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Do Something about… Teen Voting/Civic Engagement


Social Studies  


9, 10, 11, 12  

Title – Do Something about… Teen Voting/Civic Engagement
Lesson 9 – How can I use writing to lead others to action?
By – Do Something, Inc. /
Primary Subject – Social Studies
Secondary Subjects – 
Grade Level – 9-12

Do Something about…
Teen Voting/Civic Engagement


The following lesson is the ninth 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’
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? (See lesson below)
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 9: How can I use writing to lead others to action?


Students will learn how people have used the written word as a method of civic action.


Language Arts Reading Standard 6

  • Makes inferences and draws conclusions about story elements (e.g., main and subordinate characters; events; setting; theme; missing details; relationships among story elements, such as the relevance of setting to mood and meaning in text)
  • Understands the ways in which language is used in literary texts (e.g., personification, alliteration, onomatopoeia, simile, metaphor, imagery, hyperbole, beat, rhythm)


  1. Warm-up:On the board write the following quotations:

    “Beneath the rule of men entirely great, The pen is mightier than the sword.”
    Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1803 – 1873)

    “The skill of writing is to create a context in which other people can think.”
    Edwin Schlossberg

There is only one way to defeat the enemy, and that is to write as well as one can. The best argument is an undeniably good book.”
Saul Bellow (1915 – )

  • Ask students to read all three quotes and pick one to explain. Tell students to provide examples of books or writers that support the ideas expressed in the quotation they have selected. Share and discuss what these quotes have in common. What type of power do words have?
  • Discuss how writing can be a method of civic engagement. Discuss letter writing campaigns, journalism, and influential novels. Topics for discussion might include:

    Letter writing: What makes a letter effective? To whom do you write? Do letters change public policy? How does email impact politicians?

    Journalism: Are journalists objective in their writing? Should they be? Is the only place for opinions in op-eds. Who gets published? How does that affect what is reported?

    Novels: What is the difference between fiction and nonfiction texts? Do fictional stories influence the way society thinks? Can fictional books influence policy? What are examples of influential fictional texts?

  • Discover: Split students into groups and give each an excerpt from the following influential writers. Tell them briefly about each writer. Harriet Beecher Stowe was called the “little woman who started the war” by Lincoln. John Adams said, “Without the pen of Paine, the sword of Washington would have been wielded in vain.” Upton Sinclair was an influential Muckraker whose books reformed the meat packing industry.

    Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

    The Jungle by Upton Sinclair (background information on the author) (excerpt of meat-packing district)

    Common Sense by Thomas Paine

  • Have students create a quote poem from the excerpt(s) they read. To do this, they should piece together their favorite lines and add their own words sentences that talk about the impact these writers had on America.
  • Share poems in an “active citizen” poetry slam or “Citizen Slam”.
  • Discuss the impact of fiction on politics. Why can making up a character or story grant an author more power? How does a writer build empathy? What is the power of empathy?
  • Take Action: Write a poem or short story to build awareness and empathy for your take action group’s issue. Read or distribute this writing around school.

Other Activities

  1. Have students become Muckrakers. They can pick a political issue (current event, historical period they are studying in class) and write a short story that makes the reader empathize with a particular point of view.
  2. Discuss bloggers as journalists.  What are the pros and cons to this type of civic engagement? Have students create their own blogs.


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