A free five-lesson curriculum educating new citizens on the voting process in Minnesota is available to download at the MN Literacy Council website. The curriculum was created by Meredith Sommers, a long-time literacy volunteer at the Centro Guadalupano program in Minneapolis, and has been recently updated for the fall 2018 mid-term election. The MN Literacy Council would like to thank Meredith for generously providing her time and energy in creating this curriculum; volunteers like her help to make Minnesota a leader in ABE! The curriculum can be found here.
I am a citizen; now, how do I vote?
That is the question posed to me after teaching a Citizenship class. One student, who I’ll call Tran, had passed her citizenship test and came back to her intermediate ESL class, wondering what to do next. She knew the answers to the dozens of citizenship questions, but wanted to know “how do I vote?” I tried to explain the process of registering and voting, then realized a more effective way of teaching is using stories rather than directions.
From her question, I developed a new election curriculum and have taught it to the intermediate class at Centro Guadalupano in Minneapolis. The last session of the voter education class was actually Election Day in 2016, so the students packed up and we went down the block to a polling place. One election judge took some time to show the students around. As we were leaving, Tran asked the judge if she could vote, right then and there. Although this was not her polling place, she was given instructions about where to go for her polling place. I dismissed class early so Tran and I could go to her voting place. She voted that day. The “I VOTED” sticker she was given is still on her class notebook and we often talk about the day she felt like a citizen.
Since first written in 2002, the curriculum has been updated every two years. The original format is for classroom lessons, led by an instructor. This year the Minnesota Literacy Council has also made it available on their website so students can directly access the lessons, which are interactive. Each lesson of the five-part curriculum requires approximately 20-30 minutes, including questions and responses. The curriculum is available to be printed and copied as a PDF, or on the WEB as a Word document.
The first lesson covers registering to vote, including eligibility requirements. A registration form is included, along with instructions for mail-in or on-line registration. Any person can provide registration cards and give assistance to help register voters. ESL, ABE and Citizenship classrooms are ideal places to do voter registration.
Three lessons help students understand the process of learning about candidates and issues, and at what level of government decisions are made, city, state or federal. Students are encouraged to do research on issues of their interest, using WEB sites, such as mnvotes.org from the Secretary of State MN, the Voter’s Guide from the Star Tribune and the League of Women’s Voters, lwvmn.org.
The final lesson is on casting a vote and includes a simulation as three people, with different circumstances, find their way through the polling place. And, if possible, this lesson can include a visit to an actual polling place where students may vote.
The lessons are offered as my commitment to Democracy and Education, and in conjunction with Minnesota Literacy Council. Permission is granted to download, copy and use all or part of the lessons. Your comments are appreciated.