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Tuesday, October 27, 1998
Early Childhood/Elementary
"Your Vote Counts" and other November Themes
Kathleen Carpenter
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Kathleen - Welcome, all!
Kathleen - During the first part of this EC/Primary session I'll share information about an election theme project I use with my kindergartners. Later we can chat about other Nov. themes and activities.
Kathleen - "Your Vote Counts" received a "Celebration of Excellence" award. Celebration of Excellence is a program sponsored by the Connecticut State Department of Education and the General Assembly with financial support from business and philanthropic groups. Teams and individual teachers are recognized for exemplary curriculum projects. The Celebration of Excellence web site at provides more information about the program.
Kathleen - Click here to visit the Connecticut Celebration of Excellence winning curriculum projects for 1996: . Go to this address for 1997 Connecticut Celebration of Excellence curriculum projects from 1997:
Kathleen - Asking young children to vote for REAL political candidates does not encourage authentic critical thinking, it only collects information about who the parents will vote for. For example, the Weekly Reader poll of students is considered a very good predictor of how a presidential election will go because the children vote the way they hear their parents say THEY will vote.
Kathleen - In 1990 I wrote a curriculum project that engages children on their level, using 'personalities' with whom they are very familiar. The activity is called "Your Vote Counts" and can be used with early childhood-primary students. It can be done in 2-3 days, or the unit can be stretched to a much longer period. The activity culminates on Election Day when adults are going to the polls.
Kathleen - I introduce the concept of voting with activities like selecting the story for the day, which game to play, etc., while emphasizing the concept of voting only once. We start by congregating near the book of choice, counting the number in each group. On subsequent days we use a sign-up sheet to record votes. You could also use unifix cubes or photo/name tags.
Kathleen - Next I explain that we are going to pretend that we need another classroom helper so that there will be enough help when children don't understand their work, or when there are other problems needing solutions (such as arguments between children, etc.).
Kathleen - I tell the students that we are going to pretend that Cookie Monster and The Count both want the job as imaginary classroom helper, but that we can select only one of them. Over a period of days we examine the promises of each candidate. Cookie Monster's promise is "Acookie for every kid!" He intends to deal with problems and difficult work by handing out cookies to those in need of help.
Kathleen - The Count says, "You can count on me!" promising to help children think about how to solve problems, and to teach them how to find the right answers. In addition to large size 'campaign posters' showing the candidates' slogans, I give each child an 8 " x 11" copy of each poster to take home to aid in discussion with familiy.
Kathleen - The posters depict the characters and their campaign promises.
Kathleen - During the unit, we seize opportunities to discuss which candidate would be most helpful in specific situations as they arise in class. We talk about whether just eating cookies that make us feel good will really help with the problem. I never tell the children what I think, but I elicit a lot of discussion. I also encourage families to do the same at home.
Kathleen - On election day we have a ballot box which has been created in class, children serve as 'checkers', marking off names of those who vote, a ballot person who hands out the ballots, and ballot sorters and counters. I rig up a voting booth where voters can mark their ballots with privacy. We post the sorted ballots as a graph on our classroom door, post each candidate's total and discuss the results.
Kathleen - We use the authentic vocabulary throughout the project: ballot, privacy, booth, campaign, etc.
Kathleen - Post now to tell who you think wins the election most often?
Mary K&1 - I sure hope that it's The Count :)
Kathleen - anyone else??
Michelle - I'm guessing cookie monster? :0)
Sandy/K/MO - cookie Monster :-)
Kathleen - Well, most years the winner is Cookie Monster! (Though the distribution of votes is usually close) When I peek at children as they mark their ballots, MANY pencils hover over The Count's box, but then move to mark a vote for Cookie Monster!
Kathleen - For a period following the election, I seize opportunities to examine how helpful Cookie Monsters' cookies would be when there is a dispute in the classroom, or when the children need help with something. We discuss how The Count might help.
Kathleen - In spite of the election results, I find that the related discussions, activities and feedback from children and families indicate that it is a worthwhile activity in terms of presenting opportunities for critical thinking, analysis, debate, in addition to many literacy and math activities. An incidental effect is that when children arrive at home on Election Day wearing their "I Voted Today!" badges, they remind their parents to be voters on Election Day!
