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Write a Speech for a Past President

Students will select a past president, conduct research to learn about important issues during his presidency and write a speech for that president to be delivered to a specific audience.

PROCESS:

  1. Remind students that presidents deliver an annual State of the Union address because the Constitution requires them to update Congress on their agenda once a year. On January 8, 1790, President George Washington delivered the first one. As a class, visit George Washington's Mount Vernon website to learn more about Washington's address and read the text.
  2. Guide students to understand that presidents talk about what is important to them in their State of the Union addresses. For Washington, those issues were defense, foreign policy, economic, education, and immigration related topics. These are still important issues today, though the details and context are different.
  3. As a class, review the basics of writing a speech. Inform students that it is important to focus on the main message but identify and build upon at least three supporting points. As they write a speech, they must keep the audience in mind, be tactful and brief. When they deliver a speech, it is important to speak loudly and clearly and use eye contact and gestures to pull the audience in.
  4. Instruct students to select a past president. Have them conduct research to learn about the most important issues America faced when that person was president. Encourage them to find and read the president's annual messages to Congress, now called State of the Union address, to learn which issues were most important to that president.
  5. Based on what they learned, have students write a short speech for that president. Encourage them to tailor the speech to a specific audience.

ASSESSMENT:

Invite students to present their speeches to the class. Challenge classmates to identify the important issues addressed in each speech. As a class, brainstorm ideas about why the president selected would have considered these to be the most important issues at the time.

CUSTOMIZE THE LESSON:

Grades 3-4:
Before students present, give them time to practice reading their speeches aloud. Encourage students to make audio recordings so they can effectively monitor their delivery. Tell students to pay close attention to how clearly they speak, the rate of their speech and the fluidity of their delivery.
Grades 5-6:
As they write, remind students to sequence their ideas logically and to include descriptive details that support their main idea. Also remind them to speak clearly and at an understandable pace when they deliver their speeches.
Grades 7-8:
Encourage students to maintain a clear focus when they write their speeches. Remind them to use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume and clear pronunciation when they deliver their speeches.
Grades 9-10:
Instruct students to include supporting evidence that clearly, concisely and logically supports the main point of their speech. Remind them to speak clearly and loudly when delivering their speeches.