If our feelings as we approach the election are complicated and anxiety-ridden, then certainly our thoughts and feelings will be equally so in the days and weeks that follow this particular election. If this is true for us, it’s certainly true for our students.
The team has been working this week (at Hattie’s inspiration!) to put together a series of writing experiences to help you help your students process this event through writing.
Ideas for Using Post-Election Writing Experiences
- Pick one in advance for Wednesday (and maybe also Thursday + Friday) — No worrying about what to do on the day after the election. No matter what happens, you will have a meaningful way for your students to write and work in the hours that follow election day.
- Spread them out, as needed, throughout the post-election days and weeks — Use this as a reliable backup plan for when you just don’t know what else to do. Pull one out when you sense that your students need to deal with election angst.
- Use them as writing stations — Some of these activities approach the election intellectually, others approach it more emotionally — they offer balance when used together. So, choose a few and allow students to move through them as writing stations, providing a variety of ways to think about current events within a single class period.
- Offer them as options for students throughout the next few weeks — Make some of these writing activities options during other regularly-schedule journal, notebook, or warm-up writing times. Some students will likely need them more than others, so make them available to those who would find them helpful.
Allison: Use Grant Snider Illustrations to Deal With Anxiety
Election Day, while dynamic and exciting and hopeful, can bring some darker emotions to the surface. No matter how much faith we have in the candidates we’ve voted for, many of us experience anxiety and fear throughout the day as we await results. What can we offer to our students to help them navigate the challenging situations and emotions of Election Day?
Just this morning I was texting an old friend about feeling anxious and he responded, “Practice gratitude. It is the ultimate fear antidote.” I love that advice, and I love this comic by the inspirational Grant Snider for cultivating gratitude through image and word.
Invite your students to write a visual thank you note in the style of Snider, noting the simple things in their lives that inspire thanks.
Another way to cope with feelings of fear and anxiety on Election Day is to acknowledge them and then try to let them go. One of my yoga teachers tells us to put each worry on a cloud and watch it drift across the sky away from you. In yoga we start with the breath, but you can use any of your senses to help you stay present and drop into the moment. Snider’s “Noticing” might help your students move throughout their day more mindfully by focusing on the things that are right in front of them, rather than fixating on the future and unknown.
And finally, for those of us who will struggle to be still on Tuesday, I love Snider’s “what to do on a rainy day” for imagining alternate activities to nail-biting, pacing, and uneven breathing. Could your students design a “What to Do on Election Day” comic? In the drawing below, each box contains a gentle command to the reader, as well as a simple drawing, to bring our attention to the things that help us “step out into the weather” and feel alive.
Hattie: Craft Arguments Inspired by “Gate A-4” by Naomi Shihab Nye
Argument Writing with Gate A-4 by Naomi Shihabe Nye
We are just finishing an argumentative writing unit in AP English Language, but the last thing I’m going to want to do on Nov. 4 is argue. I need something that helps my students have productive discussion, so we are going to return to a poem we studied and discussed earlier in the year, Naomi Shihab Nye’s Gate A-4. I love this poem for its hopeful ending, and my students responded well when we wrote in our notebooks about what a shared world means. November 4 I’m going to ask them to construct an argument about the extent to which that’s possible. Can our country move past this moment? They’re all virtual on Wednesdays so we will be using zoom breakouts and a shared slidedeck to think it all through.
Abigail: Writing Through the Election with Elementary-Level Writers
After a presidential election some students have a lot of thoughts going on in their heads. Sometimes when we have something heavy that we are dealing with in my class I have my students put the words “wonderings” in a bubble in the middle of their writing journal. I give them 1-2 minutes to web any thoughts that are inside their heads that they are wondering about… sometimes we name them fears and wonders.
This gives students independent time to process through their thoughts and what they have been hearing about for the past couple of months. You can take students’ thoughts and have them pick one or two things to write more about setting a three minute timer. If your students want to share their thoughts you can have them pair up or even have a shared jamboard that has “Wonderings” in the middle and have your students add their wonderings.
