, in the classroom it is our job to teach about elections to ensure we have informed voters in the future.

 
Why We Need to Teach Australian Elections - and a Wide Range of Resources to Help You. This Blog post looks at why to teach Australian elections and offers a range of blog posts, websites and resources you can use to teach them effectively. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

Voting is Part of the Curriculum

The Civics and Citizenship strand of HASS in the Australian Curriculum includes a number of outcomes connected to elections and voting. From learning about the role of voting in a democracy to learning how voting works in Australia, students are expected to gain a wide understanding of voting and elections through their lessons in the classroom.

It Helps to Prepare Informed Citizens

Australia has compulsory voting which means most of your students will be required to vote one day. As well as understanding the way campaigning works and the responsibilities of voters and elected officials, students need to understand the mechanics of how voting works and how votes are counted. The more informed students are about voting, the more likely they are to be informed voters as adults.

 
Why We Need to Teach Australian Elections - and a Wide Range of Resources to Help You. This Blog post looks at why to teach Australian elections and offers a range of blog posts, websites and resources you can use to teach them effectively. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

Blog Posts, Websites and Resources to Help You Teach Elections

Blog Posts

Elections in the Classroom - 7 Tips for Real Learning with Minimum Controversy
Teachers should always take care to teach government and elections without bias, but this is particularly important around election time - the last thing you want is to appear on the front page of a newspaper because a student or parent took objection to your views. This blog post offers a range of ways you can teach elections in an interesting and factual manner without inviting controversy

7 Things You May Not Know About Government in Australia
This post is a collection of facts about government in Australia and is a great starting point for students exploring Australian government and Australian elections.

Australian Election Myths (And Teaching Ideas for a Better Understanding of Elections)
Unfortunately there is a growing collection of myths about voting in Australia - it’s so bad that the Australian Electoral Commission is having to run advertising to warn people about misinformation. This post explores a number of commonly held myths and provides teaching ideas and further links for teachers and students to explore.

Why We Should Explore Compulsory Voting in Our Classrooms
Many people know that we have compulsory voting in Australia, but do they know about the history of compulsory voting and the senator who introduced it? This post contains some of that history as well as other teaching ideas to explore in the classroom. This is perfect for students exploring the features of Australian democracy.

What are Political Parties, Why Do They Matter and How Can We Teach Them?
When we look at election campaigns, we are usually dealing with political parties. This post offers information about political parties and how you can teach more about them in the classroom.

What are Election Policies? (And how can we teach students about them?)
As well as political parties, many students will come across election policies and campaign promises from candidates. This blog post takes a closer look at policies and how we can better understand them.

Websites

Resources

The Elections in Australia resources are the most comprehensive look at Australian elections. These resources include a mini unit which looks at different elements of voting and elections in Australia, posters, word wall cards and research tasks.

You can also use the Run Your Own Preferential Election resources to get a better understanding of preferential voting in Australia and how preferential votes are counted. Word Wall cards are also available for this topic.

There is a duo of resources for Year 6 students looking at the responsibilities of voters and the responsibilities of elected representatives. This is an excellent way to look at what is expected of voters and the people we elect to lead us.

Australian Electoral Process and Running an Australian Election takes Year 5 students through the elements of Australian elections including secret ballot and compulsory voting.

If I Was Prime Minister is a fabulous book by Beck and Robin Feiner. There are two available book studies for this book: one for Year 2, 3 and 4 students and another for Year 5 and 6 students.

Finally, students can explore their own feelings about compulsory voting with a persuasive writing task asking students to take a position for or against it.

What are Election Policies? (And how can we teach students about them?)

In the first part of this blog post, I explored what political parties are, why they are important and how we can explore the differences between different parties and their values.

In this post I’m going to take a closer look at election policies - or what different political parties are promising - as well as some ideas for exploring election policies in the classroom.

 
What are election policies? (and how can we teach students about them?) A government and civics themed blog post exploring election policies, how they're made and how we can read them. A Galarious Goods blog post.
 

