Feature

Fighting for Fairness: Teaching Proportional Representation

Cindy Spackman

There were four candidates, each representing a different party. The candidate who won had only one more vote than the person in second place. We had a chair marked “SEAT,” and that person got to sit in it. It represented one of the 308 seats in our House of Commons. The students were asked to imagine this election taking place in 307 other classrooms.

In the final analysis, we discussed which system seemed more fair.

Writing it out
After brainstorming the success criteria for explanatory writing, students were provided with an organizer. We filled it in together, making sure to include  key vocabulary. A final section at the end of the organizer was left for them to add anything that they felt was most interesting, or a detail they believed was important, or any other ideas that had occurred to them they felt they would like to include. A word wall was begun on the SMART Board which we added to as necessary while they used the organizers to write the first draft of their explanations. The title suggested was “A Proposed Change to Canada’s Voting System” (or they could make up their own). The hope, of course, was that students would express and organize what they had learned about the electoral system.

Each student next wrote an explanation to show an understanding of our voting system. Although my class is typical of many, with a wide variety of abilities and challenges, I had some concern that the explanations would be very similar, based heavily on the organizer. But despite the somewhat lock-step scaffolding, I was surprised by the variety of the explanations. Students  emphasized certain aspects over others, and many added their own examples. One student managed to explain the concepts so succinctly that I suggested he should write for Elections Canada!

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