Monday, January 20, 2014

How to Teach During the State of the Union

Most government teachers like to assign their students to watch some or all of the State of the Union.  A very traditional assignment is to play State of the Union Bingo.  The idea is to use a board that talks about key topics in the news and see which student can get a Bingo first. Hopefully in playing the kids will also learn something.

Well as you can imagine my students (and some from other classes) will be Tweeting the State of the Union and here is how you can do the same yourself.  First off you need to know that not all of your students can Twitter (yes I know this is shocking).  For those I use an editable Google Drive document.  To do this simply go on such a document and go to the blue "Share" button on the upper right.   A new window will appear (see below) that will say "Anyone who has the link
can view" and then the word in blue will say "change."  Change "view" to "edit."  Now take the url at the top of the page and give it to your students.  Even if the kids do not have a Google Drive account, they will be able to write on the e-sheet.

Now for the multitudes of students that DO have Twitter, you will need a hashtag.  A hashtag was actually not even developed by Twitter, but it is simply a name with the "#" appearing first as in "#usgovernmentteachersblog"  Go to the search engine on the upper right on Twitter and type in your hashtag and see if anyone else is using it.  If not, then you are fine (and if someone else is using it, then that is fine, but lots of other people may join your conversation).

Now you need to decide what your assignment will be.  I usually ask that the kids give me three comments, but they usually give lots and lots more.  While it is easy to find the comments on a Google Drive document, it is harder to piece them all together on Twitter so I have the kids send me a snapshot of at least three of their comments.  It also helps if you get another teacher or two in on your assignment to spice up the assignment.

So what are you looking for in Tweeting the State of the Union.  Well you as the teacher should teach.  I will make some comments such as "Notice that none of the military leaders and Supreme Court justices are applauding."  "Look beside Michelle Obama" and watch how Obama weaves in those people into the speech something started by Reagan with Lenny Sputnik in 1982."  What you want from your students is really anything that might be relevant to a government class such as Republicans standing, Democrats sitting, that is a non partisan policy idea, partisan one, he is talking about discretionary items, entitlements, there is the cabinet, wonder if all 535 members are there, etc.

Finally you will be on a public forum (not the Google Drive document, but Twitter) so anyone can join in.  I have had a number of our grads join in and had my students make thousands and thousands of comments, but have only seen three in appropriate ones and the chance to teach live during an historical moment can't be beat.

If you have more questions (the idea for this post came from one of you), the Tweet (@kenhalla) or email ( and I'll add it to the post.

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