Write a Letter to their Future Self ( In a year or 4 years)
Since presidential elections only happen every 4 years, what a perfect time to write a letter to yourself. Write a letter to your future self. You may want to include notes of praise and encouragement, anecdotes, or reminders. Ask yourself questions, make bold predictions, or share your fears and dreams. Then visit futureme.org and choose when you want the letter delivered to your email address.
The book Most People by Michael Leannah is a beautiful story that goes through a city explaining that even though people are different, most people are good people. After toxic presidential elections that drive a wedge between our communities, I always like to read this book and remind my students that just because we are different doesn’t make us bad people. We finish our reading with creating heart maps. In our heart maps we write what is important to us. When then share them with the class and find our common things we love. It’s good to remember on days that are meant to separate us to remind our kiddos that we have our community. (Mari Andrews’ Heart Map)
Noah: The Power of Love + Jimmy Hendrix
This one is not mine! It’s from an Ohio Writing Project colleague of mine named Courtney Centrello, who teaches in Little Miami, Ohio:
Courtney’s Inspiration: Jimi Hendrix
Activity :Share the Jimi Hendrix quote “When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.” Ask students to talk with a partner about what this quote means to them. Invite them to share all their ideas–add their ideas to an anchor chart. Invite students to write an election day piece (any genre would probably work) in which they react today’s quote and/or discussion.
Stefanie: Politics + Poetry
American politics and American poetry are often intertwined. Presidents Kennedy, Clinton, and Obama included poems in their inauguration ceremonies, and since 1937, the Library of Congress has appointed a Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to foster interest in poetry through national projects and to deliver poems on special occasions to celebrate, mourn with, or inspire the nation. There is a good chance that your state has its own poet laureate, too.
Imagine that you’ve been appointed to the position of state or national Poet Laureate. Write a poem for the nation for this day, November 4, or imagine that you are asked to speak at the next inauguration ceremony and write a poem for that event. Use the links above to help inspire your work. If you need a little more inspiration, consider writing in the style of Terrance Hayes’s “golden shovel” poems. Use lines from a past inaugural address, past inaugural poem, or one of the “Poems for Election Day” from the Academy of American Poets as your shovel.
Xochitl: Walking with John Lewis
In his memoir Walking With the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement, John Lewis describes how there was a storm so strong that the wood plank flooring of his family’s home began to bend. He and his cousins walked back and forth, as different corners of the house began to lift, holding the trembling house down with the weight of their bodies.
“More than half a century has passed since that day, and it has struck me more than once over those many years that our society is not unlike the children in that house, rocked again and again by the winds of one storm or another, the walls around us seeming at times as if they might fly apart.”
At a time when America is weathering so many storms, what does it mean to “clasp hands and move toward the corner of the house that is the weakest”? How can we commit ourselves to walking with the wind as John Lewis did?
Kenny: Constructing Arguments About the Power of Voting
Argumentative Writing on Voting
From a 2006 CollegeBoard Argument Writing Prompt:
With the thought of democracy and elections in mind, ask students to consider the pros and cons of compulsory voting. Would it be effective to require people to vote in the United States? Would it be more or less democratic? Should people have the choice to vote or not? What are the implications of a mandate for voting?
Students could be given the option to do a little bit of research to find evidence that would contextualize or support their argument.
Prompt students to construct an argument that defends or challenges the notion of requiring everyone to vote in an election.
After, share and discuss! On top of practicing constructing effective arguments, this could lead to a meaningful, productive discussion about civic duties.
Rebekah: Taking to Nature to Process Our Feelings
This writing experience doesn’t have to be tied to the election at all, but this week feels like a perfect week to get outside, get some fresh air, and try to clear our heads.
Take students on a little nature walk, asking them to gather a few fall leaves (or other natural artifacts). Bring them inside, and share this illustrated mentor text by @PositivelyPresent.
Ask students to grab their notebooks + use the mentor text to associate each artifact with an emotion they are currently feeling. While simple, this activity helps us slow down and name what we are feeling. You could even use this activity a few times over the month of November. Students could track their feelings + look for patterns in their emotions.