Kathleen - Do you think that even though the vote goes for Cookie Monster, this is a worthwhile activity?
Michelle - This seems like a very developmentally appropriate way to discuss elections. Something the children can relate to and understand. Neat!
Sandy/K/MO - I think so too.. have you ever used Bert and Ernie?
Kathleen - Michelle, that was my goal..departing from the elections for First Selectman, (mayor) etc. each year, meaningless to 5-6 year olds.
Lee/NY - Kathleen, this sounds terrific, but where do you find the time to do all that? Do you have full day?
Mary K&1 - It's a great activity! I think that I'm going to borrow it if it's OK with you :)
Kathleen - No, I've used only Cookie Monster and the Count because of their outstanding characteristics and values
Kathleen - No, we are a 2.5 hour session..I start at least one week in advance
Kathleen - I shared it so that if you're interested, you can use it long as you share your improvements to the project with me
Gumbo/K/La - I LOVE it!!!!! What a DAP way to teach elections and voting!!!!!
Kathleen - It is the project that the parents talk about the most
Michelle - Kathleen, in answer to your question, I would definitely think this is a worth while experience. Sometimes I imagine that more learning takes place BECAUSE cookie monster wins!?
Kathleen - Well, they talk about the Earth Day project too, but I'll share that in the Spring
Kathleen - Michelle, that's a good observation. Yes, Cookie's win does enable us to examine the values for a longer and more meaningful period
Kathleen - Does anyone have other election theme activities to share here?
Mary K&1 - I'm wondering if there is a way to make them live through a period of feeling the effects of their vote, and then have another election to see if anything changes
Kathleen - Mary, I hadn't thought about impeachment, that's a great (and timely:-( suggestion!
Mary K&1 - I didn't mean taking it that far! :-\
Lee/NY - I've never attempted an election activity because it falls at such a hectic time of year...Halloween. I'm usually stressing small muscle development by doing a ton of art projects.
Kathleen - I have actually used real cookies following the election when someone comes to me with a problem, I would hand a cookie and discuss how much help THAT was :-)
Mary K&1 - That's a good idea!
Kathleen - It is a difficult (busy) time of year, but I manage to fit it in, have cut back on Halloween type things in order to do this.
Lee/NY - Kathleen, I'd end up eating most of those cookies! :)
Michelle - In 10 years, I have never done elections as a theme. (We discuss and practice voting on lots of classroom activities though). So, I was excited about tonight's discussion! I'm all ears!
Smitty/1/MS - KAthleen, good idea for conflict resolution!
Kathleen - Smitty, that is true, too.
Mary K&1 - We have elections every week for student of the week. To be eligable for nomination you have to have a good record for the week. The previous winners are the poll workers.
Lee/NY - Since I've gotten my computer, and have been able to listen to so many great ideas, I feel totally overwhelmed!! I can't imagine where everybody finds the time to do all this stuff!!
Kathleen - Actually, what is posted in Lessons is the same as I've given you here.
Kathleen - Do you all find that when you graph, the children tend to compare and declare "winners"?
Kathleen - I have a hard time getting children to look at graphing results as something other than a contest
Mary K&1 - Always, it seems natural for them to declare winners
Lee/NY - Yes, and it drives me nuts. I try to find ways to hide which what each child is voting for so they can't change their minds and "vote" for the "winner" Does that make sense?
Kathleen - So, Mary, your students vote every week. Do you use Election Day for any other voting activity?
Kathleen - Yes, Lee, I do that too, but it's difficult to accomplish
Michelle - Kind of depends on what the graph is for me. It seems like when we graph "things" there is less of a tendancy to have a winner.
Mary K&1 - I haven't, but will this year, I'm going to try your ideas :)
Kathleen - Yes, Michelle, I find that too. If we are graphing likes and dislikes, they seem to want to be on the "winning" team
Lee/NY - I like the graphs that they can't change...eye color, walkers or busers, first letter of names...ect.