What are Party Policies?

Every political party creates a set of policies - goals for different areas of government which are shaped by the values of the party. These policies might be very general - we are aiming to promote penguins - or very specific - we are aiming to use government money to build statues of penguins around Australia.The parties who have a better chance of winning seats in an election are more likely to have specific policies - because the voters will expect them to turn the policies into laws if they win the election.

During an election campaign, political parties may release, discuss and promote these policies. They might talk about how these policies are different from the other parties, talk about how they are going to pay for these policies or talk about how these policies will create a better country or state.

The party policies combine to make the party platform - the goals the political party will aim to achieve if they win government.

Lesson idea: Students can brainstorm some general policies for their school and then see if they can make them more specific. So ‘air-conditioning the classrooms’ may become ‘work with the P and C to come up with fundraising ideas so we can air-condition at least three of the classrooms next year’. Students can then discuss whether general or specific policies are more helpful for voters.

How are Party Policies Made?

There are a number of ways policies are made. Sometimes party leaders might make up policies as they go. More commonly, though, policies involve political parties identifying issues which people care about or problems which need to be solved, then working through a process to develop a policy which would solve the problem or address the issue.

The process often asks political parties to think about any potential issues which would come up if the policy was turned into laws. For example, a policy to promote penguins might sound great in theory, but additional tourists travelling to visit penguins might put penguin habitats in danger and it would definitely mean more traffic on the roads. Political parties have to work through all these potential problems in their policies to create the best policy possible.

Lesson idea: Provide students with a list of possible school policies and ask them to consider the implications of these policies. They might like to create PMI charts or other ways of exploring the policies.

 
What are election policies? (and how can we teach students about them?) A government and civics themed blog post exploring election policies, how they're made and how we can read them. A Galarious Goods blog post.
 

How Can Regular Citizens Understand Election Policies?

This is possibly the hardest part! Political parties often release a lot of policies before elections. They want to use these to convince voters to vote for them. So many times they are written in a way which is very persuasive and this can sometimes be a bit confusing.

Some political parties might use their policies to be negative about other parties. Other political parties might use their policies to show that they are very serious - which means they include so much detail it can be hard to understand what the policies are. And some policies are just down-right confusing if you don’t understand complex tax systems!

There are a few ways we can get through to the nitty-gritty of policies though:

1. Try to rewrite them in your own words.

Your own words will include less of the persuasive language used before elections. By writing out some of the policies from different parties in your own words you can get a better idea of what those policies are and how they compare with other policies.

Students can easily explore this in the classroom. By rewriting the policies and removing persuasive language, they can explore how persuasive language is used in election campaigns. They can use this knowledge to create their own persuasive statements.

2. Compare policies with the values of the political party

The political party will have a set of values which they follow. Usually policies are created in alignment with the values of the political party. If they don’t seem to align, it’s worth exploring why that is the case. It’s possible that the policy is more complex than it first seems!

Students can work on these comparisons in groups. They can also try to match policies to different political parties, or create their own political parties with different values and decide what kind of policies would suit each set of values.

3. Compare policies with speeches

It’s always good to explore primary source material. In many cases politicians give speeches which look at what they believe and why they believe it’s important. They might also give speeches which give more information about different policies - these are a good way to take a closer look at policies and how they align with what the politicians are saying.

Then how do I work out who has the BEST policies?

Honestly, that really depends on what you think is most important. The best way is to spend a little time reflecting on what is most important to you - jobs, education, penguins?

When you have determined what is most important to you, you should look for whichever political party has policies which best match with what you believe. It’s unlikely that you’ll get an exact match, so you might need to determine which is the closest on the most important and be more flexible with less important beliefs.

Lesson Idea - Students can be provided with different aspects of school life and school decision making (like types of lessons taught, school events, uniform decisions, food in the tuckshop) and determine which one is most important to them. Students can use this information to write the kind of policies they’d like to see at school.

Read Part One of this post - exploring political parties - here

What are Political Parties, Why Do They Matter and How Can We Teach Them?

