Visualising with sticky-notes – democracy


democracyGetting a quiet class talking + getting the students to think about democracy. One of the challenges in teaching civics is getting the students to think, reflect and talk about some of the institutions they take for granted. For instance, why do we have democracy? Why do we think it is good? What is required to have a good democracy? And what does the process actually look like? I wanted my students to think and reflect on the process of democracy.


Instead of having the students doing yet another written exercise (which seem to be my crotch), I had the students draw the process of democracy on post-its. They were given a stack of sticky-notes and were not allowed to write any words. I challenged them to try to explain the process in pictures show someone who were unable to understand what they were saying. As always the goal was to get them to do the thinking rather than me.


  • Before the class they had read about democracy in their textbook.
  • Divide the class into teams of 3-4 students.
  • Hand them a marker and a stack of sticky-notes.
  • I started out by showing them now one might illustrate a dictatorship and told them that they had to illustrate the process of democracy with their sticky-notes. They were not allowed to use any words but they could draw whatever they wanted.
  • They found a wall somewhere to work on and worked for about 20 min.
  • Once the time was up, I gathered them into the classroom again.
  • We when had a little art exhibition where everyone walked and sew everyone’s attempts.
  • We gathered again and the students shared some of their impressions of what they liked of other’s drawings. They were instructed to be positive.
  • We when photographed it all and put it on Facebook in the class group.
My drawing to illustrate the concept

The exercise went really well. Everyone participated Рyes even the quiet ones. The students who can draw got to shine a bit which was nice. Everyone had fun and I could hear that the discussion on what to draw and how was really constructive. In the next lesson we talked about the requirements to have a good democracy was lively and more fluent than normally.

My students’ visualizations

Taking it further

I would have loved to have the students comment on each others work in some kind of written form. We didn’t have time for that this time, but next time it would be great if they were able to hear each others reactions to each others drawings.

I would also like to have a class website/blog where we could share things like this, rather than them having a facebook group.

This could of course be used to illustrate and get the students to think about a number of topics. I am thinking that globalisation would be great. This would also work with the legislative process, economic politics and a number of different processes.

I often illustrate processes on the whiteboard but it would be great to make them the co-authors.


I have just used this again (though with small pieces of paper, rather than sticky notes) with my B-level class to teach them about how the government parties form coalitions and it worked really well. They had all the parties and their number of seats on the notes and figured out different likely and unlikely coalitions. They got really creative with their suggestions. These are adult students and it can be a bit hard to get them to take teaching games serious but this worked with them – and they loved it. One of the very serious students, even asked if we could do something like this again.

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Sidsel Pedersen

Danish. High school teacher. Cand. mag in history & social studies. Reader of SF&F literature, roleplayer, gamer and happy home cook.

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