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.

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!

Different Types of Government (And How We Can Teach Them)

As our students learn more about government, it is vital that they understand the different types of government. This isn’t always easy or straight forward, though. To make it a little easier, here’s some of the main types of governments - and some ways to approach them in the classroom.

 
Different Types of Government and How We Can Teach Them. A look at a range of different types of governments, why it is important to learn about them and how we can teach them in an engaging way for our students. Perfect for social studies and government teachers and students. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

Types of Government

There are a number of different types of government which we can explore in the classroom. These include

Democracy

Democracy has been formally used as a type of government since Ancient Athens. The general premise of democracy is that the ‘people’ (usually restricted to people with citizenship who are over a certain age) get to decide on the rules and laws of the land - or they get to choose who makes the rules and laws of the land.

Democratic principles mean that everyone is seen as equal and everyone is required to follow the laws - however, in practice there have been times when those in power have treated others poorly (and restricted their ability to make decisions) to maintain power.

When we talk democracy in the classroom, we usually talk about voting - either voting for representatives or representatives voting for the laws we have to follow.

Dictatorship

In a dictatorship one person, or a small group of people, control the population and the rules and laws of the land. This is usually done by force, especially with the backing of the military.

Feudalism/Monarchy

A monarchy is a system of government headed by a single person - a monarch - who is usually part of a ruling family. Monarchs might have power to make laws or might be the figurehead of an elected government, but their right to be the head of the government is usually accepted by most of the citizens and they don’t need to use force or restrict the freedoms of the citizens.

In feudalism, there was a system of hierarchy - the person at the top had the most power, a small group of people below them had less power, the bigger group of people below then had less power again - down to the peasants with the smallest amount of power.

Communism

The ideal of communism is equality for everyone - a system which should especially benefit workers who have historically done the work while others have received the rewards.

However, in reality, it is very hard to maintain complete equality and communist leaders have often maintained power - and ‘equality’ - using the same forceful tactics as dictatorships.

Empires

During the 18th and 19th Centuries, many European countries went out of their way to ‘collect’ nations around the world - creating large empires. They might settle their own people in the countries, promote local people to act as leaders or just rule the country from afar, but they always held ultimate control over the countries - even from the other side of the world. Many times the European countries wanted resources from the countries they ‘collected’.

 
Different Types of Government and How We Can Teach Them. A look at a range of different types of governments, why it is important to learn about them and how we can teach them in an engaging way for our students. Perfect for social studies and government teachers and students. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

Why is it important to learn about types of government?

As we learn more history, we begin to understand how important it is to understand different kinds of governments. We can get a better understanding of World War Two when we understand dictatorships. We get a better understanding of the American Revolution and the partition of India and Pakistan when we understand Empires. We understand the suffragette movement better when we understand democracy.

Political history and political background is not always the most interesting part of history and it can be hard to teach. Learning the basics of the types of governments can allow for deeper teaching and make the information more accessible to students.

Understanding types of governments also allows students to understand how decisions are made. As future adults, understanding government allows our students to be better involved in them. Students can approach that part of adulthood with more confidence and will be better informed against misinformation campaigns.

Understanding different types of governments also allows us to move towards better types of governments. It helps us to understand why gerrymandering can lead to uneven representations or to understand why some people have difficulties with the ideas of quotas. For our students, it helps them get an understanding of what fair and unfair might look like when it comes to political systems and helps them to campaign for better representation as they get older.

 
Different Types of Government and How We Can Teach Them. A look at a range of different types of governments, why it is important to learn about them and how we can teach them in an engaging way for our students. Perfect for social studies and government teachers and students. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

How can we teach different types of government?

One of the best ways to teach different types of government is to find the stories that go with them. Students may not remember dry definitions of Ancient Democracy, but they might remember the story of the painted rope being carried through the Athenian Agora to mark the clothing of Athenian men who weren’t quick enough to participate in votes. Stories of life under dictatorships are common and are very helpful in giving students an understanding of that life. Stories of different monarchs through history - and their powers (or the lack of them) can also demonstrate monarchy.

The different types of governments have a direct impact on the people who live in them. That makes the stories more relevant and more powerful to our students.

Another way to teach different types of governments is by going visual. Creating diagrams or 3D representations of the different types of governments requires students to take a deeper look at them and to show a clear understanding of the different kinds of governments.

As a teacher, using diagrams to teach can also be useful. Students can record them in their book next to their writing, observe video versions of diagrams or use markers or figures to move around diagrams to get a better understanding of the types of government.

Finally, students can get a better understanding of the types of government through analogies. Using things which are an everyday part of the lives of students can make the abstract ideas much more real. Students can create ‘what if’ scenarios for classrooms or schools or the playground, experiment with what might happen if different types of governments ruled the classroom or apply different types of government to their favourite books or television shows.

Different types of government might seem like a dry topic at first glance. However, a closer look shows how important it is and how we can help our students understand it in fun and thoughtful ways.

Is Australia a Democracy or a Monarchy? (And How Can We Teach It?)

Civics and Citizenship education is filled with terminology: sometimes it feels like you’re learning a new - very specific - language. So how would you use that terminology to define Australia’s type of government? And how can we teach that in the classroom?

 
Is Australia a Democracy or a Monarchy? And how can we teach this in the classroom? A civics and citizenship, government in Australia blog post exploring ways to teach democracy and monarchy and Australia's system in your classroom. A Galarious Goods post
 

What is Democracy?

We can blame it on the Ancient Greeks.

