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Eric's House Of Ego
September 8th, 2009
04:07 pm


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Those awful school projects ... pure socialism I tell ya ... pure socialism

Menu of Classroom Activities
President Obama’s Address to Students Across America

Produced by Teaching Ambassador Fellows, U.S. Department of Education

September 8, 2009

Before the Speech
• Teachers can build background knowledge about the President of the United States and his
speech by reading books about presidents and Barack Obama. Teachers could motivate students
by asking the following questions:
Who is the President of the United States?
What do you think it takes to be president?
To whom do you think the president is going to be speaking?
Why do you think he wants to speak to you?
What do you think he will say to you?
• Teachers can ask students to imagine that they are delivering a speech to all of the students in
the United States.
If you were the president, what would you tell students?
What can students do to help in our schools?
Teachers can chart ideas about what students would say.
• Why is it important that we listen to the president and other elected officials, like the mayor,
senators, members of congress, or the governor? Why is what they say important?
During the Speech
• As the president speaks, teachers can ask students to write down key ideas or phrases that are
important or personally meaningful. Students could use a note‐taking graphic organizer such as
a “cluster web;” or, students could record their thoughts on sticky notes. Younger children
could draw pictures and write as appropriate. As students listen to the speech, they could think
about the following:
What is the president trying to tell me?
What is the president asking me to do?
What new ideas and actions is the president challenging me to think about?
• Students could record important parts of the speech where the president is asking them to do
something. Students might think about the following:
What specific job is he asking me to do?
Is he asking anything of anyone else?
Teachers? Principals? Parents? The American people?
• Students could record questions they have while he is speaking and then discuss them after the
speech. Younger children may need to dictate their questions.
Menu of Classroom Activities (PreK‐6)
President Obama’s Address to Students Across America


After the Speech
• Teachers could ask students to share the ideas they recorded, exchange sticky notes, or place
notes on a butcher‐paper poster in the classroom to discuss main ideas from the speech, such as
citizenship, personal responsibility, and civic duty.
• Students could discuss their responses to the following questions:
What do you think the president wants us to do?
Does the speech make you want to do anything?
Are we able to do what President Obama is asking of us?
What would you like to tell the president?

Extension of the Speech

Teachers could extend learning by having students:
• Create posters of their goals. Posters could be formatted in quadrants, puzzle pieces, or trails
marked with the following labels: personal, academic, community, and country. Each area could be
labeled with three steps for achieving goals in that area. It might make sense to focus first on
personal and academic goals so that community and country goals can be more readily created.
• Write letters to themselves about how they can achieve their short‐term and long‐term education
goals. Teachers would collect and redistribute these letters at an appropriate later date to enable
students to monitor their progress.
• Write goals on colored index cards or precut designs to post around the classroom.
• Interview one another and share goals with the class to create a supportive community.
• Participate in school‐wide incentive programs or contests for those students who achieve their
• Write about their goals in a variety of genres, such as poems, songs, and personal essays.
• Create artistic projects based on the themes of their goals.
• Graph individual progress toward goals.

Menu of Classroom Activities
President Obama’s Address to Students Across America
(Grades 7‐12)

Produced by Teaching Ambassador Fellows, U.S. Department of Education
September 8, 2009

Before the Speech
• Conduct a “quick write” or “think/pair/share” activity with students. (In the latter
activity, students spend a few minutes thinking and writing about the question. Next,
each student is paired with another student to discuss. Finally, the students share their
ideas with the class as a whole). Teachers may choose to ask the following questions:
What ideas do we associate with the words “responsibility,” “persistence,” and
How would we define each term?
Teachers then may choose to create a web diagram of student ideas for each of the
• Have students participate in a “quick write” or brainstorming activity. Teachers may ask
What are your strengths?
What do you think makes you successful as a student and as a person?
• Teachers may engage students in short readings. Teachers may post in large print
around the classroom notable quotes excerpted from President Obama’s speeches on
education. Teachers might ask students to think alone, compare ideas with a partner, or
share their thoughts with the class. Teachers could ask students to think about the
What are our interpretations of these excerpts?
Based on these excerpts, what can we infer that the president believes is
important in order to be educationally successful?
• Create a “concept web.” Teachers may ask students to think of the following:
Why does President Obama want to speak with us today?
How will he inspire us?
How will he challenge us?
What might he say?
Do you remember any other historic moments when the president spoke to the
What was the impact?
After brainstorming answers to these questions, students could create a “cause‐and‐
effect” graphic organizer.
Menu of Classroom Activities (Grades 7‐12)
President Obama’s Address to Students Across America

