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Informed Voting Teaching Activities
The following short class activities can be used to give students practice with the strategies discussed in the Informed Voting video and handout on the Citizen Literacy website. The activities are designed to be adapted to different disciplinary contexts as well as different learning environments (face-to-face, online, hybrid).
- The Big Money: Divide students into small groups and assign each group one of the Top 20 Political Action Committees on Opensecrets.org. Ask students to explore the available data on the PAC (such as donation recipients and expenditures). Next, ask them to see if they can locate the PAC’s website and a news article that mentions the PAC. What issues is the PAC interested in? What activities is the PAC engaged in? After they complete this research, ask groups to report their findings to the class. Together, explore the potential impact of big money on democratic society.
- The Great Debate: Watch a brief segment of a political debate (5-10 minutes), then ask students how they would go about researching or fact-checking the candidates’ claims and policy ideas. Ask them what knowledge gaps would need to be filled in order to fully assess the content of the debate. Conclude by asking students to locate an online source (such as a news or scholarly article, or an article from a fact-checking website such as Politifact or FactCheck.org) that would give them more information on what was discussed in the debate segment. For a longer version of the activity, ask students to watch an entire debate for homework, then evaluate how the debate is covered in one or more media sources the next day.
- I Got the News: Choose an important social or political issue related to your discipline or course theme, or ask students to decide on a key issue that matters to them. In groups or individually, ask them to find credible news articles that provide insight into the issue. Students should also determine what kind of article they selected (straight news, news analysis, editorial, etc.), where it is located (i.e., the specific website), and its point of view or potential biases. Conclude by asking students to report their findings to the class and consider how the information they learned might influence their voting behavior.