Well, to be honest, there were probably small communities practicing elements of democracy before the city of Athens, but the Athenians were definitely the ones who made it popular. In Ancient Athens, any male who was a citizen (and over 20) could take part in government. That meant they could be part of the group which came up with new laws, they could vote on new laws, they could speak out about new laws. The power to guide the future of Athens was in the hands of lots of ordinary people (leaving out women, slaves and people whose parents weren’t Athenian).

Democracy is still about sharing power today, although we don’t tend to see democratic systems where citizens vote on everything anymore - that’s just too many votes on topics not too many of us really care about! Instead of that direct form of democracy, most democracies are representative. In a representative government, the citizens vote for people to represent us.

We hope that those representatives will have special talents or gifts or knowledge and will make thoughtful decisions and laws which help to move the country or state or city forward. Citizens still get to have a say - through voting for people who we think will make the laws we want and through being able to speak out about laws and other things - but we don’t make all the decisions ourselves.

How can we explore democracy in the classroom?

There are lots of ways to explore democracy, but a really easy way is just by voting! Students can propose ideas - like whether blue or green is a better colour, or if Baby Shark is really a good song or not - and then vote on them. The majority wins - and there might be a consequence. Like the teacher writing in only blue pen for the rest of the day. Or Baby Shark being played at least three times before the lunch bell.

To extend understanding, though, you can bring more options into the exercise. What if there were three songs for the students to choose from? What if the teacher offered 5 colours to vote on? In a class of 25 students, a majority of 6 students might be enough to decide on which pen colour would be used. Is it fair for only 6 students out of 25 to make that decision? This opens up an avenue for further conversation about democracy and majorities.

What is Monarchy?

A monarchy is - very simply - a government with a monarch at the head.

A monarch is the leader of a group of people - often a family - who symbolise the power and identity of the country. The monarch might have different title - king or queen, sultan, emperor - and they usually rule until they either die or abdicate - step down to hand over power to another member of the group or family.

While many monarchies are hereditary - they are passed down through the family following a set of rules about who gets it next - some monarchies are elected. For example, the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church (who is the head of the Vatican City State) is elected from cardinals before holding the position for life. In Malaysia, the monarch is elected from a group of families and they hold the position for five years.

Absolute monarchy means that the monarch has all the power. However, these days many monarchs hold ceremonial roles or have limited roles in government, with most of the power for making laws and decisions the responsibility of elected governments. This is a constitutional monarchy.

How can we explore monarchy in the classroom?

Because monarchies have been popular throughout history until today, there are many opportunities for researching them in the classroom. One avenue of investigation is to look at the symbols of monarchy in different parts of the world and different times of history. Students can look at what symbols there were for the pharaohs of Ancient Egypt and compare them with the symbols for modern monarchies - such as the British Royal family.

 
Is Australia a Democracy or a Monarchy? And how can we teach this in the classroom? A civics and citizenship, government in Australia blog post exploring ways to teach democracy and monarchy and Australia's system in your classroom. A Galarious Goods post
 

Is Australia a Democracy or a Monarchy?

Australia is both!

In Australia, citizens over the age of 18 participate in representative democracy. We vote for representatives to represent us at the local, state and federal level and trust that they’ll make the laws and decisions which guide the country forward.

However, we’re also a constitutional monarchy. We have a head of state who has restricted (and rarely used) powers.

Who is the head of state? Well, the Queen of Great Britain . . .

Between the 16th Century and the early 20th Century, Great Britain collected countries and states around the world to make the British Empire. Those countries were all ruled by the British monarch - the head of the British Royal family. In the modern era, as the British Empire faded, many of these countries became members of the Commonwealth realm and chose to keep the Monarch of Great Britain as their head of state. Australia is one of those countries.

As Head of State of Australia, the Queen does very little. She has representatives in Australia - the Governor General and the Governors of the states, who swear in leaders and sign laws - but again those representatives do very little (and it causes a bit of an outrage when they do try to test their power). But for many people, the Queen is important as a symbol.

Of course, not everyone feels this way. During the 1990s, more and more people called for a referendum (our way of having a direct vote in Australia) to stop being a monarchy. The referendum was held in 1999 and was unsuccessful - keeping Australia as a monarchy. Many believe this will change after Queen Elizabeth the Second passes away.

 
Is Australia a Democracy or a Monarchy? And how can we teach this in the classroom? A civics and citizenship, government in Australia blog post exploring ways to teach democracy and monarchy and Australia's system in your classroom. A Galarious Goods post
 

How Can We Teach It?

Some people might ask if it matters that Australia is a democracy and a monarchy. This is actually an excellent question to pose to your students - does it matter what type of government we have? What if we changed one kind of government or the other?

Students might also like to explore how we got here. How were decisions made in the different Indigenous Nations before the First Fleet arrived? What did early government look like in the colony of New South Wales? How did government change with Federation in 1901? A timeline activity could be a great way for students to examine how governments change and how they come to look like they are today.

Students can also make predictions about what government might look like in the future. Do they think we will have a monarch from another country as the head of state of Australia in the future? Will we continue to have a representative democracy or will we make changes to that system? How might the types of government change?

Monarchy and democracy might not seem like fascinating topics on the surface. But they are the systems which have shaped our government - and have shaped governments and history in the past. By getting a better understanding of these systems, we can help our students see how they can shape the country going into the future!

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
 

Mathematics

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.


English

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.

Art

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.

Music

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.

Drama

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!