Kathleen - Lee, good point, not opinion, but recording facts, characteristics would avoid the win-lose thing
Gumbo/K/La - I don't post the graph till everybody's voted.......
Kathleen - So, what other themes and activities will we be doing in November?
Michelle - Like right now, we are graphing the different places we receive postcards from. We have had LOTS of great discussions about more and less, greater and fewer, etc. But, as of yet, not winners and losers!
Lee/NY - Graphing activities sounds great. I always begin the year with great ideas and then as the year progresses, I graph less and less
Kathleen - Lee, in my opinion, many of us have jumped on graphing as THE math activity. I think that it is often overdone
Lee/NY - Thanksgiving, of course,
Mary K&1 - When we vote and/or make graphs about what they like, they each get a poker chip (I call them counters) they then place their counter in a bowl by their selection or on the graph. This way they can be sure to vote just once and can't change after their vote is cast
Gumbo/K/La - we do under the sea cuz it's the month of our trip to the aquarium and imax......and food groups......
Michelle - On a funny note, we sorted animal crackers and made a graph of the results. One of the children ate the graph!! :0) Only in early childhood!
Mary K&1 - Michelle, that happened last year when we graphed M&Ms
Kathleen - Mary, that's a good management technique. I usually put a unifix cube into each of their mailboxes..that way I can see who has and who hasn't voted yet
Kathleen - Michelle, LOL! so cute :-)
Lee/NY - I like to begin with graphing, move into patterns , More and Less and then number recognition and concepts
Gumbo/K/La - Lee------I have same problem, not only with graphing.......things tend to 'fade' away from the routine.......
Kathleen - Gumbo, you can do under-the-sea in Nov down there, up here we would freeze ;-)
Kathleen - Don't you think that 'fading' away is good because it is a sign that you are moving more towards what the children are interested in?
Lee/NY - Math Their Way has terrific graphing activities for the entire year. Someone borrowed my book 5 yrs ago...havn't gotten it back yet
Lee/NY - I think it's good to do them less often, but still occasionally to keep the idea fresh
Gumbo/K/La - we do down by the seahore as the end of the year theme, but cuz of our field trip, I can work in ten sly piranhas early in the year!!! :-)
Lee/NY - graphing M&M's is a great Spring activity
Lee/NY - Hide them in eggs, do an egg hunt, guess what's in them, guess how many, sort and classify whan you open them, graph results
Kathleen - Here is a site you might want to read before doing Thanksgiving theme activities: I urge you to check out this site by the Fourth World Documentation Project for good information about the real history behind the Pilgrims, the Native Americans and Thanksgiving:
Mary K&1 - I've been reading that site, I still don't know how to share the history of Thanksgiving with Kinder Kids
Kathleen - As I said on the chatboard, this is not controversial info about Pilgrims and "Indians", just interesting and educational.
Lee/NY - Is the real history as much fun as the stuff I know?
Kathleen - Mary, I think sometimes it is as important NOT to share inaccurate info as it is to try to teach something by falling back on the myth
Lee/NY - I keep it real basic, stress the sharing and caring aspect
Michelle - I agree, Kathleen!
Kathleen - Lee, that sounds like a good approach
Mary K&1 - That's what I do, I don't talk about the history, we just keep it in the here and now, "I'm Thankful for ____"
Lee/NY - This sort of brings up Christopher Columbus, doesn't it?
Kathleen - I've shared this before, but we don't 'do' pilgrims and "Indians" students relate best to the plight of the turkey, so they dress in turkey headbands and our feast is fed to the turkeys:-)
Mary K&1 - But I feel like that's the easy way out, I have to come up with somthing, anyone have any idea?
Kathleen - Yes, Lee, it is similar to the Christopher Columbus thing
Kathleen - IMO (in my opinion) the sharing and caring theme is enough for this age.
Lee/NY - I do a great art project... cut out middle of paper plate, glue on small pieces of yellow, orange, red and brown tissue paper. The children draw a picture of something they're thankful for, cut it out and glue to center of plate
Mary K&1 - I feel bad for the turkeys!
