In a recent interview with student reporter, Damon Weaver, President Obama announced that on September 8 — the first day of school for many children across America — he will deliver a national address directly to students on the importance of education. The President will challenge students to work hard, set educational goals, and take responsibility for their learning. He will also call for a shared responsibility and commitment on the part of students, parents and educators to ensure that every child in every school receives the best education possible so they can compete in the global economy for good jobs and live rewarding and productive lives as American citizens.
Since taking office, the President has repeatedly focused on education, even as the country faces two wars, the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and major challenges on issues like energy and health care. The President believes that education is a critical part of building a new foundation for the American economy. Educated people are more active civically and better informed on issues affecting their lives, their families and their futures.
This is the first time an American president has spoken directly to the nation's school children about persisting and succeeding in school. We encourage you to use this historic moment to help your students get focused and begin the school year strong. I encourage you, your teachers, and students to join me in watching the President deliver this address on Tuesday, September 8, 2009. It will be broadcast live on the White House website www.whitehouse.gov 12:00 noon eastern standard time.
In advance of this address, we would like to share the following resources: a menu of classroom activities for students in grades preK-6 and for students in grades 7-12. These are ideas developed by and for teachers to help engage students and stimulate discussion on the importance of education in their lives. We are also staging a student video contest on education. Details of the video contest will be available on our website www.ed.gov in the coming weeks.
On behalf of all Americans, I want to thank our educators who do society's most important work by preparing our children for work and for life. No other task is more critical to our economic future and our social progress. I look forward to working with you in the months and years ahead to continue improving the quality of public education we provide all of our children.
Attachments: Classroom Activities Pre-K - 6 Grades 7 - 12
Menu of Classroom Activities: President Obama’s Address to Students Across America
Produced by Teaching Ambassador Fellows, U.S. Department of Education, Pre K- 6
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 and 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 being the President delivering a speech to all of the students in the United States. What would you tell students? What can students do to help in our schools? Teachers can chart ideas about what they 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 candraw 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 can record important parts of the speech where the President is asking them to do something. Students might think about: What specific job is he asking me to do? Is he asking anything of anyone else? Teachers? Principals? Parents? The American people?
• Students can record any questions they have while he is speaking and then discuss them after the speech. Younger children may need to dictate their questions.
After the Speech:
• Teachers could ask students to share the ideas they recorded, exchange sticky notes or sticknotes on a butcher paper poster in the classroom to discuss main ideas from the speech, i.e. citizenship, personal responsibility, 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?
• Teachers could encourage students to participate in the Department of Education’s “I Am What I Learn” video contest. On September 8th the Department will invite K‐12 students to submit a video no longer than 2 min, explaining why education is important and how their education will help them achieve their dreams. Teachers are welcome to incorporate the same or a similar video project into an assignment. More details will be released via www.ed.gov.
Extension of the Speech: Teachers can extend learning by having students
• Create posters of their goals. Posters could be formatted in quadrants or puzzle pieces or trails marked with the labels: personal, academic, community, country. Each area could be labeled with three steps for achieving goals in those areas. It might make sense to focus on personal and academic so community and country goals come more readily.
• 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.
• Write goals on colored index cards or precut designs to post around the classroom.
• Interview and share about their goals with one another to create a supportive community.
• Participate in School wide incentive programs or contests for students who achieve their goals.
• Write about their goals in a variety of genres, i.e. poems, songs, personal essays.
• Create artistic projects based on the themes of their goals.
• Graph student progress toward goals.
The 7-12 one is even worse.
UPDATE: Changes have been made. No longer does it say "Write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the president." Now they just write them for themselves, and are still used later to make kids accountable--lucky them! But at least the cult of personality part is a bit muted now.
Here's the new version.