Citizenship is an integral aspect of society. It’s also important in the classroom: Students who learn about citizenship early in life develop a stronger commitment to doing good in the world. So how exactly should we be teaching citizenship, and why is it so important for students to learn?
As we’ve discussed in our series on why learning matters, students who understand why they’re learning something are much more likely to engage with the material. Here’s why citizenship is important, and how to teach citizenship to students in a way that inspires and motivates positive action.
What is Citizenship and Why Does it Matter?
Citizenship is important for developing a strong moral code in individuals, but it’s also important for creating a safe, supportive society while protecting democracy, according to Young Citizens.
“Citizenship education involves developing the knowledge, skills and confidence to enable people to make their own decisions and to take responsibility for their own lives and communities. And in many countries – where democratic society and its institutions are facing threats – citizenship education is becoming increasingly important.”
Citizenship can also be approached from a global perspective. In addition to being citizens of a specific country, all students are citizens of the world. Global citizenship is “the idea that we are one global community, and therefore our choices and actions may affect people and communities locally, nationally or even internationally,” says Ann Marie Borders at NEA Today.
She explains that global citizenship is important for nurturing respect and tolerance while building awareness and empathy for different cultures. This is equally important for schools with diverse populations and those without. If you do have diverse cultures and backgrounds in your school, this provides an opportunity for students to teach one another about their backgrounds and to foster mutual understanding and respect for one another’s differences.
Teaching citizenship also allows students to understand the difference between being a citizen and practicing citizenship. Teaching children different themes of citizenship, including honesty, compassion, respect, responsibility and courage empowers children to positively contribute to their community, according to Kaplan Early Learning.
Likewise, citizenship is important for fostering healthy discourse among people of differing viewpoints. It also helps students learn how to find common ground with people who are different from themselves, especially when it comes to upholding basic human rights. AFS Intercultural Programs explains that learning about citizenship fosters mutual respect and understanding, which in turn connects and builds a strong network of people working toward the same goal.
AFS also points out that global citizenship education promotes student advocacy by promoting active participation in economic, social, political and natural issues. This can inspire students to “look in a wider perspective, think deeper about social injustices and oppression and combat extremism through constructive discourses.”
What Does Citizenship Learning Look Like?
Citizenship is interpreted and learned differently by students of different age groups. For example, young students aren’t going to learn details about the branches of government, and will likely be confused by the constitution. This doesn’t mean that teachers should skip over teaching about citizenship, however.
Teacher Alyssa Messier points out that elementary students can still learn the basic principles of citizenship, what it means to belong to their country, and why this is important. “They can learn that they have a voice and that it matters, they can learn how critical each individual’s role in society is, and they can learn the importance of being informed,” she writes.
Citizenship learning can also mean modeling good examples of citizenship for students. Stacy D. Cooper at The Classroom explains that books showing examples of good citizenship offer points of discussion for students. They can explore how each person showed good citizenship and how that act made a difference. People like Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, Rosa Parks, Woodrow Wilson, Oprah Winfrey and Audrey Hepburn are all examples of people whose life stories demonstrate good citizenship.
Since citizenship can be displayed in many different ways, it can also be learned in many different ways. Kids Academy explains that to be a good citizen, people must attain a particular set of values and skills. In particular, students need to gain knowledge about their local, state and national governments while also learning about cultures and global issues. In addition to learning about citizenship as a governmental construct, children should also learn about citizenship as a tool for working with one another and improving humanity.
“Kids must develop deep values that make them want to be good citizens in the future. These values include responsibility, compassion, honesty, integrity, and tolerance.” While teaching these values explicitly is important, they should also become part of everyday learning. As those values become second nature, students grow into good citizens.
In today’s technology-focused classrooms, digital citizenship is also important. Specifically, students need to learn how to represent themselves and behave online in a way that is safe for everyone, especially when at school.
Paul Barnwell at TeachThought explains that digital citizenship lessons can start by asking students to consider their online personas. For high school students, this is especially important because a college admissions officer may be looking at their profile. As a teacher of citizenship, you can remind students of the responsibility they have to act appropriately online.
Tips for Teaching Citizenship
As discussed, showing students how to be empathetic and tolerant is an important part of teaching citizenship. The Bill of Rights Institute offers a lesson plan idea that helps students learn how to be a good citizen in their classroom while also setting expectations for respect in the coming year.
This lesson gives students an opportunity to define citizenship in their own terms and discuss what it means to them, which fosters healthy debate and discussion about important issues. Ultimately, this lesson can be used to create a shared bill of rights for the classroom. This moral code can be used to set expectations around how students should act and treat one another on a daily basis.
Another way to teach citizenship — while also helping students realize its importance — is to give students a voice. Ask them what things could be better in their lives if they pursued that issue and tried to make a change, suggests intermediate school counselor and character coach Barbara Gruener.
Then, have students take action towards embodying that change. For example, you might have students host a betterment campaign, deliver speeches, collect can openers for the homeless or raise money for the cause. These are all small, but tangible ways that students can learn how to make a difference in their society. You might also host a mock election to show students how they can put their opinion to work by voting and influencing positive change in society.
Another idea is to have students see real citizenship in action, writes Gail Innis at Michigan State University Extension. For example, they might go to the voting booth and watch people cast their votes while putting their own votes in a classroom ballot box. Or, they could attend a community meeting either in person or through Skype.
