How to Teach Citizenship in the Elementary School Classroom

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Citizenship is the quality of a person's response to membership in a community. Being a citizen doesn't automatically make you a good citizen, which is why teaching citizenship to elementary students is so important. By teaching children different themes of citizenship, you can help them learn how to positively contribute to their community. Be sure to focus on empathy, respect, compassion, diversity, and inclusion as you explore themes of citizenships with your class. Relate these themes to your students' lives to help them understand what a good citizen means.

These are five examples of how to incorporate citizenship into your lesson plans:

1. Encourage Children to Read Books About Citizenship

Place a variety of books about citizenship in your classroom library. Books that build social and emotional intelligence and explore themes of citizenship through real-world experiences encourage children to be good citizens now and in the future as adults.

2. Give Children the Opportunity to Free Write or Draw

Giving children an opportunity to share their own experiences through writing and art is one way of exploring citizenship themes. Here are a few of the example prompts.

Potential Writing Prompts

  • Describe a time you told the truth despite the consequences.
  • Write about someone you respect.
  • Describe a time you took responsibility for your words or actions.

Potential Drawing Prompts

  • Draw a time when you demonstrated bravery.
  • Draw the steps you would take if you saw someone making fun of a fellow classmate.

3. Discuss How Different Book Characters Display Good Citizenship

Choose a book to read together as a class. For example, you could choose to read The Colors of Us by Karen Katz to children and then discuss the ways Lena displayed good citizenship. Write important points from the class discussion on the board or on a large piece of paper to be displayed.

4. Make Citizenship Carnations

Reinforce the different themes of citizenship by having each child make their very own Citizenship Carnation. This activity promotes good citizenship and gives children an opportunity to create a visual reminder of what being a good citizen means. Here are some basic instructions for how to make the Citizenship Carnations:

  1. Have children make a large flower (five petals) out of construction paper.
  2. Have children write one theme of citizenship on each of the five petals.
  3. Have children decorate their carnations.

5. Encourage Children to Grow into Good Citizens

Putting up a citizenship-themed bulletin board or classroom display is one way you can encourage children to be good citizens. One activity to try with your children is the Good Citizen Tree. Simply make a tree out of bulletin board paper, give children a paper apple, and have them write what they think describes a good citizen on the apple. Then, have your children place the apples on the tree.

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