Introducing Democratic Education (Lesson Plan)

The following is a lesson plan designed to introduce democratic education to students and schools that are new to the approach. 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: Introducing Democratic Education #1 (Word doc)

Objective: To spark a provocative conversation on democratic education

Grade Level: 5th-12th

Procedure: 1. Open an introductory conversation with students about how they feel about school - if you feel your school is democratic, have them reflect on the majority of schools in the U.S. What words come to mind to the students in these schools? Possible words or phrases may be "boring” or “too many rules.”

2. As the students share these words or phrases, take notes and list them. If you notice a lot of students agreeing with one particular word or phrase, make sure to write a checkmark next to it indicating its favor with the crowd.

3. Now have the students watch this video, "Make Your Voice Heard."

4. As students are watching the video, have them write down on construction paper words or phrases which come to their minds. Give them big markers and tell them to just brainstorm it out on the page.

5. While they are doing that, you will select the top 5-8 phrases used to describe non-democratic schools on 5-8 pieces of chart paper which you have posted around the room. For example, one chart paper may have the word “BORING” in the middle of it.

6. After the video is done, have the students look over their own brainstorms and direct them to the sheets around the room. Instruct them through a silent discussion "chalk talk.” They will each take a marker and go to one of the posters and comment on the word when they compare it to democratic education (as they understood it in the video). Make sure to stress respectful, thoughtful commenting practices. For example, under the word boring a student may write, “The schools in the video look like they'd be fun because we get to go outside." To this, the following student may write, “Yeah - we only get to go outside for recess here." The rule is, everyone must stay silent - this helps to give everyone a chance to formulate their ideas independent of what others think.

7. With 10 minutes left in class, open the discussion. Target the conversation by asking, "What are some ways we could realistically make this classroom more like the schools in the video? What about the school?" Write them down on the board.


  • Students take their brainstorms, cut out their words and phrases and create a democratic education collage with pictures and other mediums. They must then write a letter to the administrator articulating their ideas for how to make their school more democratic.
  • Students read this blog entry on a transition from a Waldorf-inspired school to a traditional public high school. - Have them debate the following statement: Students learn best in a Non-Conventional School like the Waldorf-inspired school versus a Conventional school. - The definition of these 2 types of schools should come from the debate, not the teacher.

Tags for this entry:
democratic education, k-12 education, conversation, students

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Related Resources:

Unraveling the “Teacher Shortage” Problem

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

Opportunities to Learn in America’s Elementary Classrooms

Education on the Huffington Post

Diplomas Count: An Essential Guide to Graduation Policy and Rates