Bringing Democratic Education to Your Classroom and School (Lesson Plan)

The following is a lesson plan designed to help students and teachers bring democratic education practices into your schools and classrooms. The activity was designed for IDEA by Ammerah Saidi, an urban public school teacher from Detroit, Michigan. You can also download this lesson plan by clicking the "Word doc" link below.

Author: Ammerah Saidi

Download now: Bringing Democratic Education to Your Classrooms and Schools (Word doc)

Objective: To help outline starting actions towards establishing more meaningful learning and democratic practices within one's school

Grade Level: 5-12

1. Ask students to take 5-10 minutes to write a flashback narrative of one of their best learning experiences in school. To help them think about an experience, stress that such a memory will be vivid - they'll remember names of people involved or the exact location in school it took place. They may have even kept a product of the experience (a photo, an essay, a posterboard).

2. Have them share out.

3. Ask students to question why this educational experience stuck with them. What did they learn? What made it different than other experiences they've had?

4. Next, have students watch the following video on democratic education:

5. Discussion: After watching the video, have students consider how their experiences were exemplified in the video or were not. Were their memorable educational experiences reflected in the video?

6. Ask the class to brainstorm out ideas of how to take practices in their narratives and the video and implement them in their classroom or school for the next 3 days. This may include going outdoors and finding leaves or plants and naming them and categorizing them for a science lesson. Or this may include creating treasure maps around the school using math concepts (take 5 x 3 steps towards the flagpole from the front door). Or it may include suggestions to increase choice and shared decision-making in the classroom or school.

7. Allow students to formalize these suggestions in a letter to you, the teacher. Then you and the class discuss and decide together which 3 suggestions to implement for the next 3 days. Challenge yourself to expand beyond your comfort zone.


  • After 3 days, have a class meeting to discuss how the last 3 days went. Should the changes remain? Should there be additional changes? Different changes? Explore with the students the possibilities to keep improving the classroom and the school as a whole.
  • Have students present what they believe the purpose of education is"in reality, today as it exists. In contrast, have them present what they believe the purpose of education should be. Some examples may be to get a job or make lots of money whereas some may believe the purpose should be to have fun and learn about oneself, and others may think something completely different.

Lesson plan designed for IDEA: Institute for Democratic Education in America, by Ammerah Saidi, an urban public school teacher from Detroit, Michigan.

Tags for this entry:
curriculum, democratic education, school change

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Related Resources:

Opportunities to Learn in America’s Elementary Classrooms

Meaningful Student Involvement: Guide to Students as Partners in School Change

Sir Ken Robinson: Do schools kill creativity? (TED talk)

Democracy at Risk: The Need for a New Federal Policy in Education

Rethinking Schools