During the Speech
• Teachers might conduct a “listening with purpose” exercise based on the following
ideas: personal responsibility, goals, and persistence. Teachers might ask pairs of
students to create a word bank at the top of a notes page that has been divided into
two columns. On the right‐hand side, students could take notes (trying to capture direct
quotations or main ideas) while President Obama talks about personal responsibility,
goals, or persistence. At the end of the speech, students could write the corresponding
terms from the word bank in the left‐hand column, to increase retention and deepen
their understanding of an important aspect of the speech.
• Teachers might conduct a “listening with purpose” exercise based on the themes of
inspiration and challenges. Using a similar double‐column notes page as the one
described above, teachers could focus students on quotations that either propose a
specific challenge to them or that inspire them in some meaningful way. Students could
do this activity individually, in pairs, or in groups.

Transition/Quick Review
• Teachers could ask students to look over their notes and collaborate in pairs or small
groups. Teachers might circulate and ask students questions, such as:
What more could we add to our notes?
What are the most important words in the speech?
What title would you give the speech?
What is the thesis of the speech?

After the Speech

Guided Discussion:
• What resonated with you from President Obama’s speech? What lines or phrases do
you remember?
• Whom is President Obama addressing? How do you know? Describe his audience.
• We heard President Obama mention the importance of personal responsibility. In your
life, who exemplifies this kind of responsibility? How? Give examples.
• How are the individuals in this classroom similar? How is each student different?
• Suppose President Obama were to give another speech about being educationally
successful. To whom would he speak? Why? What would the president say?
• What are the three most important words in the speech? Rank them.
• Is President Obama inspiring you to do anything? Is he challenging you to do anything?
• What do you believe are the challenges of your generation?
• How can you be a part of addressing these challenges?

Video Project:
• Teachers could encourage students to participate in the U.S. Department of Education’s
“I Am What I Learn” video contest. On September 8, the Department of Education will
invite students age 13 and older to submit a video no longer than two minutes in length,
explaining why education is important and how education will help them achieve their
dreams. Teachers are welcome to incorporate the same or a similar video project into a
classroom assignment. More details will be released via www.ed.gov.

Menu of Classroom Activities (Grades 7‐12)
President Obama’s Address to Students Across America

Transition/Quick Review
• Teachers could introduce goal‐setting activities in the following way to make the most
of extension activities:

“When you set a goal, you envision a target that you are going to reach over time. Goals
are best when they are “Challenging,” “Attainable,” and “Needed” (CAN). For example,
a good goal might be: ‘I want to boost my average grade by one letter grade this year so
I can show colleges that I am prepared.’ But, every good goal also needs steps that
guide the way. These steps keep you on track toward achieving your goal. For example,
my first step might be improving in all of my subjects by one letter grade. My second
step might be completing 100‐percent of my homework in all of my classes during the
first week of school. My third step might be taking an extra hour to study for all of my
tests during each marking period. My fourth step might be attending a tutoring session
or getting an adult to help me whenever I do not understand something. My last step
might be the most important: asking an adult in my life to check on me often to make
sure that I am completing each of my steps. Your steps should add up to your goal. If
they don’t, that’s okay; we fix them until they do!

Let’s hear another example of an academic goal for the year and decide what steps
would help to achieve that goal...

Now I want you to write your personal academic goal for this year and the steps that
you will take to achieve it. We can revise our steps each marking period to make sure
we are on track.”

Extension of the Speech

Teachers could extend learning by having students:
• Create decorated goals and steps on material that is the size of an index card. The index
cards could be formatted as an inviting graphic organizer with a space for the goal at the
top and several steps in the remaining space. Cards could be hung in the classroom to
create a culture of goal setting, persistence, and success, and for the purpose of periodic
review. (See the “Example Handout” section.)
• Create posters of their goals. Posters could be formatted in quadrants, puzzle pieces, or
trails marked as steps. These also could be hung around the room, to be reviewed
periodically and to create a classroom culture of goal setting and for the purpose of
periodic review.
• Interview and share their goals with one another and the class, establishing community
support for their goals.
• Create incentives or contests for achieving their personal goals.
• Write about goals and the steps to achieve them in a variety of genres such as poems,
songs, or personal essays.
• Create artistic representations of goals and the steps to achieve them.

This is all available as both pdfs and doc files here


(31 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:September 8th, 2009 09:28 pm (UTC)
You are aware that this is not the original version of this, right? That the original version suggested that students write letters to the President about how they could help the President at a time when the text of the speech hadn't yet been released, so it wouldn't necessarily be clear what goals were being supported?

