The Democracy Project

for Parents & Teachers

Resources and information about "The Democracy Project"...

Honk If You Agree! Part 1

Subjects: Civics/World in Spatial Terms/Language Arts

Estimated Time of Completion: Five fifty-minute class periods

  1. I. Summary
  2. II. Objectives
  3. III. Materials Needed
  4. IV. Procedure
  5. V. Classroom Assessment
  6. VI. Extensions and Adaptations
  7. VII. Relevant Standards

I. Summary

Children are bombarded with messages about government from various sources. The media, parents, peers, teachers, caregivers, as well as advertisements and commercials all play a part in forming a child’s recognition and stand on issues commonly debated during elections and within daily governmental decisions at the local, state, national, and international levels. First, a child must be made aware that there are factors involved in helping an individual detect issues and then come to oppose or support those issues. It is important for children to identify issues of importance, form their opinions, and support those opinions with evidence and reason. They will also learn how to state their feelings in a persuasive manner.

II. Objectives

  • Students will read, compare, and contrast various types of maps.
  • Students will recognize factors that may form a region.
  • Students will conduct research based on the five themes of geography.
  • Students will use various sources to obtain reliable information about political issues.
  • Students will creatively express their ideas though art, writing, and speaking.
  • Students will utilize figurative language.
  • Students will identify author’s purpose to persuade, entertain, and inform.
  • Students will chart information on a graphic organizer.
  • Students will experience diversity of thought and opinion.
  • Students will become more aware of propaganda that affects their lives.

III. Materials Needed

  • Computers with Internet access and printer capabilities
  • White board, smart board, or computer projection device
  • Two flat king-sized white or black sheets
  • Shoe box
  • Card stock
  • Construction paper
  • Scissors
  • Large blank address labels (optional)
  • Washable paint, crayons, markers, or coloring pencils
  • White or black tape
  • Glue sticks