A few weeks ago when I crowdsourced some election myths for this post, I was asked an interesting question by a Year 5 student: How do you know the difference between different political parties and what they are promising?

It turned out to be such a good question that I’m going to devote two blog posts to it! Today, I’ll be exploring political parties themselves.

 
What are Political Parties, Why Do They Matter and How Can We Teach Them? A look at political parties in Australia and how we can create effective lessons to teach this sometimes complex topic. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

What are political parties?

Political parties are groups of people who believe in a set of values and ideals. They group together with the aim of winning elected positions at federal, state or local elections.

Members of political parties help to shape policies, vote to choose candidates for elections, help campaign for their political party and celebrate (or commiserate) after elections. Many Australians don’t belong to political parties, but might generally support one or another of them.

While the people in political parties share similar values, they don’t all agree all of the time. Party members, including MPs and Senators, might have strong disagreements about different party policies or ideas. However, these disagreements are usually worked out in party meetings and often aren’t argued in public. Australian political parties are known for having this ‘tight discipline’ which means that MPs and Senators from a certain party usually vote for that party in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Sometimes political parties with some similar values work together in a Coalition. Meanwhile, MPs or Senators who don’t belong to a political party are called independents.

Lesson idea: Students can develop their own political party. They should think about what kind of values are important to them, then create an advertisement convincing people to join their party.

Why are political parties important?

Political parties are important because they help groups of people work together to get people elected and to create laws and policy which promote their values. But there are other reasons why political parties are important.

In Australian federal politics, the political party (or coalition) which has the most elected MPs becomes the Government. This means they can choose ministers, develop policies, implement laws and run government departments. They also choose the Prime Minister.

Because the political party chooses the Prime Minister (and not the people of Australia), the ruling political party can change the Prime Minister anytime they want to (as we have seen a lot in recent years). This means any elected member of the ruling political party might become Prime Minister . . . This might be another reason for voters to choose a particular political party.

Lesson idea: Students explore how Prime Ministers are chosen - and discuss what qualities a good Prime Minister should have. Students can turn this discussion into a ‘job application’ to find an excellent Prime Minister.

 
What are Political Parties, Why Do They Matter and How Can We Teach Them? A look at political parties in Australia and how we can create effective lessons to teach this sometimes complex topic. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

A Quick History of Australia’s Political Parties

In the early 1900s, Australia had three main political parties. The Protectionist Party wanted tariffs and taxes on imports into Australia to protect Australian products and jobs. The Free Trade Party wanted to get rid of taxes and tariffs to allow everyone to share in the wealth of the country. And the Australian Labor Party represented workers groups (or unions) to make sure that workers had fair pay and safe working conditions.

Over time, many political parties have come and gone in Australia. Some of them held positions of power in the Australian parliament, while others may have had a few elected members (or none) before dissolving. The Australian Labor Party is the only surviving party from the original big three.

Lesson idea: Students explore which Prime Ministers represented which party in the early 1900s. They can look a little closer at what policies they promoted and what kinds of laws were put in place.

Today’s Political Parties

Today there are still three main political parties who form government - but they’re a little different from the 1900s.

The Australian Labor Party still aims to represent workers and unions. They also describe themselves as a social-democratic party, which means they think the government should step in to promote social justice through social or economic means.

The Nationals Party is the second oldest party in Australia, founded in 1920. It aims to represent farmers, as well as people who live outside the big cities in Australia. The Nationals often work to make sure that people outside the cities have the same access to services as the people in the cities. They work in a coalition with the Liberal Party of Australia and share some - though not all - of the same values.

The Liberal Party of Australia was formed in 1944 after a meeting of organisations which opposed the Australian Labor Party. Their goal was to form a party based on individual freedom and personal choice. As part of this, they supported (and continue to support) free business - believing that business is the best way to create national and individual growth and wealth. They work in coalition with the National Party.

