Teacher Resources

The following are links to resources and materials that educators and organizations are willing to share to promote student civic literacy.

  • New Jersey Center for Civic Education

    The New Jersey Center for Civic Education is an independent non-profit organization affiliated with the Rutgers University School of Arts and Sciences and located on the Rutgers-Piscataway campus. The Center is dedicated to:
    • Fostering the knowledge, skills and dispositions students need to be responsible, engaged politically tolerant citizens in a democratic society
    • Providing professional development and resources for K-12 educators
    • Promoting civic engagement and an understanding of history and the role of the citizen and public policy-making in a democratic society
    • Advocating for policies that enhance the teaching of social studies
    New Jersey State Election Links Teaching the Election in a Highly Partisan Era Workshop
    • For a video explaining the activities below teachers can view for professional development credit, click here.
    • The Process Matters document suggests that one way to handle the controversial nature of this election is to help students identify American ideals prior to any instruction about the candidates and issues, and to use these ideals as parameters for classroom discussions and to focus on that which unifies us as a nation.The document has been updated for state elections to include the oaths for New Jersey governor and legislators.
    • An Ounce of Prevention provides suggestions for addressing controversial issues.
    • The Classroom Activities to Encourage Active Listening discusses methods to establish civil discourse within the classroom by helping students understand and respect opposing viewpoints.
    • How Schools Can Address Fake News looks at the current issue of “fake news”, the history of the problem, and provides web sites and information to help students become more media literate.
    Debate Issues

    Several issues have arisen during the debates surrounding the current election, and the Center has provided the following resources for teachers. The lessons provide background information and suggested class questions.
    • Judicial Appointments. The move by the Senate to confirm a replacement for Ruth Bader Ginsburg has made the timing of appointment of potential justices a contentious issue.
    • Statehood for Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico. The battle over the Supreme Court has emphasized the importance of the Senate, and some have proposed adding additional states to perhaps change the potential political balance in the Senate.
    • New Jersey Congressional Districts. 2020 will see the completion of a new census, requiring a potential redistricting of New Jersey’s representation in the House.
    The Center also provides sample lessons on New Jersey’s history and politics.
  • Eagleton Institute of Politics

    The Eagleton Institute of Politics, located on the campus of Rutgers University, explores state and national politics through research, education, and public service, linking the study of politics with its day-to-day practice. The Institute focuses attention on how the American political system works, how it changes, and how it might work better.

    High school teachers and students interested in New Jersey can find resources on State Politics and Government. They can also learn about the history of New Jersey governors at the New Jersey Governors Archive.
  • The Fight for the Vote

    Contemporary Americans may take it for granted that women should enjoy an equal right to vote, but for much of our history that was not the case. New Jersey initially allowed women to vote, but rescinded the right in 1807. The following links provide historical background regarding the long struggle to ensure equal access to the vote, regardless of gender.
    Advanced students may wish to explore the Selected Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony (preview) from Rutgers University Press.
  • Media Literacy

    If students are to become the engaged and effective citizens necessary to sustain our democracy, they must first be well-informed. In today’s complicated and partisan Internet and social media environment it is crucial that students become media literate.
  • Elementary and Middle School Resources

    Active and informed citizenship begins in the elementary classroom, and multiple resources exist to assist elementary and middle school teachers. The links below are not a complete list, but rather a starting point for teachers researching lesson plans and materials for their students. It is suggested that prior to any instruction about government, candidates, or the issues, teachers help students identify American ideals based on our nation’s founding documents and symbols. Adherence to these ideals can help establish a civil climate for any subsequent class discussions.

  • Center for Civic Education Lesson Plans

    The Center for Civic Education is a nonprofit organization. Their mission is to “promote an enlightened and responsible citizenry committed to democratic principles and actively engaged in the practice of democracy in the United States and other countries.”

    The Center for Civic Education has posted a link to their Foundations of Democracy program, which offers a lesson on “How We Should Choose People for Positions of Authority.”

    It has been adapted for Upper elementary, Middle school, and High School students.

