History Is Happening—Don't Let Your Students Miss It!

History is in the making! President Obama’s inauguration speech heralds a new era, and stands as a truly significant event in American history. As such, it represents a critical opportunity to teach our children. We all can remember where we were at important moments in history – and, for our students, this will stand as one such moment that they’ll recall for the rest of their lives. To let it pass by without thought and discussion is to miss a chance to teach, and learn, that we cannot afford to miss.

How does the inauguration fit in with what we are required to teach in a standards-based history classroom?

A good history class relates past to present. It invites students to develop their understanding of what “historical significance” is – certainly, considering the significance of this event versus others in American (and world) history is a worthwhile way to relate what is going on now to past events that have shaped the context for Mr. Obama’s election. Issues of freedom, equality and citizenship have shaped the dialogue of this country since its inception. How have the words and deeds of the founders, of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, of W.E.B Dubois, Martin Luther King and Cesar Chavez, led to this momentous event? What is the role of the President, and the government in general, in bettering our country – and our world? What is our role, as citizens? What makes a good President – and what makes a good citizen?

These are excellent avenues for study and discussion, to relate what students are already learning in class to the inauguration.

Below is a list of resources to help educators make sense of the inauguration. This list was compiled by by Jah-Yee Woo, ACOE History-SS specialist.

Inauguration Lesson Plans developed by NEA and AFT and posted on the Obama Inaugural Website
http://www.pic2009.org/page/content/lessonplans

FDR's First Inaugural Address with audio (primary source only)
http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5057/

National Archives (NARA) Lesson Plan on FDR's First Inaugural Address
http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/fdr-inaugural/

National Archives (NARA) Lesson Plan on FDR's Fireside Chat on the Purposes and Foundations of the Recovery Program
http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/fdr-fireside/

Inaugural Addresses of all U.S. Presidents, Avalon Project, Yale
http://avalon.law.yale.edu/subject_menus/inaug.asp

Significance of Inaugural Addresses Lesson Plan, NEH
http://edsitement.neh.gov/view_lesson_plan.asp?id=333

Abraham Lincoln Lesson, NEH, including both 1st and 2nd inaugural addresses
http://edsitement.neh.gov/view_lesson_plan.asp?id=733

NARA’s Inaugural Quiz
http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/inaugural-quiz/

(This information courtesy of Avi Black, History/Social Science Coordinator and Project Director of "Words that Made America," Alameda County Office of Education)