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7 Ways to Engage Your Students in SOTU 2018

January 29, 2018 / by Lisa Hollenbach

Do you plan to use the State of the Union address this week as a text in your classroom?

Whether you plan to view the address with your class, highlight clips, or simply discuss the main points after the fact, this yearly speech can be an excellent teaching tool.

Creative Ideas to Incorporate SOTU 2018 into Your Lessons

Analyze with a Word Cloud: When I was in the classroom, one of my favorite ways to teach with the annual State of the Union address was to analyze the text of the speech with a word cloud.

USA map word cloud

President Barack Obama's 2016 SOTU Address


There are many different ways to use this strategy, and we've got a few ideas to get you started:

  • Identify keywords or themes in the address.
  • Determine which issues are important in the world today, based on the text of the speech (Tip: Create the word cloud so that words used more frequently appear larger).
  • Compare and contrast the SOTU address with the response from the opposition party.
  • Compare and contrast the speech of the current president with those of past presidents.
  • Compare the themes present in SOTU speeches across a presidential term.
  • Watch the STOU address as a class and ask each student to describe the speech with 3-6 words.

Check out these resources for a look at the SOTU as a word cloud or to create your own.

Annotate and Collaborate: Annotate the SOTU as a class with Hypothes.is. You can also encourage students to use thinking notes to respond to the text of the SOTU address.

Thinking Notes: A Strategy to Encourage Close Reading

VIDEO: Thinking Notes: A Strategy to Encourage Close Reading

Connect on Social Media: Students can discuss the speech with peers around the country on social media using the hashtag #22×20 and #SOTU18.

Fact Check: Students can use sites like Politifact to fact check or follow the issues they care about most as they are fact checked in real-time.

Make a Meme: Encourage students to get creative and make memes related to the issues that are presented in the address. KQED’s Break-a-Thon will be creating these clever, short, visual statements and sharing them on social media with the hashtag #22x20. There are a number of popular free meme generator tools you can use on this list, or try one of these:

Use Your Voice: Use Flipgrid to give your own SOTU speech. You can also share your ideas, and encourage students to share their ideas, via Instagram, Facebook Live, or Periscope. Check out this video to help you and your students deconstruct inspirational speeches or this video to help you examine the elements of persuasive speeches. You can share these videos on social media using #22×20 and #SOTU18, too!

Examining Elements of Persuasive Speeches

VIDEO: Examining Elements of Persuasive Speeches

Write a Blog Post or First-Person Commentary: Students can use Edublogs, Blogger, Medium, or another platform to blog their own response to the SOTU address and share it with an authentic audience. Don’t forget the hashtags #22×20 and #SOTU18.

Check out this video to see how Tch Laureate Maria Perryman engaged students with blogging in her classroom. And learn more about Maria’s journey here.

Taking a Leap into Blogging

VIDEO: Taking a Leap into Blogging

Writing commentaries is another powerful way to respond to the SOTU address. Watch this video to see how powerful student voice can be.

Writing Commentaries: The Power of Youth Voice

VIDEO: Writing Commentaries: The Power of Youth Voice

And be sure to remind students that they can use all of these resources and ideas to respond to the Democratic response to the SOTU address as well.

SOTU Curriculum Resources:

For more ideas on teaching civic engagement in your classroom, be sure to check out our Educating for Democracy Deep Dive.

How are you engaging your students with the SOTU address?

Topics: Social Studies, Strategy, Educating for Democracy, Civic Engagement, Social Media, Resources

Lisa Hollenbach

Written by Lisa Hollenbach

Lisa Hollenbach is a former high school Social Studies teacher and Department Chair, an adjunct professor, working with pre-service social studies teachers and behavioral science students, and serves as a mentor for the Teacher Leadership program at Mt. Holyoke College. Lisa is passionate about storytelling, teacher voice and leadership, collaboration, innovative instruction, social learning, and redefining professional development. Lisa is a member of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Teacher Advisory Council, several ECET2 Steering Committees, and is a Co-Founder, Director, and Writing Coach for the National Blogging Collaborative, a non-profit organization that cultivates and supports the capacity of all educators to use their unique voice to elevate the craft of teaching and learning. Lisa leads the Collaborative in engagement and social media storytelling. Connect with Lisa on Teaching Channel, on her blog, or on Twitter: @lisa_hollenbach.

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