    They also have lessons available by grade on how to be Citizens, not Spectators.

    In addition, the following Voting Lessons are offered for elementary, middle and high school students.
  • PBS Election Resources and Lessons

    KQED Learn: Let’s Talk About Election 2020. Join educators across the U.S. to empower middle and high school students to share their take on civic issues that matter to them. Learn how your students can create and publish audio or video commentaries for a national audience, addressing real topics from immigration to climate change to the COVID-19 pandemic and more. The Election 2020 media challenge is a free, standards-aligned program on KQED Learn, co-hosted by the National Writing Project and PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs.

    PBS Learning Media: The Election Collection provides links to lessons on a range of election-related topics for multiple grade levels.

    PBS offers a guide for parents on “Helping Children Learn What’s Real on the Internet”.
  • New Jersey Council for the Social Studies

    The New Jersey Council for the Social Studies (NJCSS) is the professional organization for the state’s social studies educators. Resources concerning all aspects of social studies education are available on the web site. Hank Bitten, Executive Director, has provided the following resources for teaching the current election:

    The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) offers the 2020 Election Student Town Hall. NCSS invites high school students to contribute short videos or serve on a panel during a live town hall broadcast to speak out on the subjects of citizenship, the election process, and civics.
  • "It’s the Economy!" - Council for Economic Education Lessons

    For those who subscribe to the idea “It’s the economy, stupid!”, check out these Council for Economic Education Election Links.

  • Teaching Tolerance

    Teaching Tolerance is a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center with an emphasis on social justice and anti-bias education. Teaching Tolerance offers the following Future Voters Project.
  • iCivics

    iCivics exists to engage students in meaningful civic learning. They provide civics teachers well-written, inventive, and free resources that enhance their practice and inspire their classrooms. iCivics’ mission is to ensure every student receives a high-quality civic education, and becomes engaged in – and beyond – the classroom.

  • Vote Smart

    Vote Smart’s mission is to provide free, factual, unbiased information on candidates and elected officials to ALL Americans. Take a look at their home page.

  • The Right Question Institute

    The Right Question Institute offers strategies to help students formulate their own questions that have been used successfully by several districts in New Jersey. As students form their own higher order inquiry questions, they become more vested in their learning, especially as it pertains to civic education and elections.

    Resources are also available for students to assist adults in becoming more involved in the political processes that affect their lives. Follow the links to Voter Engagement, which has an emphasis on assisting low income voters.
  • Facing History and Ourselves

    Facing History and Ourselves provides resources on a wide range of topics, including Democracy and Civic Engagement. Search the site for topics of interest and resources for addressing controversial current events.
  • Gilder Lehrman Institute For American History Electoral College

    Gilder Lehrman Institute For American History Electoral College, Grades 10-12.

  • Using Mail Merge to Send Ballot Access Codes

    Many teachers are working at home and providing online instruction during the pandemic. In order to facilitate the distribution of codes to a large number of students who are no longer together in a classroom, we have provided the following methods using either Google Suite apps or Microsoft Office. Like many teachers and administrators during this pandemic, we have been learning from experience and keep looking for ways to make voting easier for both teachers and students.

    We recognize the challenges that teachers face under these unusual circumstances, and hope this makes helping a large number of students vote a little easier. Thank you for all you do to educate our future citizens about the important right to vote!

    Using Google Sheets

    Steve Maher, Social Studies Supervisor for the Chatham Public Schools, has created the following easy to use videos. For teachers and administrators seeking to harvest email addresses from their student information system, see how to pull student emails from Genesis. If your district uses Google Sheets, see the video that shows how to run the mail merge for sending the codes to students.

    Using Microsoft Office or Google Sheets and GMass

    An alternative method is provided in these instructions for setting up a mail merge using either Word and Excel or Google Sheets and GMass. Teachers will receive the codes in .csv format, which can be pasted into the sample spreadsheet. We have also provided a sample email message with merge fields that match the spreadsheet that teachers can customize as they see fit.