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Teaching with the News

Surveying State of the Union Addresses

Objectives

Students will:

Resources

Handout: The State of the Union Address

Video: Inside the White House: "The State of the Union Address"

Interactive Timeline: Historic State of the Union Addresses

Graphic Organizer: Historic Addresses

Graphic Organizer: President Obama’s Address

Handout: A Letter to the President

Note: These activities require access to the internet.

1. The Origins of the State of the Union Address

a. Interpreting the Constitution: Distribute the handout The State of the Union Address to the class. Ask students to read Article II, Section III silently to themselves and then ask someone to read it aloud to the class. Prompt students to identify words or phrases they don’t understand. Have students express Article II, Section III in their own words. How precise is the Constitution about how often the president needs to report on the State of Union?

b. A Short History: Have students watch the short video Inside the White House: "The State of the Union Address". Ask students how the State of the Union has evolved over time? Where is it given? Who attends the State of the Union Address?

2. Historic State of the Union Addresses

Break the class into groups of two or three. (The activity can also be done as a whole class, or as a homework assignment.) Distribute the graphic organizer Historic Addresses to each student. Direct students to the interactive timeline. Depending on time available, assign each group a few or all of the presidential speeches and have them fill in the graphic organizer. Tell students to look for the “recommended viewing” time period at the end of each description. (Students viewing President Nixon’s Address have two short clips to watch.)

timelieHave the groups report back to the class. Tell students to record information from the other groups’ reports on their graphic organizer.

3. Previewing the President’s Address

Tell students that they will be watching President Barack Obama’s 2014 State of the Union Address.

Distribute the graphic organizer President Obama’s Address. Ask the class to brainstorm what students think the president will speak about. What do students think will be the main issue? Have students explain their reasoning. What are the other issues that they believe President Obama will bring up? Have students record their answers on the graphic organizer. Tell students that they will use the graphic organizer when watching the State of the Union. Watch the State of the Union Address as a class or assign it for homework.

4. Making Connections

Have students refer to their graphic organizers and present their findings.

5. Extra Challenge

Tell students that President Obama, like many presidents before him, reads letters everyday and responds to some of the letters that are written to him. Distribute the handout Letter to the President to the class. Have students write a letter to the president about some aspect of his State of the Union Address. They can choose to write in support or opposition to a policy that he has expressed. They might also choose to note an issue that he did not mention or include a personal story that relates to a policy issue. Students can mail their letters to the president or use the White House website.

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