Elections & Voting

"We do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate."

Thomas Jefferson (1743 – 1826), 3rd president of the United States
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LESSON OVERVIEW

This free ESL lesson plan on elections and voting has been designed for adults and young adults at an intermediate (B1/B2) to advanced (C1/C2) level and should last around 45 to 60 minutes for one student.

In the modern world, in countries with populations of millions, voting has become synonymous with the most efficient way to implement democracy to ensure that every person has their voice heard. But in many places, people choose not to vote believing that their vote doesn’t really count. And increasingly, even when people do vote, they don’t accept the results of the vote when it goes against them. In the United States, when the Democrats lose an election, they claim fraud. When the Republicans lose an election, they too claim fraud. Are we know living in an era when democratic elections no longer have any legitimacy? In this ESL lesson plan on elections and voting, students will have the opportunity to discuss and express their opinions on issues such as their experience of voting, the importance of voting, and problems that can happen during elections.

This lesson plan could also be used with your students to debate these issues for Global Elections Day, which takes place in February, or the International Day of Democracy, which takes place in September. For more lesson plans on international days and important holidays, see the calendar of world days to plan your classes for these special occasions.

For advice on how to use this English lesson plan and other lesson plans on this site, see the guide for ESL teachers.

PRE-CLASS ACTIVITIES

Reading activity
Before the English class, send the following article to the students and ask them to read it while making a list of any new vocabulary or phrases they find (explain any the students don’t understand in the class):

National Geographic | Why Voting Is Important

The article gives a brief history of voting rights in the United States, how certain groups are subjected to voter suppression, and how just a small number of voters can affect the outcome of an election. At the start of the class, hold a brief discussion about what the students thought about the article. What do they think about the issues raised in the article? Do they agree with what was said? Does this relate to their own countries in any way?

Video activity
To save time in class for the conversation activities, the English teacher can ask the students to watch the video below and answer the listening questions in Section 3 of the lesson plan at home. There are intermediate listening questions and advanced listening questions so teachers can decide which would be more appropriate for their students. Check the answers in the class.

The video for this class is called “The Electoral College, explained” by Vox which explains how presidential elections in the United States work.

IN-CLASS ACTIVITIES

The focus in the class is on conversation in order to help improve students’ fluency and confidence when speaking in English as well as boosting their vocabulary.

This lesson opens with a short discussion about the article the students read before the class. Next, the students can give their opinion on the quote at the beginning of the lesson plan – what they think the quote means and if they agree with it. This is followed by an initial discussion on the topic including what the voting age should be, whether voting is a civic duty, and how the students decide who to vote for.

After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with elections and voting such as first-past-the-post, apathy and turnout. This vocabulary has been chosen to boost the students’ knowledge of less common vocabulary that could be useful for preparing for English exams like IELTS or TOEFL. The vocabulary is accompanied by a cloze activity and a speaking activity to test the students’ comprehension of these words.

If the students didn’t watch the video before the class, they can watch it after the vocabulary section and answer the listening questions. Before checking the answers, ask the students to give a brief summary of the video and what they thought about the content.

Finally, there is a more in-depth conversation about elections and voting. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as the connection between voting and democracy, corruption and security concerns around election time, and why some people refuse to accept the results of elections.

HOMEWORK

After the class, students will write about their opinion of elections and voting. This could be a short paragraph or a longer piece of writing depending on what level the student is at. The writing activity is designed to allow students to practise and improve their grammar with the feedback from their teacher. For students who intend to take an international English exam such as IELTS or TOEFL, there is an alternative essay question to practise their essay-writing skills.

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