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#SOTU, document analysis, historical thinking skills and other nerdy social studies stuff

You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again. I’m a history geek. And a political science geek and well . . . you get the idea.

So it’s a given that I love a good political speech, especially during presidential primary election season. And the State of the Union address? Of course.

Had it on the big screen, laptop and iPad at the ready for real-time updates and social media commentary. The problem? My mind kept drifting off thinking about ways to integrate President Obama’s speech into a social studies classroom. And not even the speech so much but ways that all of the digital media content and historical thinking skills could be included as part of the learning.

So here goes, a few things you might try over the next few days:

1. Use the online Enhanced Broadcast (with embedded graphics, links and images) to help kids get a better grasp of what President Obama was talking about. This seems like a no-brainer – we know using visuals help the brain grasp big ideas. The site also has links to a transcript so that you can pick and choose what bits to show. I would not show the whole thing – pick a topic like immigration or energy to focus on. An interesting conversation could develop about the use of visuals as a way to influence opinion. Which would have more influence – a simple transcript, a video of the speech or the enhanced broadcast?

2. Scroll down the Enhanced Broadcast site to see ways that you and your kids can use social media to participate in the on-going conversation. This includes the White House Twitter and Facebook feeds. But have your kids do their own research using the Twitter search feature. Use hashtags like #sotu and #stateoftheunion. Have students compare the different responses and thing about reasons why there are differences.

3. Using either the Library of Congress and National Archives document analysis worksheets, have students break down both the speech and the social media response to the speech.

4. Have kids fact check both the SOTU and the Republican response. Discuss sources for this information – where can we find the facts? Are there citations available from the White House and the Republican party? If they get stuck finding things, head to the cool New York Times page with transcript, video and fact checks side by side. FactCheck and PolitiFact are also good for that sort of thing. Have them compare two different news sites to see how the fact checking might be different – CNN and Fox News, for instance.

5. Use to help kids visualize themes in both the SOTU and the Republican response.

SOTU 2012

Republican response

Just a few thoughts. How would you use the SOTU?

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