Mary K&1 - The real ones, I have a hard time encouraging the kids to eat the poor animals :(
judi - any ideas for children's writing
Gumbo/K/La - I stress the sharing of the Native Americans......and how unselfishly they shared........(of course only to be done in in later yrs........... :-(
Gumbo/K/La - GREAT book: twas the night before thanksgiving by dav pilkey.......
Lee/NY - It's an awful history.. we seem to have alot of that here...but I guess every country does.
Kathleen - judi, do you mean theme based writing in November?
Kathleen - [judi asked about writing ideas]
Lee/NY - Anyone read, A Turkey For Thanksgiving? A pro-turkey story
Kathleen - No, Lee, I should look for that book!
judi - yes we need to move into more detail in writing more than just a sentence
Lee/NY - Can't remember the author- sorry!
Lee/NY - judi- your writing sentences?
Mary K&1 - Lee, I'll have to look for it, sounds like my kind of book
Kathleen - judi, maybe the sharing and caring theme would provide some writing ideas..what grade do you teach?
Addie k/mo - there is a really cute thanksgiving book by dav pilkney...cant remember the title, but it is about these kids who go on a fall field trip and they feel sorry for the turkey (mary) and they kidnap it and save it! it is really the Halloweiner story also by dav pilkney
judi - we are first grade most at risk
Gumbo/K/La - twas the night before thanksgiving by dav pilkey
Kathleen - Well, addie, that sounds like a good book for Mary, it even has her namesake in it!
Kathleen - Thanks, Gumbo:-)
Addie k/mo - gumbo, sorry, didnt see your post, that was the book i was talking about!!!
Lee/NY - I think that's The Night Before Thanksgiving, someone just mentioned. REALLY CUTE!
Mary K&1 - His Stuff is always hilarious!
Gumbo/K/La - I love dav pilkey......
Lee/NY - Great illustrations
Addie k/mo - no the turkey was not named mary, i was just addressing mary, since the book was perfect for her LOL
Kathleen - LOL!! oh, I misunderstood, LOL!
Kathleen - so judi has grade one students, many considered at risk, and she needs some ideas for writing...but it doesn't sound as though they are all that far behind if they are writing even single sentences.
Addie k/mo - dav has a website too, but i dont know the url offhand....
Mary K&1 - I don't have that book either, looks like a trip to Amazon right after this chat :)
judi - cute story
Mary K&1 - Dav's site
Lee/NY - Thank God she isn't in K. I thought I was falling behind again!!!
Michelle - A couple of years ago, I had a family Thanksgiving dinner. The invitation announced that we would be having a fabulous dinner and all they would need to bring was one _______. Each family had a specific item to bring. Everyone was so curious about why they were bringing only carrots or an onion, etc. I wouldn't reveal anything about the dinner. The children did all of the decorating, etc. and when the parents arrived, all of the families worked together to make vegetable soup! Everyone was amazed at the wonderful meal that we all helped to create! It was a good time to express thankfulness and sharing. Plus it really got the families involved!
Kathleen - Michelle, that's very nice yours a full-day program?
Lee/NY - What a great idea Michelle! I'm sorry Mary, but I love turkey!!
Lee/NY - I wish we had full day...sigh...
Gumbo/K/La - have mr. turkey piggyback love it.....
Michelle - No, two half day sessions! But we did this all together!
Addie k/mo - this is kind of, well, overdone but for a writing activity you could have the kids trace their hands like a turkey and write "i am thankful for..." in the middle and on each of the four "feather fingers" they could write something they are thankful for
Kathleen - judi, I think this season is a good one for motivating writing with your first graders..
Lee/NY - I sing a song called, Five Fat Turkeys. Really fun the children love it
Kathleen - Gumbo, will you be sharing that Mr. Turkey piggyback song? (does everyone know what a piggyback song is?)
judi - The --ran away before thanksgiving day he said they'll make a -- of me if I DECIDE TO STAY SUBSTITUTE TURKEY / ROAST, PUMPKIN/PIE, CRANBERRY/SAUCE,
Mary K&1 - Please sing it for us , Lee :)
Gumbo/K/La - hey, lee----have I got a full day class for YOU!!!! :-)
Addie k/mo - Lee, does it go: five fat turkeys are we, we slept all night in a tree. when the cook came around we couldnt be found so thats why we're here, you see!
