Elementary Lessons


Municipal Elections

Guiding Question

How do municipal elections work? How do voters decide how to vote in an election?


Elections are contests of leadership, ideas, politics and power, where interested individuals campaign for your support and ultimately your vote.

In this unit, students will reflect on what they know about elections and create a class definition. Students will learn about municipal elections in Ontario and how their  municipal council is elected. Individually or in groups, students will engage in the inquiry process to investigate factors when making their voting decision and to guide their research into the candidates. In the Consolidation activity, students reflect on the process and why it is important to research the candidates and explore election issues.


We are learning to…

  • develop an understanding of the municipal election process and the dynamics and complex relationships within our political system;
  • engage in the inquiry process to formulate questions, and to interpret, synthesize and analyze information (Global Competencies – Critical Thinking & Problem Solving);
  • evaluate the candidates and analyze how they will respond to the same issue (Concepts of Thinking – Perspective).



  • describe the purpose and meaning of elections;
  • explain how my municipal council is elected;
  • analyze different ways to make a voting decision;
  • ask questions, research information and critically
  • analyze the candidates;
  • compare and contrast how different candidates may
  • view or interpret the same issue;
  • appreciate that different voters have different viewpoints.


Social Studies Gr. 5 B1, B3, B1.1, B3.1, B3.8
Reading 1, 1.4, 1.6
Media Literacy 3, 4, 3.4, 4.1


Within a few days of the unit, ask students to survey at least five adults they know, who are eligible voters in the community, about the upcoming municipal elections (Activity 6.1).

In addition to or alternatively, ask students to bring in evidence or use their technology to take photos of the election campaign in their community.


1. Ask students to write down the words that come to mind when they hear the word ‘election’ (Activity 6.2). Invite students to share any examples of the election happening in the community.

2. Create a class definition for ‘election’. Questions to prompt discussion:

• What is the purpose?
• What are the activities involved?
• Who is involved?

Notes: What is an election?

  • The process for choosing politicians to represent us
  •  The act of casting a ballot
  • A chance for citizens to participate in political decision-making and have a voice in the future of the community
  • An opportunity to discuss and debate important issues and potential solutions
  • Candidates communicate their message and ideas, and try to gain support from voters•
  • Voters investigate the options and make a choice on election day


1. Review your municipal council composition (titles, number of positions) and the election process in your municipality. You can use the accompanying slide deck as a starting point and add specific information about your municipality.

2. Reinforce the upcoming election on October 22. Demonstrate to students where you can find the list of registered candidates by visiting your municipality’s website. Ask students to write down the name of the candidates running for each position (Activity 6.2).

Teacher note: Your municipality will likely have a dedicated election page or subsite dedicated to the election. Look for ‘Election 2018’ or ‘Municipal Elections’.

3. On a blackboard or whiteboard, write down the following question: How do voters decide how to vote in an election? (Whom to choose) Through a class discussion, create sub-themes and generate questions to frame this decision. Review information collected through the Readiness activity (adult/family survey). For example:

  • CANDIDATES – Who is qualified for the job? What skills and qualities would make a good community leader? What do they care most about?
  • ISSUES – What issues are the most important in the community? Who decides which issues matter? How will the candidates address these issues?
  • ME – What matters to me? Which candidates share my opinions and viewpoints?
  • MY COMMUNITY – What does the community need? Who can help us achieve this vision? What issues were most common in the readiness survey?

4. Through a class discussion, review different ways that you can collect information about the issues and candidates (e.g., news media, candidate campaign literature, candidate
websites and social media pages, website searches, all candidate debates or town halls, opinion polls, informal polls, discussion with family and friends).

Teacher note: It may be helpful to model researching candidate information using candidate websites/social media pages.

5. As a class or in groups, have students develop an inquiry or investigation plan to help them make their voting decision(s) (Activity 6.3). Students can work in a jigsaw format or another method where the research is shared, discussed and analyzed.

Teacher note: If you decide to pose questions to the candidates, organize the questions into one document and send it to each candidate running for office.

Alternative Activity

1. Through a whole class discussion, create a list about the most pressing issues in the community. Draw upon articles about the election, opinion polls, the survey completed in the Readiness activity and previous discussions from Unit 5.

2. As a class, establish criteria to evaluate which issues are most important. Guiding questions:

  • Which issues directly affect you, your family and friends?
  • Are many people affected in the community?
  • Is the impact extreme – positively or negatively?
  • Are many people for and/or against it?

Use the criteria, determine the top three issues facing the community.

3. Divide the class into pairs or small groups to research the candidates running for election. As a class, develop a checklist for creating a profile and formulate questions based on the top election issues. Have students choose how the information will presented (e.g., poster board, slide deck, video, “fakebook” account, fake Instagram or Twitter feed).

Sample research profile:

  • Name and photo
  • Bio/Personal information (e.g., education, career, accomplishments)
  • Priorities (What issues are most important to the candidate?)
  • Issues (What is their position or response to the questions concerning the top issues?)

Teacher note: Encourage students to use primary and secondary resources, including news articles and commentary, candidate websites and social media pages, or even contact the candidates directly.

4. Have each group present their candidate profile and research to the rest of the class. Alternatively, you can post the group work around the classroom walls or create stations, and use a Carousel format where students move in small groups from station to station.


Have a brief closing discussion about the candidates and the decision-making process in elections, who to vote for, or ask students to write a reflection on one or more of the
following questions:

  • What did you learn through this process? What did you find interesting? What did you find challenging?
  • Do you feel ready to vote? How did your research make you feel more confident in your decision? What else would you like to know about the candidates?
  • Which factors do you think are most important when deciding who you will vote for?


  • The creation of candidate profiles should be conducted over several periods/days.
  • Some individuals may jump at the opportunity to share their opinions and even try to convince others to adopt their choices, while others may prefer to keep their politics personal. Remind students that all opinions should be respected.


  • Slide Deck 6: Municipal Elections [PPT]
  • Activity 6.1: Election Survey [PDF] [Word]
  • Activity 6.2: What Does Election Mean? [PDF] [Word]
  • Activity 6.3: How Do I Decide To Vote? [PDF] [Word]
  • Activity 6.4: Graphic Organizer – Getting To Know The Candidates [PDF] [Word]

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