There are also a number of minor parties (or smaller parties) in Australia. At the moment, the biggest of those is the Australian Greens, a party which grew out of the environmental movement, but now works to develop policies around the environment and integrity, fairness and decency.

There are a number of other smaller parties who run in elections and have one or two elected members. These often change as their popularity grows or falls.

You can get a better understanding of different parties by exploring their values - what ideas they think are most important.

Lesson: Students can create a diagram showing the different political parties in Australia. They might like to research to discover what the core values of the parties are and if they’ve changed since the parties were first formed. Students can use these diagrams to highlight the differences between different parties.

In part 2, I’m going to take a little look at what political policies are, how to examine them, and how to tell the difference between them. Click here to read more now.

Want to read more? Try . . .

5 Things You Need to Teach Year 4 Civics and Citizenship

The Year 4 Australian Civics and Citizenship curriculum introduces students to some really important concepts - helping them understand the influence of government, laws and the communities they belong to on their everyday life. But what do teachers need to know to make these lessons more effective?

 
5 Things You Need to Teach Year Four Australian Civics and Citizenship. An overview of the Australian Civics and Citizenship HASS outcomes with teaching ideas for busy teachers. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

1. What is Government?

Year 4 students are asked to explore local government and the services of local government. But before students can effectively tackle this subject, they should have some understanding of what government is.

This may seem like a fairly simple concept, but like many simple concepts it can be hard to define clearly for our students.

You may like to start by gauging student understanding. Ask students to write or draw what they think government is or to engage in a think-pair-share while defining government. Students can work collaboratively to create a collage showing what government is or can interview each other about what they think government involves.

Students may also like to add to their understanding of government as they spend more time learning about local government.

2. What does your Local Government Involve?

The local government outcome is a great way for students to take an introductory look at elections and at how government plays a role in everyday life. But there’s a number of things which you can do to make this more successful.

It’s possible that you live in a different local council area to your students or that your students live across two different council areas. This means you may need to do a little research on a different council area and some of the services which the local council offers.

It’s worthwhile getting in contact with your local council as you are planning your lessons. They might have educational materials which you can use in your classroom or they might be able to suggest excursion opportunities or aspects of the council which you may not have thought of. You might also be able to get a guest speaker from the local council - many local councillors engage in school visits and might be happy to speak with your students about the services offered by local government.

Another area of your local government to explore is the local libraries. You may be able to take students there as an excursion, and librarians are often available to show students the many services available through the libraries and through library websites - all services offered by local governments. (They might even have teaching materials available!)

 
5 Things You Need to Teach Year Four Australian Civics and Citizenship. An overview of the Australian Civics and Citizenship HASS outcomes with teaching ideas for busy teachers. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

3. The Difference Between Rules and Laws

Another Year 4 Australian Civics and Citizenship outcome asks students to explore the place of laws in their life and how laws differ from rules.

As you approach these lessons, you might like to collect examples of rules which students might encounter. From school rules, to classroom rules, to household rules to shopping centre or play centre rules - although students see these daily, they may not have really examined them.

As they examine them, they can start to understand how rules differ from laws. The difference between rules and laws is another concept which can be simple, but can be complicated. It’s worthwhile spending a little time to write down your ideas on the concept to get them firmly worked out as you plan lessons and learning experiences for your students.

Students can also build a ‘growing’ definition of rules and laws - adding to or refining their understanding as they work through lessons on the topic.

4. Identity - and how it is shaped by different things

The Civics and Citizenship curriculum asks students to explore how their identity is shaped by the groups they are part of. This is a rather complex topic - what is meant by groups? What is meant by identity?

One way you can prepare to teach this topic is to take a moment to reflect on your own identity and how that has been shaped by groups. Some of the groups you belong to may not have much of an influence on your identity - my family background is Scottish, but other than an interest in visiting Scotland one day, it doesn’t have a massive influence on my day to day life. Other groups you belong to might make a daily impact on your life - my immediate family group prioritises dinner time, so we cook dinner and eat together almost every night - this is a group which has a big impact on what I do every day.

