The State of the Union address is an important speech that is given to Congress. In addition, it informs Americans about the current nature of the nation along with concerns, finances and the direction of the country. The following lesson plan can be used to help students understand President Obama’s State of the Union address. The next State of the Union address will be given by President Obama in 2011.
This is a three-day lesson. This lesson is geared towards 4th graders and the standards are taken from California. However, the lesson can be adapted to any upper grade or middle school classroom.
The first day will focus on learning about the constitution. On the second day, students will pretend to be journalists reporting on The State of the Union address. Students need to write ten questions pertaining to current issues and reflective of the constitution. On the third day, students will watch the address and write a letter to the president.
California 4th Grade Standards
History: Students understand the structure, functions, and powers of the United States local, state and federal governments as described in the U.S. Constitution, in terms of What the U.S. Constitution is and why it is important?
Listening and Speaking: Ask thoughtful questions and respond to relevant questions with appropriate elaboration in oral settings
Students will relate current political topics to the Constitution in addition to formulating thoughtful questions and learning about key points in The State of the Union speech.
Copy of the Bill of Rights, School House Rocks: The Preamble, paper, writing materials, chart paper, computer and optional LCD or Smartboard
Teacher should do a KWL chart with the two following questions. First, what is the constitution and what is its purpose? Secondly, what is the State of the Union and who is giving it this year? Take responses and record them on the first column of the three-column chart. Then, ask students what they want to learn and record responses in the middle column.
Read The Preamble to students: “We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America .” Give students a brief background about the constitution by watching School House Rocks: The Preamble. Watch it on youtube.com or try to snag a copy at your local library. Here’s another version with just the lyrics, if you have a classroom that likes to sing. Finally, have students write down one sentence about the importance of the constitution.
Hand out the Bill of Rights or put a copy up on an overhead projector or smart board. Consider giving kids the amendment in kid friendly language. Discuss each amendment.
Fill in the final column on the KWL chart pertaining to the question: what is the constitution and what is its purpose? A sample answer is: the Constitution is a document created by the people “in order to have justice, to have peace, to be able to defend ourselves, to be better off, and to be free – not just for ourselves, but for all our children and descendants.”
Show of brief clip on the state of the union address from 2010. Older students may be able to watch a longer portion of the address. This is best done on a Smartboard or similar technology. However, the teacher can also play the audio or read part of the speech from the transcript. Explain that Obama’s 2010 State of the Union Address focuses on jobs, health care and retirement. Fill in the final column for the KWL chart pertaining to the question: what is at the State of the Union and who is giving it this year?
Tell students they need to pretend to be journalists reporting on The State of the Union address. Students need to write ten questions they would want to ask President Obama. The questions should be related to the constitution. For example, how will the new health care program make American lives better? Or what is the future for our involvement in Afghanistan ?
Tape the 2011 State of the Union address and show it to students. Students can see if their questions are answered. The, discuss why they think the speech is important. Finally, have students write letters to President Obama about the questions that were not answered in The State of the Union Address.