Kathleen - judi, you should post that for us on the Early Childhood and Primary boards
Lee/NY - Five fat turkeys are we, We slepy all night in a tree. When the cook came around, we couldnt be found and that's why we're here, you see.
Kathleen - I do the 5 Fat Turkeys are we, but I didn't know it is a song, we just chant it
Mary K&1 - What's the tune? Anything we'd recognize?
Gumbo/K/La - mr. turkey, mr. turkey, are you getting nice and fat? we are waiting for what do you think of that? mr. turkey, mr. turkey, do you ever wonder why people eat you at thanksgiving and not chicken pot pie? (to tune of clementine)
Lee/NY - You're faster than me Addie! Five fat turkeys are we, we know you all will agree, that it certainly pays on Thanksgiving days, to sleep in the tallest tree!
Addie k/mo - kat, do you want to know the notes? i can go play it on my keyboard and type the letters in for you
Addie k/mo - i dont have the second verse! cute!
Kathleen - addie, music notes mean nothing to me:-(
Mary K&1 - Addie, that would do it :)
Lee/NY - No the tune is not a familiar one. How do you post a song?
Gumbo/K/La - I tend to gravitate toward the less serious songs and poems............ ;-)
Addie k/mo - we act it out. waddle and put our arms out like we're fat...pretend to be asleep...stretch arms up....spin around...shrug our shoulders...point to ourselves and take a bow
Mary K&1 - This is something the Bob has Got to work on - how to post music notes
Addie k/mo - brb gonna go play it and write it down
Addie k/mo - CCCC Eflat C lowG.....lowG CCCC Eflat C lowG....lowG lowG highG highG highG F....F Eflat Eflat Eflat D... low G CCC LowBflat lowG C (all C's are middle C) it has kind of an Indian music beat
Kathleen - addie, that will be helpful in the Archive, people can copy and try it:-)
Mary K&1 - Thanks, Addie, this is really Great!
Lee/NY - The kids like the fun ones better too. I do alot of music in my class. Even put on a short(10 min.) musical in Dec
Lee/NY - Great PR!!!
Lee/NY - That would be another great discussion, Music in the primary grades. My kids don't go to music, so I do it in the classroom
Kathleen - Lee, if you can think of a way to have a live session online about Music in the classroom, you've got it!:-)
Gumbo/K/La - I am sticking to my resolution to use more songs in class------piggyback ones cuz I can't play music (except on the cd player/phonogrph!!!)
Lee/NY - I don't know how to put in the notes except the way Addie is going to. That won't help people with no knowledge of music but a desire to do it
Kathleen - Gumbo, piggyback songs are a life saver for people like us, eh?
Lee/NY - We Sing Silly Songs is great too!
Gumbo/K/La - they always post notes of songs in my mailring---yeah, right like seeing abunnch of C's and F's means something to MY tin ears!!!!! LOL
Mary K&1 - The Wright Group has about a million great songs with Big books to go with the tapes, They are very useful
Lee/NY - I love my cd player- the problem is that I still have all the old records, and now no record player. Lot's of records-no record player. Great CD- no CD's typical
Michelle - I love the piggyback songs because enthusiasm can cover up a multitude of musical faux-paus! I always say I am musically challenged!
Gumbo/K/La - I use the Bo-Wo-Wones book and song when I do my Louisiana/Mardi Gras song.....
Sarahw/2/TX - Lee- there are lots of old records made into new CD's-- search for a few at amazon
Lee/NY - I work with the other k teachers to put on a "Musical Extravaganza at the end of each year. They help with organizing and help teach the kids to sign one song. I teach them all the other songs. It's a blast
Mary K&1 - Buy yourself a CD Burner - Recorder - for your computer and then you can put all those old records onto CDs
Kathleen - I like records best, easier to just place the needle where you want it (compared to tapes, that is. I won't be having a cd in my classroom during my lifetime)
Kim/prek - We do a Mayflower reenactment on the last day before Thanksgiving break. We build a boat out of large blocks. The children wear Pilgrim hats or Indian headbands. We play ocean music and spray them with water bottles. They love it!!! When we get off the boat, we have a Thanksgiving feast, All of our classes get together, and each class brings a snack to share.
