President Obama’s State of the Union Address 2011
Background, Activities and Critical Analysis
Grade Level: 7-12
Subject(s): Social studies, history, civics, current events, government
Duration: 4 class periods (2 90-minute periods plus length of two State of the Union speeches.)
(1) Discussion of reasons for and history of the State of the Union speech. Excerpts of videos will be used or a Powerpoint presentation will be shown giving a short history and memorable events from past State of the Union speeches. Students will watch the State of the Union address from the previous year.
(2) Lecture on speech writing elements. Students will make a group presentation using Powerpoint to discuss possible topics to be covered in the speech for the current year and also demonstrate the use of public speaking elements which were used.
(3) Students will watch the State of the Union address.
(4) Students will discuss whether their expectations were correct, and whether there were new and unexpected topics which were brought up. They will discuss which topics they anticipate will be carried forward into new legislation or programs by the President and Congress.
Description: This lesson plan will prepare students for President Obama’s 2011 State of the Union Address.
Goals: The purpose of this lesson is to teach students about the history and purpose of the State of the Union address, and to teach them how to evaluate the speech.
1. To increase students’ knowledge of the importance of media in U.S. politics.
2. To demonstrate good public speaking skills and speech evaluation methods.
3. To engage students in learning about current political topics and how they evolve into new laws and public programs.
Students will discuss the elements of a successful political speech, and they will watch President Obama’s State of the Union Address.
– Pen and paper
– Computers with Internet connection or video of State of the Union speech from 2010 , television and DVD player.
– Word processing software or Powerpoint if available.
1. Students will be engaged in a discussion about the State of the Union speech. They will be asked if they have ever seen it on television, and what they thought about it. Students will respond regarding why the President makes the annual speech.
2. The teacher will provide a background lesson on the reason for the State of the Union speech. There will be a discussion on the purpose of the State of the Union in passing new laws. Since the President oversees policies he or she can propose new ideas with the aim of asking for the support of Congress to pass new legislation after the speech. Often the President regards the speech as an opportunity to speak directly with the American public to appeal for support for new initiatives.
According to the Constitution, one of the duties of the president is to report to Congress. Students can look at the text of the Constitution and find the relevant clause (Article II, Section III) at:
U.S. House of Representatives: Educational Resources
3. The teacher will lead a discussion on the history of the State of the Union speech with memorable highlights from history being presented. The teacher may choose to show video excerpts of previous speeches, or show a PowerPoint presentation of historical moments from past addresses. The speech has become more important due to mass media, particularly television. All of the major networks preempt regular shows in order to air the State of the Union address.
4. A discussion on speechwriting will be held, presenting the importance of speechwriters, advisory staff, and researchers, who help the President prepare for the speech. Students will take note any special equipment they have seen used during the speech. Students will be asked what they think makes a good speech. There will be a short lesson on the elements of public speaking, i.e. attention-getting devices, credibility, call to action, etc. When students watch the speech, they will be able to tell where these elements are being used.
5 . Students will watch President Obama’s speech from the previous year. They should take note of important topics and be able to research them to anticipate what will be covered in the speech for the coming year. More topics will be brainstormed such as Healthcare, Social Security, the war on terrorism education, etc.
Students will also take note of topic areas in the speech where the President may be appealing for new programs or new laws to be formulated.
6. Homework to be assigned: Students will make a group presentation using Powerpoint to present possible topics to be covered in the speech for the current year and also demonstrate the use of public speaking elements which were used.
7. The current year’s speech will be watched. Students will decide if their ideas were actually presented by the President, and show what new ideas were instead shown.
Homework Activity: Students should take notes regarding topics discussed in the previous year’s State of the Union address. Each student will prepare a paragraph of their topic to be used in a group Power point presentation of possible topics to be covered in the speech for the current year and also demonstrating the use of public speaking elements.
If students have trouble predicting topics President Obama may speak about, suggest issues such as Iraq, taxes, Social Security, education, the war on terrorism, the environment, the economy, welfare, health care, energy, etc.
Assessment: Student understanding should be assessed through:
Note taking and paragraph writing.
Group discussion and preparation of a Powerpoint Presentation.