IV. Procedure

  1. After honking a bicycle or child’s toy horn for attention, ask the class a series of questions:
    • What do you notice on the back of cars, buses, trucks, and other vehicles as you see them on the roads? This should elicit the answers such as license plates, decorations, and/or bumper stickers, etc.
    • What made you notice the bumper sticker? Discuss color, symbols, words, fonts, message, pictures, names, etc. Show examples of generic or familiar bumper stickers.
    • Why do you think people place bumper stickers on their cars? Discuss their answers.
    • Since license plates are also on the backs of vehicles, could there be a link between a car’s license plate and the bumper sticker on the car? Discuss these answers.
    • After that discussion, ask the students if they think bumper stickers could be an effective way of expressing opinions about political candidates and issues. Within this line of questioning, there could be an opportunity to have a dialogue about appropriate and inappropriate language and symbols (free speech/limitations) sometimes associated with bumper stickers. Explain to the students that they will see and hear the “horn” again and share with them a somewhat well-known component of American culture that has an individual “honk” the car horn if he/she agrees with an expressed opinion on a bumper sticker or sign.
  2. Explain in an overview to the students that they are going to be engaged in a project that will involve them working as individuals to create a parking lot that symbolizes the United States, and that a car from each of the fifty states will be positioned in its correct parking place according to each state’s location on a United States map. When working with elementary students, the parking lot can be shaped like the United States with parking spaces aligned as the state’s position on a real map to show exact location. If the project is used with older students in the middle grades, the parking lot can be a regular rectangular shape with parking places designed in a grid system to show relative location of the states. Explain that each student will decorate a shoe box car with a license plate they create for his or her assigned state.
  3. Next, show the example bumper stickers again and give details as to how students will examine issues found at the Democracy Project website’s Sticker Race activity and then individually create original bumper stickers to reflect their opinions on those issues. Suggested Options: In a large group such as a class room of 25 the teacher may assign each student two cars (two states) to decorate, research, and for which each student will create a license plate and bumper sticker. For smaller groups, students may be placed into cooperative working groups or partners where they may choose a state out of each region or just states within their own region.
  4. Show various examples of United States maps such as political, physical, regional, land use, population, etc.
  5. Next the students will be shown in a large commons area work zone the large parking lot designed by the teacher on two white king-sized sheets using black tape, two black king-sized sheets using white tape, or a blackboard using chalk to form parking spaces. Explain that this parking lot represents the United States. Again present the various maps of the United States and compare those to the parking lot. Have students determine the cardinal and intermediate directions for the parking lot. Options: This may be scaled down for smaller groups as noted above.
  6. Assign the states to students and explain to students that their next task is to research their states and find its license plate at websites such as:
  7. After researching the states, a discussion of found information would be helpful as the maps of the United States are used once again as a reference. Try comparing and contrasting the information shared.
  8. The students will now create their vehicles representing the states they researched using the materials noted in this lesson plan. Then a license plate of the state will be affixed to the back of the shoe boxes (you may use a large blank address label for this and the bumper sticker, or simply use card stock and glue stick.)
  9. Guide the students to the online Sticker Race activity. The students will use this activity to become more familiar with the issues of governmental concern. Using the Sticker Race as a springboard for a brainstorming session, list issues -- umbrella issues as well as more specific sub-issues -- as they are revealed on a white board, smart board, or computer projection device. As this activity progresses, ask students where they learned about the topics they are listing. Responses might include: Parents are concerned with the issue, peers have discussed it, they may have seen or heard about the issue from various media sources, they may have brought the issue from their own personal interest. Note: the teacher might want to pre-establish issues that he or she thinks most appropriate for the grade level and classroom, as well as any issues that will be too controversial.
  10. Using the issue list, the student will select an issue from the list for the subject of their bumper sticker.
  11. Lead a discussion on what makes an effective bumper sticker, again referring to the Sticker Race for ideas. The teacher should facilitate a discussion that includes theme, symbolism, and the use of fonts, graphics, and color, figurative language, freedom of speech and its limitations, stereotyping, the use of catch phrases or slogans. The teacher may provide other historical examples besides those found at the Democracy Project website. Stress to the students that although the stickers they will be creating might contain information and/or be entertaining, their main objective should be to persuade others about their stand on the issues chosen.
  12. The students will complete their original bumper stickers using the Sticker Race activity, print them out using the activity’s “Sticker Printer,” and affix them to the “trunk” of their shoe box cars. After they create their stickers, students should submit them to the Sticker Race online community to be voted upon by other users. Please note that students will have to create a username and password to do this (or use their existing PBS Kids GO username, if they have one).
  13. Upon completing the cars with teacher assistance, students will place them in an assigned parking place using their approximate location on a United States map.
  14. The students may walk through the parking lot “aisles” to get familiar with the bumper stickers.
  15. As a group, ask students questions about the parking lot, comparing and contrasting it to a United States map.
  16. Display the checklist of states using a white board, smart board, or computer projection device and as the next step of the project is completed, have a “poll” checklist ready for students who will be charting issues.
  17. Taking turns, the students in the class will walk down the aisles of the parking lot. Using a horn, they will blow the horn each time they agree with a bumper sticker. The student must give a reason for at least two of the choices he/she made. The class will chart results on the poll checklist as classmates make their choices known by sounding the horn.
  18. After all class members have had a turn, cumulatively discuss the poll results about the bumper stickers and the opinions they indicated.
  19. Consider the poll results. In a journal or log, have students write as they reflect on the answers to these questions: What was your favorite bumper sticker? Supply the reason or reasons that it was your choice? What features of the bumper sticker really captured your attention? Why were some issues more popular than others? Did similar issues come from states within the same region? Were there other factors that grouped similar opinion? Were you surprised at any of the opinions pro or con about the issues? Did any of the bumper stickers make you react with a certain emotion -- sadness, anger, happiness, etc? Why do you think you reacted that way? Were there negative and positive opinions expressed? Was there a bumper sticker that changed your opinion on an issue? What made that such a powerful sticker? How would you explain one of the issues and the opinion to a younger child? What do you now consider a “reliable source” for issue information? Did this activity make you more aware of issues and opinions all around you? Name at least one. Provide time for volunteers to share their thoughts. Teacher will then collect the answers and privately read and write responses or comments personally to the students.
  20. The class has now processed, created, defended, and reflected on their ideas and the opinions they formed. The class should then be provided an opportunity to visit the Sticker Race online to see how voting has progressed on their stickers and how their sticker appears on the map of your state.

V. Classroom Assessment

  • Teacher checklist of completed tasks
  • Rubric for completed projects - car design, license plate, bumper sticker, class discussion, and journal entries
  • Teacher review of and response to journal or log entries

VI. Extensions and Adaptations

Students may help create the “states parking lot” using a grid system based on latitude and longitude and/or map scale.

    Introduce new vocabulary using a word wall for words such as rural, urban, environmental, defense, domestic, diversity, infrastructure, educational initiatives, national resources, economy, political party, polls, bias, propaganda, spin, quotes, slogans, campaigns, rhetoric, etc.
  • Students may practice grouping issues in categories such as domestic, foreign affairs, economy, education, environmental, etc.
  • Use news periodicals or newspaper articles about issues to distinguish fact from opinion and identify author’s purpose to inform, entertain, or persuade.
  • Charted information could be used for the formation of different styles of graphs.