Teachers play a role in fostering good citizenship on a daily basis. Rebekah Gienapp at The Barefoot Mommy says teachers can model democratic dialogue by asking students to respectfully question adults and speak their opinion. If a student questions you or another student in the classroom, you can use this as an example for the entire classroom to talk about how the students can engage in varying viewpoints while remaining empathetic. “When a child questions your views or a decision you’ve made, encourage them to talk it through with you instead of shushing them,” she writes.
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Good citizen – good citizens exhibit the characteristics of good citizenship, which include: truthfulness, justice, equality, respect for oneself and others, responsibility in daily life, and participation in government by educating oneself about the issues, respectfully holding public officials to their word, and ...Why is citizenship important in a community? ›
Active citizenship allows for:
Participation in the community. Empowering people to influence the decisions which affect their lives. Knowledge and understanding of the political,social, and economic context of their participation so that they can make informed decisions. Able to challenge existing structures.
Citizens have certain rights, duties, and responsibilities that are denied or only partially extended to aliens and other noncitizens residing in a country. In general, full political rights, including the right to vote and to hold public office, are predicated upon citizenship.Why are citizenship values important? ›
What is Citizenship and Why Does it Matter? Citizenship is important for developing a strong moral code in individuals, but it's also important for creating a safe, supportive society while protecting democracy, according to Young Citizens.What is the value of citizenship? ›
In this sense, citizenship values pertain to belonging and being loyal to one's homeland, as well as all beliefs and behaviors involved in the performance of duties, rights, social participation, and public values.What is the most important in good citizenship values? ›
Respect for Life – A good Filipino recognizes the absolute value of human life and the human dignity of every person including himself.What is citizenship in your own understanding? ›
A citizen is a participatory member of a political community. Citizenship is gained by meeting the legal requirements of a national, state, or local government. A nation grants certain rights and privileges to its citizens. In return, citizens are expected to obey their country's laws and defend it against its enemies.How do you apply good citizenship values to your daily life? ›
- Be Patriotic. ...
- Give Back to the Community. ...
- Be a Productive Member of Society. ...
- Take Part in Social Issues. ...
- Vote. ...
- Mentor Someone. ...
- Cultivate Your Skills and Talents. ...
- Keep Your Home in Order.
It seeks to cut across all subject areas, integrating many skills and competencies that will benefit students throughout their lives as individuals, community members, citizens, and professionals. Citizenship education can transform society; more thoughtful and engaged citizens lead to a stronger and more just society.What are the benefits of citizenship? ›
Only U.S. citizens can vote in Federal elections. Most States also restrict the right to vote, in most elections, to U.S. citizens. Bringing family members to the United States. Citizens generally get priority when petitioning to bring family members permanently to this country.
Being a good citizen means being responsible. The traits of a good citizen include giving back and helping others. Ensuring that your government takes care of and protects its citizens: meaning you, your family, and your community. It means being proactive, being responsible, and sacrificing for the greater good.What does good citizenship values mean essay? ›
A good citizen must live in peace and harmony with his neighbours and fellow citizens. He must respect the institutions of his country. A good citizen must always respect the laws of the state and should have no patience with criminals and anti-social elements. He must be vigilant against the enemies of the country.Why do we study citizenship education? ›
Citizenship education enables young people to acquire the necessary skills and knowledge to understand and engage in a democratic society, to be politically active, and to understand the media, culture, and the rights and responsibilities of citizens.What does good citizenship mean to students? ›
Students demonstrate good citizenship by fulfilling their civic and social responsibilities and contribute to the well-being of the communities in which they are a member (including their home, school, neighborhood, country, and the greater world).What is a good sentence for citizenship? ›
He was granted U.S. citizenship. The students are learning the value of good citizenship.
The values are grouped into four categories: MAKA-DIYOS (PRO-GOD), MAKA-TAO (PRO-HUMAN), MAKA-BAYAN (PRO-COUNTRY) and MAKA-KALIKASAN (PRO-ENVIRONMENT); and if we add up all of these, we have MAKA-PILIPINAS (PRO-PHILIPPINES).Why do you think good citizenship values must be taught to students Quora? ›
Citizenship education gives people the knowledge and skills to understand, challenge and engage with democratic society including politics, the media, civil society, the economy, and the law.How do you apply responsible citizenship as a student? ›
being respectful of other people and their property. being respectful of school property. following school rules. displaying good character (responsibility, honesty, good listening, kindness)Is the most important characteristic of good citizenship? ›
A good citizen is some who respects others and their property. He/she is helpful and considerate, willing to put others first. He/she listens to the views of others and thinks about what they have to say. He/she helps people who are not in a position to help themselves.What are the three values of good citizenship? ›
- Respect for Law and Government.
Citizenship education gives people the knowledge and skills to understand, challenge and engage with democratic society including politics, the media, civil society, the economy and the law.What is your understanding of good citizenship? ›
A person can be a good citizen by respecting others, respecting the law, and participating in their community. A good citizen works to better their space and the space of others by supporting others the way they would want to be supported.What does good citizen values mean to you essay? ›
A good citizen must live in peace and harmony with his neighbours and fellow citizens. He must respect the institutions of his country. A good citizen must always respect the laws of the state and should have no patience with criminals and anti-social elements. He must be vigilant against the enemies of the country.What is citizenship answer short? ›
A legal status and relation between an individual and a state that entails specific legal rights and duties. Citizenship is generally used as a synonym for nationality (see: nationality).