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Students learn about the system of representation in a democracy


Social Studies  


9, 10, 11, 12  

Title – Title – Do Something about… Voting/Civic Engagement
Lesson 3: Representin’
By – Do Something, Inc. /
Primary Subject – Social Studies
Secondary Subjects – Other
Grade Level – 9-12

Do Something about…
Teen Voting/Civic Engagement


The following lesson is the third lesson of a 10-lesson
Teen Voting/Civic Engagement Unit from Do Something, Inc.
Other lessons in this unit are as follows:

Lesson 1: What is Civic Action?
Students learn about why people get involved in their communities.
Lesson 2: Why Is Democracy So Demanding?
Students will discuss the role of citizens in a democracy.
Lesson 3: Representin’ (See lesson below)
Students learn about the system of representation in a democracy.
Lesson 4: How have people used elected offices to make changes?
Students learn how holding a political office effects change.
Lesson 5: Social Capital
Students learn about social capital and how to use networking for civic action.
Lesson 6: Politics, A Laughing Matter
Students learn how cartoons and satire raise concerns about an issue.
Lesson 7: How do organizers bring about change?
Students earn about the strategies of unionizing and boycotting.
Lesson 8: Why do I have to do jury duty?
Students learn how jury duty is a type of civic engagement.
Lesson 9: How can I use writing to lead others to action?
Students learn how the written word is a method of civic action.
Lesson 10: How can speaking engage others in my cause?
Students learn how speeches can gather support for community change.

More student teen voting resources can be found at:

For more Service-Learning Curricula check out:

Lesson 3: Representin’


Students will learn about the system of representation in a democracy.


  1. Warm-up: Explain to students that you are going to do a role playing activity. Separate students in small groups (4-5 people per group). Tell them that the school is being taken over by a new principal. This new principal has many new ideas about school programs and new rules that she thinks will make the school better. She has decided to meet with one student to find out about the school and discuss her plans. Each group must select a representative. First, they must make a list of qualifications they want this representative to have, and secondly, they must then consider each person in the group for the role, except for those people who have more than two piercings on their body. These “pierced people” can not be considered for the role of representative, and should not be given any say in the matter. Give students ten minutes to decide on the representative.
  2. Write the following questions on the board:
    1. Whom did you select?
    2. What were your criteria for the job?
    3. Do you feel your interests are adequately represented by this person?
    4. Yes or no?

    5. How did you choose the person? Discuss the process with the class.
  3. Discover : Tell students a few details about the government, if they are not already familiar with this information. Explain the difference between a direct democracy and a representative democracy. In a direct democracy, all citizens directly participate in the political decision-making process. Athenian democracy was an example of this, although not all citizens were allowed to partake in political decisions. In a representative democracy, voters choose individuals to make decision in their best interest-not necessarily as their proxy. Our country was built on the principle that the power of the government is held by the people. It is the people that give power to the leaders by voting for representatives that will serve their interests. The founding fathers thought this would be a good system because if representatives made unfair laws, people wouldn’t elect them again.
  4. Take Action: Have students go to Project Vote Smart and find out who represents them and what elections are going on in their state . Tell students to research a representative and find out how they voted on an issue that the student considers important. How does the senator feel about the topic their action group is studying? Students can write up information on this senator and discuss their view of the senator’s political action.

Other Activities:

  1. Have students write a letter to one of their representatives about their Take Action Topic.

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