VII. Relevant National Standards

These are established by McRELand are applicable to students in grades 3-8 in varying degrees of benchmarks, levels, and understanding:

Social Studies (Civics and the World in Spatial Terms)

  • Understands ideas about civic life, politics, and government
  • Knows the basic purposes of government in the United States (e.g., to protect the rights of individuals, to promote the common good)
  • Knows the major things governments do in one's school, community, state, and nation (e.g., make, carry out, and enforce laws; manage conflicts; provide national security)
  • Knows major services provided by national, state, and local governments (e.g., state services such as education and health services and local services such as transportation, education, recreation, public safety, public utilities), and knows how these services are paid for (e.g., taxes, fees, licenses)
  • Understands how politics enables people with differing ideas to reach binding agreements (e.g., presenting information and evidence, stating arguments, negotiating, compromising, voting)
  • Understands major ideas about why government is necessary (e.g., people's lives, liberty, and property would be insecure without government; individuals by themselves cannot do many of the things they can do collectively such as create a highway system, provide armed forces for the security of the nation, or make and enforce laws)
  • Understands competing ideas about the purposes government should serve (e.g., whether government should protect individual rights, promote the common good, provide economic security, mold the character of citizens, promote a particular religion)
  • Understands the importance of Americans sharing and supporting certain values, beliefs, and principles of American constitutional democracy
  • Understands the role of diversity in American life and the importance of shared values, political beliefs, and civic beliefs in an increasingly diverse American society
  • Understands the character of American political and social conflict and factors that tend to prevent or lower its intensity
  • Understands issues concerning the disparities between ideals and reality in American political and social life
  • Understands the concept of diversity
  • Knows some common forms of diversity in the United States (e.g., ethnic, racial, religious, class, linguistic, gender, national origin)
  • Knows some of the benefits of diversity (e.g., it fosters a variety of viewpoints, new ideas, and fresh ways of looking at and solving problems; it provides people with choices in the arts, music, literature, and sports; it helps people appreciate cultural traditions and practices other than their own)
  • Knows some of the costs of diversity (e.g., people sometimes discriminate unfairly against others on the basis of age, religious beliefs, race, or disability; members of different groups sometimes misunderstand each other and conflicts subsequently arise)
  • Knows ways in which conflicts about diversity can be prevented (e.g., encouraging communication among different groups; identifying common beliefs, interests, and goals; learning about others' customs, beliefs, history, and problems; listening to different points of view; adhering to the values and principles of American democracy)
  • Knows why it is important to the individual and society that Americans understand and act on their shared political values and principles
  • Understands issues concerning the relationship between state and local governments and the national government and issues pertaining to representation at all three levels of government
  • Knows how people can participate in their state and local government (e.g., being informed, taking part in discussing issues, voting, volunteering their time), and understands why it is important that people participate in their state and local government (e.g., improve the quality of life in their community, gain personal satisfaction, prevent officials from abusing power)
  • Understands how the world is organized politically into nation-states, how nation-states interact with one another, and issues surrounding U.S. foreign policy
  • Understands the impact of significant political and nonpolitical developments on the United States and other nations
  • Understands the impact of major demographic trends on the United States (e.g., population growth, increase in immigration and refugees)
  • Knows examples of environmental conditions that affect the United States' domestic and foreign policies (e.g., destruction of rain forests and animal habitats, depletion of fishing grounds, air and water pollution)
  • Understands issues regarding personal, political, and economic rights
  • Understands issues regarding the proper scope and limits of rights and the relationships among personal, political, and economic rights
  • Understands how participation in civic and political life can help citizens attain individual and public goals
  • Understands the importance of political leadership, public service, and a knowledgeable citizenry in American constitutional democracy
  • Understands the changes that occur in the meaning, use, distribution and importance of resources

Language Arts

  • Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process
  • Uses the stylistic and rhetorical aspects of writing
  • Uses grammatical and mechanical conventions in written compositions
  • Gathers and uses information for research purposes
  • Understands the characteristics and components of the media
  • Uses the general skills and strategies of the reading process
  • Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of informational texts
  • Evaluates own and others’ writing (e.g., determines the best features of a piece of writing, determines how own writing achieves its purposes, asks for feedback, responds to classmates’ writing)
  • Uses strategies (e.g., adapts focus, point of view, organization, form) to write for a variety of purposes (e.g., to inform, entertain, explain, describe, record ideas)
  • Evaluates own and others’ writing (e.g., applies criteria generated by self and others, uses self-assessment to set and achieve goals as a writer, participates in peer response groups)
  • Understands the author’s purpose (e.g., to persuade, to inform) or point of view
  • Uses a variety of strategies to extend reading vocabulary (e.g., uses analogies, idioms, similes, metaphors to infer the meaning of literal and figurative phrases; uses definition, restatement, example, comparison and contrast to verify word meanings; identifies shades of meaning; knows denotative and connotative meanings; knows vocabulary related to different content areas and current events; uses rhyming dictionaries, classification books, etymological dictionaries)
  • Reflects on what has been learned after reading and formulates ideas, opinions, and personal responses to texts
  • Relates new information to prior knowledge and experience
  • Uses prior knowledge and experience to understand and respond to new information
  • Summarizes and paraphrases information in texts (e.g., arranges information in chronological, logical, or sequential order; conveys main ideas, critical details, and underlying meaning; uses own words or quoted materials; preserves author’s perspective and voice)
  • Uses new information to adjust and extend personal knowledge base
  • Differentiates between fact and opinion in informational texts