While small children are unlikely to understand what an election is, a few of my Year 1 pupils know that Tony Blair is the Prime Minister and they've heard of George W Bush. In the early years and key stage 1, however, the main focus in the teaching of citizenship is on the immediate community and each child's impact on it.
Through discussion, reflection and interaction children are encouraged to respect others and develop their own self-confidence.
One way to achieve this - while at the same time giving them some insight into elections - is by getting them to create their own "political" parties and produce individually-designed election rosettes.
First you need a name.
Brainstorming party names can be inventive and imaginative. You may want older children to focus on a set of values they see as important. Titles we came up with included the Golden Party, the Happy Party, the Dressing Up Party and the Birthday Party.
We made manifestos, in which the children highlighted three things they wanted to change or improve. Ideas ranged from more funfairs to more teachers (no split classes). The slogan for the Magic Party was "make your wish come true" and the Golden Party promised a "shiny future".
All children love badges and making a rosette is a visual way of showing how to get your ideas and slogans across.
Your focus with younger children may be on cutting and sticking skills. Older children can gain more from planning and developing a logo to match their party name or slogan.
Materials: card - or cheat with small paper plates, felt tips, crepe paper for ribbon (or try ready-cut edging for younger children to stick), large needles, some ready-made examples of rosettes, and staples.
* Ask children how the design reflects the party's aims.
* Invite them to draw an appropriate logo. One child used a row of stick people holding hands as her logo for the Friendly Party.
* More able children can attempt writing independently but you can scribe for less able so their message is clear.
* Older children can thread the crepe ribbons independently - I always find threading activities quite soothing as long as they are well supervised. Pupils may need adult help to staple the ribbon round the rosettes - these activities usually develop the automation of a mini-assembly line! I also think it's better if younger children are free to stick some shapes around the edge of their rosettes - this provides more ownership of the end product.
Displays and assemblies
Election projects like this one provide many display opportunities. A focus on school issues, for example, could involve photos with the rosettes displayed alongside.
A response to the national elections could contrast newspaper clippings with children's ideas. We chose to display our rosettes and manifestos on a silhouette of Britain, as many of the children's ideas related to national issues.
Such projects can provide you with a great morning assembly and underscore the validity of citizenship in the moral and spiritual development of the school.
It worked for us. It should work for you.
Virginia Hunt is a key stage 1 co-ordinator