This version of the plan was released long after the uproar started.
[User Picture]
Date:September 8th, 2009 09:29 pm (UTC)
I have been told that, but no one has been able to show those to me yet. Do you have a link?
[User Picture]
Date:September 8th, 2009 09:37 pm (UTC)
They've obviously been pulled from the government site, but here's a link to Talking Points Memo about how the line was removed, which I think you'll find an acceptable reference.
[User Picture]
Date:September 8th, 2009 09:44 pm (UTC)
"Write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the president. These would be collected and redistributed at an appropriate later date by the teacher to make students accountable to their goals."

Ok ... so?
[User Picture]
Date:September 8th, 2009 09:37 pm (UTC)
What's wrong with suggesting that children write to their President?

I can see how knowing what his speech would be about might affect what you would say in your letter. But even still, I don't get what the big deal is about.
[User Picture]
Date:September 8th, 2009 09:41 pm (UTC)
Let me give you an example. Suppose (because it didn't happen) that in 2005, President Bush had given a speech to students that had mentioned how he intended to reform Social Security because of the burden that it would place on those students when they became old enough to enter the job market. The suggested lesson plan includes sending a letter to President Bush with suggestions about how the student might help the President.

Firestorm? Yup, sure would have been.

As you can see, the content of the speech can make a difference. :)
[User Picture]
Date:September 8th, 2009 09:48 pm (UTC)
That's a rather large bunch of ifs. Even if the final draft hadn't been written, it's clear that Obama wanted to tell kids: Stay in school, work hard, make something of yourself.

Unlike, say, Reagan's talk with the kids in the 80s Wholly political. More political than your imaginary Bush speech. No firestorm. Why not?

Which one would you rather have kids write to the president about?
[User Picture]
Date:September 9th, 2009 12:09 am (UTC)
Again, what's wrong with encouraging students to write a letter to their President?
[User Picture]
Date:September 8th, 2009 09:50 pm (UTC)
I can just imagine what sort of letter I'd have written to the presidents we had when I was that age. "Uh, Eric...the usual salutation is 'Dear Mr. President,' not 'You rotten, no-good scumbag, equivalent to bone-rotting malignant cancer in the body of the nation.' Also, informing your elders that they're 'syphilis-dripping, gonorrhea-infested, loathsome, squamous, non-Euclidean shapeless horrors from a malignant alternate universe' is not polite. You're mistaking the President for some of your classmates. No more H.P. Lovecraft for you, young man. And that goes double for Edgar Allan Poe!"
[User Picture]
Date:September 8th, 2009 09:58 pm (UTC)
Come back later when you're ready to sit at the big kids table.
[User Picture]
Date:September 8th, 2009 10:01 pm (UTC)
Well, I as a teacher of troubled teens had the classroom in my room at the time watch it live. (The Social Studies teacher is also showing the students the clip, so I left it at that.)

The students all reacted positively, saying it was the first time they felt spoken directly to in a way that wasn't condescending by a politician.

We looked at speech techniques he used, and why they were effective. The students all wanted to write goals for the school year, so we did, using the "CAN" format.

Pretty darn positive impact, I'd say.
[User Picture]
Date:September 8th, 2009 10:07 pm (UTC)
Which is a good thing. :)
[User Picture]
Date:September 9th, 2009 12:34 am (UTC)
As a teacher, I just find this whole situation bewildering. I don't like our present Prime Minister and I don't agree with his ideology, but if I was told he was giving a speech to address the students of Canada as they return to school I would have no problem with showing it to them, discussing it and doing follow up activities, including writing letters about how they can help their Prime Minister. He is the Prime Minister of their country (whether I voted for him or not) and I would trust him to deal with issues of education and goals and aspirations appropriate for students, not more partisan politics (which I gather is exactly what Obama did, though I haven't actually heard the speech). And even if he did slide into politics, well, that's my job as a teacher in a non-partisan way- let's look at this speech, why do you think he gave it, what are the messages, who is the intended audience, do you think it's balanced, what do you think of that? Teachable moments, current events and media studies. And on the brink of a Canadian election here such discussions could be gold. And then, of course, the kids can go home and their parents can either continue that discussion or simply tell them their Prime Minister can do no wrong or is the devil himself, on their whim. Either way, at least the kids have had a chance to think, reason and involve themselves.

I just think some people should give students, educators and their President more credit in such a situation.
[User Picture]
Date:September 11th, 2009 02:19 am (UTC)
Amen, sister.
[User Picture]
Date:September 11th, 2009 02:20 am (UTC)
The entire foofooraw over this strikes me as a bunch of alarmist undereducated plebes expecting the absolute worst from the President, the teachers, and the students. Even without the text of the speech, I'd have been willing to give all parties the benefit of the doubt.
Eric Coleman, Curmudgeon Powered by LiveJournal.com