When its voting season I hear a lot of opinions about voting, the most popular is “my vote doesn’t matter or I just let things happen.” Amazing as these comments might be, feeling a lack of control starts somewhere. Then it got me thinking about Early Childhood and the voting systems we do or don’t use in our classrooms.
I realized the importance of involving students in the process of voting, so that they understand that their voice has power and as a group they can accomplish what they want. But I also want them to understand that even if they don’t agree with the overall consensus of the group, it doesn’t mean that their vote doesn’t count.
I thought to myself, how do I accomplish this task in my classroom? I use a voting system all the time, and not all the students agree on the outcome. Even though they don’t say anything, I wondered what kind of affect this was having on their perception of the voting process? As with anything that I introduce to my students, I explain the reasoning behind it, and even though the outcome might not go their way, I let them know that it is always important to give their opinion. I explain to them that, one day, other students in the class might want to do the same thing, but if they don’t say anything the teacher will never know.
In the center where I work, we have two playgrounds, a smaller playground that we share with the toddlers and a larger one that we share with school-age. Although we go to the larger playground each day, there are times that one student asks to play on the smaller one. This is when we take a vote, the entire class votes to go to the larger playground, so that is the playground we usually go to.
I tell the one student that didn’t want to go to the larger playground that we will go to the smaller playground later that day, so that the student understands that even though the entire class voted on one solution, his words still had value.
I think it is always important to acknowledge what our students say overall, whether it’s a change from the norm or their opinion on something else. This gives their words and thoughts value and they will express themselves more often because they know someone is listening.
I can’t say that they will become active voters when they are older, but I do know a solid foundation will increase their changes.