Sarahw/2/TX - this is a pretty good site for finding some lyrics you may have forgotten
SFSing - Does anyone know of any bat songs?
Lee/NY - The CD's are out there, but I'd really like to see the impossible- the district could get me a few. Fortunatly, I play the piano and don't use the tapes and CD's much anyway.
Gumbo/K/La - michelle--------my kids love the piggyback songs and I, too, am grateful.......
Kathleen - Gumbo knows bat songs!
Addie k/mo - that is the tune for five fat turkeys..hope it makes sense
Gumbo/K/La - very funny, kathleen.........anybody know any squirrel poems?????? ;-)
Kathleen - Gumbo, AFSing needs bat ideas, don't you have a song or poem to share? :-)
Addie k/mo - i wrote a grant...i have a boom and cassette and an awia surround sound 3 cd changer and dual cassette with a remote...dont know how i lived without it
SFSing - we are preparing for the John Glenn launch on thursday
Lee/NY - Halloween song- Halloween's coming, Halloween's coming, skeletons will be after you. Withches cats and big black bats, Ghosts and goblins too. Flap, flap, flap go the big black bats, O_O_O_O_O Meow meow meow go the ugly cats. O-O-O-O-O BOO! Doesn't make any sense, does it?
Mary K&1 - can we say naughty instead of ugly, Lee?
Lee/NY - I guess- is ugly a bad word?
Mary K&1 - I just think that cats are cute, I don't think that I've ever seen an ugly one
SFSing - We are linking his flight to our bat unit
Lee/NY - Well, maybe witches cats are ugly LOL
Addie k/mo - but my favorite is my keyboard...i can prerecord any songs i want and play them at the touch of a button.... i got the grant from the good ol' state of missouri
Kathleen - SFSing, what grade do you teach?
Lee/NY - How do you link John Glenn to Bats?
Mary K&1 - They both fly and use sonar
SFSing - second
Addie k/mo - last year, some of my kids even made up some tunes to poems that didnt have melodies and they would sing them to me and i could try to play them back on the keyboard...when the child said that i had finally played it correctly then i would play it with a background accomp. the "composers" really thought they were uptown when they heard their music.
SFSing - flight and wings are the conncections
Sarahw/2/TX - Now I am impressed Addie! :-)
Kathleen - Addie, that's wonderful in case you have students with musical talent..that needs to be nurtured, too.
Addie k/mo - i only play by ear...reading music just doesnt make sense to me...i liken it to being able to sound out words with no comprehension
Lee/NY - Addie, do you let your kids play your piano?
Addie k/mo - i havent let the kids play it much...we have other instruments in the room they can play
Lee/NY - I do too. I would have chaos if I let the children play, but I know they'd love to!
Addie k/mo - it has a lot of buttons that do alot of different things...dont really know what they might do.
Lee/NY - I let the kids play if they are taking lessons. They are allowed to playfor the class for Show and Tell (Show and Play?)
Addie k/mo - my kids are still too young to take lessons...just in kindergarten
Kathleen - Talking about music, there was a time when, in order to be certified to teach (esp EC/Prim) you had to be able to play piano. Makes sense in a way, except that would eliminate me
Addie k/mo - kat, that is wild! i cant imagine that being a requirement...of course would that have been before tapes and cds???
Kathleen - Addie, yes, it was before all of those technological advances:-)
Lee/NY - My Mom taught K also Kathleen, and she was required to play!! I'm glad I can. It brings something special to the class. Children love music- piano, CD, tapes whatever!
Sarahw/2/TX - Yeah, and imagine putting a piano in every classroom? Although I remember one or two in elementary
Lee/NY - Thanks Kathleen for some TERRIFIC ideas for election time
Kathleen - :-) thank you all for your input :-) I love this place :-)
Kathleen - Goodnight, and thank you!!