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Lesson Plans

Should 16-year-olds be allowed to vote?

November 10, 2020

Full Lesson


For a handout to provide students to supplement this lesson, click here. For a Google doc of this lesson, click here. 

Should students have a say in how their lives are impacted by political representatives? How about at the local level, including school decision-making that affects student lives? This lesson looks at the roles and responsibilities of local school boards and encourages debate on whether sixteen year olds should be able to vote in these elections or other elections.


History, U.S. Government, Civics

Grades: 9-12

Time needed: 50 minutes with extension ideas


  1. Students will be able to explain the roles of the school board and consider whether students should be eligible to vote for school board members. 
  2. Students will be able to debate both sides of the debate as to whether sixteen years should vote on local issues.  


  1. Warm up: Discussion question—What does a school board do?
  2. Main activity: 
    1. Read this article about what school board members do and how those roles have been impacted by the pandemic and calls for social reform. 
    2. Discussion question— Should students have a say in their local school boards? Why or why not?
    3. Watch PBS NewsHour video on the topic produced by NewsHour’s Student Reporting Labs (SRL).
    4. This next part can be done in small groups or individually, and focuses on the broader question of whether or not the voting age should be lowered. 
      1. Have students read these two guides—
        • This one argues 16 years should be able to vote.
        • This one argues three pros and three cons of student voting.
    5. Have students finish the handout by having students pick the top three reasons for both sides and then write their own opinion. 
    6. If time permits, students can share in small groups, as a class or have a class vote about whether or not students should vote in local elections, including school boards. 

Extension activities: 

If ninety minutes are available, or if you want to make this a multiple day lesson: 

  1. Set up a class debate. Students can have more time to research, write down their side, and argue in class. 
  2. Assign an argumentative essay. 
  3. Assign a research project: Have students research the debate about lowering the age from 21 to 18, ending in the 26th amendment. 

Tim Lorenz is a high school social studies teacher in Aurora, CO. He teaches world religions, AP geography, geography, and government. He has a History Degree from Colorado State University and a Masters of Education from the University of Missouri.