Reflecting on your own identity can help you plan a way for your students to explore the groups they belong to and how those shape their own identities. Students may be surprised to discover how many groups they belong to - from groups connected with their heritage, groups connected to their religion, groups connected to their family, friendship groups, school groups and activity groups. You can also explore other groups in your community - especially cultural, religious and activity groups.

5. Symbols and Traditions

As well as exploring groups in the community, Year 4 students are asked to reflect on the symbols and traditions of these groups. This might include ceremonies, activities, anthems, poems, school songs, colours or logos.

You might like to spend some time collecting examples of symbols and traditions before students start exploring these topics. This might include the logos, colours and uniforms of local sports teams; uniforms, mottos and school songs from local schools; traditions of local religious denominations or traditions of military or returned service people groups.

You can present these symbols and traditions to your students, asking them to reflect on why they might be important, why they may have developed, what they say about the groups and how they influence identity.

Looking for comprehensive Year 4 Civics and Citizenship resources? Explore the Year 4 Civics and Citizenship Complete Bundle and the Mini Units, Assessment Tasks and Word Wall and Poster resources which make up the Bundle.

Australian Election Myths (And Teaching Ideas for a Better Understanding of Elections)

As elections approach in Australia, people begin to talk about voting. And while this talk is sometimes about policies and personalities (and sometimes about democracy sausages), sometimes misinformation creeps into the conversation.

How does this impact us as teachers? Well, teaching civics is part of the Australian curriculum. And teachers are in a unique position to arm their students with accurate information - the kind of information which will make our students more informed when the time comes for them to vote - and less likely to fall for misinformation when it comes up.

 
Australian Election Myths and Teaching Ideas for a Better Understanding. Mythbusting misconceptions about Australian elections and voting in Australia and teaching ideas to help students be better informed. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

Myth: A blank vote is a vote for the government
Reality:
A blank vote is regarded as an informal vote and counts for no candidate

Myth: If you don’t like anyone, you can cross them all out and write that you don’t want them. A new election will be held if a majority of people vote like this
Reality:
Crossing out candidates and writing on the paper will make the vote informal and it will count for no candidate . . . but it also won’t trigger a new election.

The myths which lead people to informal voting are probably the most dangerous (and the most likely to be promoted by groups looking to interfere with elections in Australia). An informal vote happens when a ballot paper is not filled in correctly. This might mean that the voter has ticked or crossed instead of numbering, written their name on the ballot, not filled in the ballot at all or hasn’t completed the vote under the requirements of the election.

In the 2016 Federal Election, about 5% of House of Representative votes were informal, with about 1.25% of voters leaving them blank, 1.25% of voters numbering incorrectly and about 1% writing slogans or protests on the ballots. While these votes do not count for any candidate (and do not trigger a new election), these votes are totally legal. Compulsory voting requires voters to have their names checked off and to put their ballot paper in the box - but secret ballot means there are no ways to check - and no punishment - if the voter deliberately submits an informal vote.

So why should we correct this myth? People trying to make a protest vote might not understand that preferential voting is designed so the majority of voters get the candidate they dislike the least. By voting correctly, you have a much better chance of getting the candidate you dislike least. It’s a protest against the ones you dislike the most!

Teaching about informal votes: Informal voting is more likely to happen if there are a lot of candidates running. You can work with your students to discuss why this might be the case - and to create a campaign of strategies to help people vote correctly when there are a lot of candidates. Students can create posters or leaflets with their strategies.

Myth: A donkey vote doesn’t count as a vote
Reality: A donkey vote is a perfectly valid way to vote - and why candidates want their name on the top of the ballot paper!

A donkey vote happens when someone votes ‘down the ballot’ without thinking about it - they number the first box ‘1’, the second box ‘2’ and so on. Because every box is numbered it counts as a valid vote. The first candidate on the paper gets the first preference, the second candidate the second preference (if required) and so on.

