Grades 5-8: Lessons and Printables
Your Government, Your Voice!
To introduce students to basic civics and current-events analysis
- Define the term civics (study of being a good member of a community or country). What are the rights and responsibilities of being a citizen? Ask students to describe qualities or actions that make a good citizen. What is a citizen’s role in politics?
- President Obama will soon have been in office for 100 days. After an election, many voters whose choice for President won want that candidate to live up to campaign promises as quickly as possible, and critics watch closely for signs of failure. This is one reason that the first 100 days are a critical time for new administrations.
- What are some ways in which students can evaluate new Presidents? What actions and qualities make a good President and presidential administration? What are some criteria students can use to evaluate the Obama administration? How and where can students find evidence for their evaluations?
- Ask students if they know about any actions the Obama administration has taken since the inauguration. What were some of the first actions by the Obama administration? How did these compare with the President’s campaign promises and his inauguration speech? (Extra resources: the White House’s Web site maintains an agenda of issues, and CNN tracks the President’s success, from a journalist’s perspective, on a special “First 100 days” mini-site.)
- To get students more familiar with some of the work that the Obama administration accomplished in these first 100 days, take them to the computer lab and hand out the skill page “White House Web Quest" to students to tour the White House's Web site. Recall and open-ended questions will introduce students to the administration's problems and prerogatives.
- Use this site as an opportunity to introduce online media literacy. Compare President Obama’s weekly Webcasts with President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Fireside Chats. If political communications are created for purposes specific to each audience, then who is this Web site’s audience? Who are this Web site’s authors? How does this affect the information conveyed on this site, and can it be considered biased? Name some Web sites or other types of information sources that might be more neutral. For advanced classrooms: Is the tendency to assess Presidents' progress early in their term fair or unfair? Why or why not?
- Acquaint students with one of the Obama administration’s first actions by printing and passing out the news article “Health Care for More Kids.” This article from Scholastic News Online discusses the Senate’s passing of a revised state children’s health insurance program. Assign skill sheet “Health Watch” for homework to test comprehension.
- Now that your class knows some of the administration’s early initiatives, ask students to make their own evaluations. Assign skill sheet “Presidential Progress Report” for homework. Encourage students to research each topic and cite their sources. Follow up with a discussion on the credibility of secondary sources like Web sites, newspapers, and magazines.
- In class, ask students to reorganize evaluation sheets into letters. E-mail letters to the President through the White House Web site. Excite students by talking about Ty'Sheoma Bethea, an eighth-grader from South Carolina who asked Congress in a letter to increase funding for her school. Bethea was invited to attend President’s first speech to Congress, where he even quoted her letter, saying, “We are not quitters."
- CNN Politics: The 44th President: First 100 days
- Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum: Franklin D. Roosevelt's Fireside Chats
- Scholastic News Online: Health Care for More Kids
- White House Web site: The Agenda
- White House Web site: Contact Us
- White House Web site: President Barack Obama's Inaugural Address
- White House Web site: Your Weekly Address
- YouTube: Obama's Special Guest
- YouTube: President Barack Obama's Inaugural Address
- YouTube: whitehouse's Channel