5 Ways to Teach the State of the Union Address

I watch the SOTU the way that some people watch the Super Bowl, regardless of who is the president. I spend the entire speech listening, live-tweeting, and texting my mother and politically-minded friends about what is said.

But I also listen to it the way that I listen to music: appreciating the artistry, even if I don't like the lyrics.

I know that it interrupts our favorite TV shows. I know that not everyone believes that this, or any, President will tell the truth. But MAN, it's gorgeously written. The White House's speechwriters never let me down.

It's the ultimate non-fiction opportunity: global attention on speaking skills, rhetoric, and now social media too.

  • The "Enhanced version" that the White House added last year (graphics/statistics now on the screen that show data to support his text) is really cool. 
  • The possibilities for author bias, comparing texts to past years, watching follow-up debate, and especially ANNOTATING the text to identify the strategy and language used by a collaborative team of writers are a Common Core dream!
  • In case you need an excuse, FDR's State of the Union address is a Common Core Exemplar Text for non-fiction. Why not compare and contrast that speech with a modern one?

I seriously don't know why this speech doesn't get more attention in schools, unless we are so afraid of engaging with politics in general that we steer clear of it completely. (Keep in mind, I can definitely appreciate professional sensitivity and neutrality, but don't some classes also study the Bible as a work of literature? What about "Sinners in the hands of an angry God"?)

I propose an objective, politically-neutral approach to appreciating the State of the Union for what it is: a masterful piece of writing.

Here are five EASY ways to bring the State of the Union into Language Arts: 

  1. Examine the White House's REVISION process: Watch this AND OTHER videos to get an insider view of how adults collaborate and revise in the real world!
  2. Talk about author bias. What are the President's objectives? Those of his party? What does he specifically do to meet those goals?
  3. Assess rhetorical devices, persuasive techniques, and figurative language: annotate a copy of the speech in class!
  4. Analyze speaking skills: play a segment of the video and ask students to evaluate physical and verbal speaking skills.
  5. Use one of my pre-made activities: choose from over 50 pages of materials, on sale for a limited time at nearly 50% off!
Even if you don't use this in your lesson plans, consider at least asking your students who watched it and what they thought of it. It's fun to show enthusiasm for democracy in action and get excited about history being made. 


  1. I love these ideas, Sara! I pinned your post!

  2. Loving the 5 ways that you suggested bringing the State of the Union Address into the classroom! Great post!

    1. Thank you! :-) I love a good speech... (Swoon...)