People might donkey vote if they don’t care who wins, if they don’t understand how the voting system works or if they’re lodging a protest vote. However, a voter might look like a donkey voter - but honestly be voting the way they want to vote! (Especially when there’s only a couple of candidates)

The electoral commissions in Australia work really, really hard to put the candidates names randomly on the papers. There is a double blind draw (they draw once to decide the order the draw will go in and then draw again to work out where the candidates go on the paper). The person drawing the ballot is - indeed - blindfolded (leading to some interesting and not terribly flattering photos of ballot draws!)

Teaching about donkey votes: Investigate the ballot draw system with your students - you might even be able to find video of a draw online. Ask students to create diagrams to explain the system. Or ask them to create their own better system of creating a ballot draw. Students can also explore why we don’t use other systems for the ballot like alphabetically or in the order candidates are registered.

 
Australian Election Myths and Teaching Ideas for a Better Understanding. Mythbusting misconceptions about Australian elections and voting in Australia and teaching ideas to help students be better informed. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

Myth: How to Vote Cards must be followed
Reality: How to Vote Cards are just guides

Myth: Preferences aren’t Important
Reality: Preferences can matter a lot

Whenever an election approaches, there’s a lot of discussion about How to Vote Cards. These are the cards which volunteers hand out as you walk into the voting booth. Candidates create them to try to convince people to vote for them - then for the people they like the most (or dislike the least).

But, even if you like a particular party or candidate, you can definitely preference your vote (vote 2, 3, 4 etc) any way you like. The how-to-vote cards are just guides. The surprising thing is that a lot of voters have no idea how they will vote until they turn up - so those cards can be influential!

Preferences are important though. Preferential voting can be difficult to understand - and it’s a whole blog post of its own! - but preferences can change the results of elections. It’s a system which allows the majority of voters to elect the people they dislike the least. It’s a little strange, but the preferences allow us to have a greater say about who represents us and which party is - or isn’t - in charge.

Teaching preferential voting in the classroom - You can find a resource with a closer look at preferential voting at the Galarious Goods store and the Australian Electoral Commission also have a video about preferential voting. Students can create diagrams or their own videos which explain preferential voting.

Myth: It’s not worth voting in my seat, the same person always wins
Reality: While some seats are ‘safe seats’ there are still benefits to voting.

It can be a real pain to get all excited to vote, only to see the same person - who you don’t like - get elected each time. It’s enough to make you wonder why you bother to vote when you live in a ‘safe’ seat.

A ‘safe’ seat is a seat which is likely to be won by the current candidate (or the same political party). However, there are examples of safe seats going to other candidates. Sometimes this might be because local people are tired of being a ‘safe’ seat and seek their own candidate (like in Indi in 2013); and sometimes a change in boundaries and population, as well as political changes can be enough to change the seat (like when the Prime Minister, John Howard, lost his own seat in 2007). When this happens, the votes are usually pretty close, so it’s definitely worth voting.

Voting also influences political funding. When a candidate gets more than a certain percentage of first preference votes, they are eligible for election funding. This can be especially helpful to smaller parties.

In almost all state and federal elections (Queensland is an exception), you’re voting for an upper house as well as a local representative. These votes are often closer, and a small number of votes can make a real difference, so these votes can help make changes, even when you’re in a safe seat.

Voting is also one of the responsibilities of being an Australian citizen. It’s a chance to become better informed, to have a say . . . and to get yourself a democracy sausage or two.

Teaching about voting in the classroom: Explore the campaign in Indi for independent representatives. It’s a fascinating story about voters having a say. You can also explore more about the responsibilities of voters with this resource from Galarious Goods.

Have you heard any myths about voting in Australia? Make sure you leave them in the comments below.

Find more information about voting at the Australian Electoral Commission website

A huge thanks to Mel, Heidi, Skyler and Kate for their help in uncovering election myths!

4 Ways to Use Amazing Songs To Make Your Lessons More Attractive

Some of my earliest memories of school include singing songs and using chants to remember what I was learning. (A is for Apple, A, A, A is still imprinted on my mind!). Songs are a wonderful way to help students understand and remember different learning topics - so where can we find them and how can we used them in the classroom?

