Introduction

A democracy is “a system of government by the whole population or all eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives” (Oxford Dictionary). Democracies across the globe include countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia, Norway, Spain, the United States, and more. Though our own country is a representative democracy, many students are unfortunately unaware of how it functions. Therefore, teaching students about democracy is very important. If students understand how their government functions, they will be able to participate better in society in the future!

Resources

There are many different resources available online for teaching students about democracy. The lesson plans, articles, and informational sites below will provide students with information on the history of democracy, how a democracy functions, our country’s democratic values, and more related topics.

Lesson Plans

  1. Leaders 4SC Forces: Leaders 4SC provides a variety of Task Forces that provoke students to think critically about key issues as they roleplay as decision-makers and brainstorm well-detailed solutions. Each Task Force comes with step-by-step instructions, Google slide templates to be used with virtual breakout rooms, and topic-specific questions to get students started. The activities can be completed either individually or as part of a group. Some relevant Task Forces are Rank The Rights, Fix the Budget, and Design a Space Colony.  
  2. Defining Democracy: Facing History and Ourselves provides a lesson on defining democracy, which includes essential questions, an overview, materials, and two activities. The activities ask students to create a working definition of democracy and explore the relationship between democracy and community. From the lesson, students will gain a deeper understanding of the inner workings of democracy!
  3. Is Democracy at Risk? A Lesson Plan for U.S. and Global History Classes: The New York Times has put together a lesson plan to teach history classes about the concept of democracy. This lesson includes a warm-up on defining democracy and four activities that focus on questioning the strength of democracy, examining anti-democratic forces in Venezuela, Turkey, and Hungary, identifying essential elements in a democracy, and assessing the state of democracy in the U.S. and around the world. Additionally, there is a wrap-up on finding the “I” and “we” in democracy along with a list of additional resources which will come in handy!
  4. Foundations of Democracy: sharemylesson offers a collection of resources on the foundations of democracy, which includes lessons on the rule of law, limited government, protecting democracy from abuse, freedom of the press, addressing the rise of fake news, local government, and more. These lessons “can be used to build background knowledge to analyze the health of our democracy over time and in today’s environment.”

Articles

  1. Teaching Democracy by Doing It!: ASCD provides educators with an article on how to teach students about democracy. The author analyzes the approaches of keeping conflict out of education and building conflict into education before coming to the conclusion that using conflict as an opportunity for learning is the best approach. Examples are provided to support this argument! For educators who want to learn more about why they should be teaching about controversial matters in the classroom, including the differences in democratic communities, this article will prove to be extremely useful!
  2. Lesson Plans that Help Students Learn About Democracy: Resilient Educator provides a few lesson ideas to get educators started on teaching their students about democracy. These recommendations include introducing the class to the core democratic values, teaching children about local government, and having students examine the history of voting. The author understands how important it is to teach students about democracy and civic duty, and these ideas will help educators introduce the concept of democracy to students in an impactful way!

Informational Sites

  1. UN – Democracy: The United Nations provides information on democracy in the founding documents of the UN, democracy and human rights, democracy and elections, women and democracy, the International Day of Democracy, and more related topics. The UN has done much to support democracy across the globe, so learning from their resources will benefit students immensely!
  2. UShistory.org – American Government
    1. What Is a Democracy?: UShistory.org has put together a page explaining what a democracy is, as the word “democracy” isn’t actually mentioned in the Declaration of Independence. In this short article, the origination of democracies is described along with the different types of democracy.
    2. Democratic Values — Liberty, Equality, Justice: This page focuses on the basic values of democratic political systems. The article touches upon both the influence of the Enlightenment on the American government and the balance of various values that is present in democracies (i.e. order and liberty, liberty and equality, etc.)
  3. Britannica – Democracy: Britannica provides an article on democracy, which includes information on the fundamental questions of democracy, democratic institutions (Classical Greece, the Roman Republic, etc.), the theory of democracy, and problems and challenges democracies face.

Conclusion

Teaching students about democracy may not be the easiest task, but it is an important one because these students are our future voters! Additionally, much of the appeal of the United States lies in the fact that our country is a representative democracy. Without that, a huge piece of our identity is missing. For this reason, it is necessary for students to learn about how a democracy functions, and the resources above will help students do just that!

Additional Resources

  1. Student Voice and the Teaching of Democracy: edutopia provides an article on student voice and the teaching of democracy in the classroom. As the author explains, one place to start teaching students about democracy is to get them involved in decision-making processes within the school and the classroom itself. The best way to teach about a subject is to give students first hand experience on the matter!
  2. U.S. Government – Democracy: Ducksters offers students information on democracy, including what a democracy is, types of democracy, characteristics that make up a democracy, the reality of democracy, etc. In addition, there is a ten-question quiz at the end of this page which will test what students learned on democracy!
  3. Scholastic – Democracy: Scholastic has published a brief article geared towards students in grades 9-12 on democracy, specifically the origins of democracy, democratic ideals and practice, the ideal of justice, freedom and faction, the difficulties of democracy, etc.