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Our voices are loudest closer to home

Letters to the Next President 2.0 asked students to share their views on an issue that mattered to them during the 2016 election.

But students don’t need a presidential election to make their voices heard. The L2P2.0 model can be used to reach out to any elected official at any level of government at any time. Use this local election toolkit to get started.

Step #1: Visit the Letters to the Next President 2.0 archive

Explore the 2016 letter archive to see how students addressed topics that mattered to them. Letters are searchable by topic, state, or letter format, which includes video and audio. Students across the country reported how inspiring it was for them to see what their peers in different regions were thinking.

Step #2: Identify an issue that matters

Writing about a specific issue gives students choice and voice. Deciding on an issue to focus on may depend on a student’s personal history, what’s happening in the news, or connections to relevant classroom curriculum. We recommend students have as much freedom as possible to select an issue they care about. Here are some resources to start a conversation and investigate the issues:

KQED’s In the Classroom: Developing and Discussing Diverse Political Views in the Classroom: Written by an educator in Texas, this blog post discusses the value of tackling political topics with students and strategies for making it work in a classroom of diverse opinions.

New York Times Learning Network: 10 Ways to Encourage Civil Classroom Conversation On Difficult Issues: Helpful tips about discussing controversial topics in classrooms. Packed with resources on how to structure discussions and links to other organizations tackling civic issues.

Facing History and Ourselves: Choosing to Participate: This curriculum explores the question How can I make a difference in the world? Readings, videos and stand-alone lessons help students wrestle with relevant civic choices. This resource is also available in Spanish.

We the Voters: Run Rep Run: This short film profiles state Rep. Juana Matias, a 29-year-old resident of Lawrence, MA, during her campaign. Matias, who speaks passionately about her decision to run for office, is now Massachusetts’s first Latina state representative.

KQED Learning: Students Share Personal Stories about Election Issues: Examples from youth writers about sharing their thoughts about issues that matter to them.

KQED’s The Lowdown:  A resource to bring the newsroom to the classroom with articles, videos, interactive graphics and lesson plans. Frequent updates and an easily searchable archive make this a resource for students as well as educators.

KQED’s Do Now: Students connect weekly to answer a question on a relevant issue with other young people around the country using social media tools.

Generation Citizen: Beyond the Ballot lesson plans and youth civic action toolkit encourages conversation and action around issues both in and out of the classroom.

National Action Civics Toolbox: Pages of resources focused on engaging students in civic issues and opportunities

PBS’s Point Taken: This debate show can be used to examine civil debate, analyze how speakers craft an argument or simply to explore timely issues. It’s geared for a general audience, so a few topics may not be classroom-friendly.

Step #3: Create a letter

A letter can be text, video, or audio. It can feature images, infographics, charts, graphs and personal stories. These resources are designed to help you and your students create a letter that will best reach its intended audience and communicate the writer’s views most effectively.

College Ready Writing Project: Finding a Topic Mini-Unit:This unit invites students to choose a topic and think about their audience when constructing an argument. The link also includes a full unit on writing and sourcing letters.

It’s Elementary: Writing Letters to the President (and others!) in the primary grades: A bundle of resources about how to write class letters or organize around a social issue in primary classrooms.

KQED Teach: Online courses for educators to build skills in video storytelling, podcasting, infographics and other multimedia tools.

KQED Learning: How to Make Your Own Political Art: Political art can accompany a text letter or stand alone as the letter. This resource helps guide students to express their views visually.

Youth Radio: How to Write a Commentary: Three activities explore the basics behind crafting commentary around a specific issue.

KQED Learning: Spoken Word Letters: Spoken word is a powerful tool of self-expression. Get started with this resource and videos.

Step #4: Get your letter to right person

Our voices are loudest the closer we are to home. Reaching out to local representatives is likely to get a faster and more meaningful response. Whether students email multimedia letters or send text letters through the mail, we recommend teachers contact the elected official’s office in advance to let them know who is writing and how many letters to expect.

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Author

Rachel Roberson

Rachel Roberson is KQED's news education manager. Previously, she was a reading, writing and social studies teacher leader on three continents, having served on the founding staff of KIPP Bayview Academy in San Francisco before moving to schools in Abu Dhabi and Austin, Texas. She started her teaching career as a Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon. Before she was a teacher, Rachel was a journalist in the East Bay.