 
4 Ways to Use Amazing Songs to Make Your Lessons More Attractive
 

Luckily for us, we live in the time of the internet and YouTube! This allows us almost instant access to some amazing educational songs which we can play right to our classes. One of my favourite bands for educational songs is They Might Be Giants. They have a couple of educational albums including Here Comes the ABCs and Here Comes the 123s, but the one I've used the most is Here Comes Science - I have a strange love for their Solid Liquid Gas song!

 
 

Schoolhouse Rock is a classic example of educational songs for a reason - even outside of the United States it's likely that you've heard at least some of their songs. These songs were originally created when an advertising executive realised that his son could remember all the lyrics to songs even though he was having trouble remembering multiplication tables. There's lots of songs available covering a range of topics - in English, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies.

 
 

There are also a really wide range of teacher and student created educational songs! Some educators and classes have been incredibly creative with how they've explored a topic and they've been kind enough to share their creations with the internet.

 
 

But how can we use educational songs in the classroom?

1. Introduce New Topics and Gain Interest

Songs can be a wonderful way to introduce a new topic to a class. It may be directly connected to the topic you're going to be covering (like the Solid Liquid Gas song when you're about to explore solids, liquids and gases) or it might be indirectly connected (like protest songs when you're covering the Vietnam War and reactions to it). Students can just listen to the song, watch a music video or examine the lyrics. They may note new vocabulary, discuss what they think they're going to learn, or make connections to topics they've already covered or knowledge they already have.

2. Reinforce Facts, Events or Processes

Once students have been introduced to new topics or ideas, songs can assist in reinforcing them. This can be particularly useful for things which need to be memorised, like mathematical facts or formulas or historical dates. It may also offer an alternative way of looking at a topic - something which can be very useful for some students who are having difficulty with the way the material has been covered. 

3. Prompt Questioning and Further Exploration

While songs can definitely tell a story or provide information, their structure and length - and the fact that many are written for entertainment - means that inevitably parts are left out. This is great for us as teachers though, because we can use songs to prompt further questioning and exploration - did George Washington and Alexander Hamilton really have a close working relationship like they did in Hamilton? Why did Constantinople become Istanbul? What is the story told in From Little Things Big Things Grow?

 
 

Students can brainstorm these questions while listening to the songs, annotate on the lyrics of the songs or use a display board to add questions to as they learn more about the song and the events or ideas it describes.

Looking for a song about a historical event? This Genius list includes a lot of them - though not all would be appropriate for the classroom, so check them out first.

4. Create Your Own Songs

Can't find a good song for the topic you're covering? Then write your own (or ask your students to write one for you!)

Creating a song for your students, or having your class work together or in small groups to write songs can help to refine the topic you're teaching and really concentrate on what's important. Students need to show a really good understanding of the topic to create effective songs and the process can be a great way of clarifying and assessing what they know. 

Lots of teacher and student created songs begin as parodies of well known songs - this can make life much easier because you're not having to come up with the music or the rhythm of the songs - you're just fitting words into an already created structure. Some students (and teachers!) however, may enjoy the creative freedom of coming up with a brand new song.

This step by step guide is a great place to start if you're considering writing your own educational songs.

 
Using songs in the classroom - blog post from Galarious Goods
 

Whether you're just listening, taking an in-depth look at educational songs as part of your teaching or planning on becoming the next Schoolhouse Rock, educational songs are a great way of adding interest and memorability to your lessons. It's definitely worth trying to fit them into a lesson where you can.

Want to use educational song in Australian Government assessment? The Year 6 Creating Laws in Australia Assessment resource includes an educational song writing assessment task - perfect for any class examining how laws are made.

 
 
 
 

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
 

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. Looking at ways students can get involved with the world around them to create change in the world. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

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.

 
Get Students Involved to Make A Better World. Looking at ways students can get involved with the world around them to create change in the world. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

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. 

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.