Analyzing JFK's Inaugural Address with DocsTeach

3 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT independently analyze JFK's Inaugural Address by integrating information gleaned from several informational texts to develop a deeper understanding of the historical context.

Big Idea

Get more meaning from JFK with a background that helps students realize that “wonders” or “terrors” of science literally mean life or death.


5 minutes

After last class period's discussion of historical context in this time period, I came the stunning realization that most of my students had no concept of many of the guiding features of the era, including the Cold War, Space Race, & Cuban Missile Crisis.  Since I want them to engage with another piece of stunning informational text today, John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address, it's critical that they get a clear sense of the time period.  Without understanding these key historical developments, students simply cannot appreciate the grace, beauty, and imagery in this speech.  Because of my student's demonstrated needs, I created today's assignment using a fabulous interactive platform: DocsTeach.  See my reflection about this application, which is an absolutely amazing resource for finding and using informational text in your classroom!  

Since today will be a day full of critical thinking and reading in an independent setting, I will "hype" the lesson to get students motivated to take on the hard work ahead of them.  I'll bring up the following features of the activity to pique their interest:

  • There's a picture of a legitimate space monkey.  A space monkey!!
  • One of the documents is a formerly-confidential document that is NOT what you'd expect a confidential document to look like.
  • JFK had problems with commas too!  You could be the next president!

DocsTeach Independent Text Exploration

80 minutes

After students' interests are sufficiently piqued, I will direct students to our class's DocsTeach Activity page.  (If you like this activity, you can download it from DocsTeach!)  While they view the page on their Chromebooks, I will project the same screen for the entire class.  Though the platform is not difficult to use, I've found that it's always a good idea to give them a preview of what they're doing, especially on an assignment that requires multiple steps.  I will walk them through the collected resources & questions, taking special time to point out the lines that show what order to complete the steps in, the squares that give students directions (rather than documents to evaluate), the squares that require a response on their separate Google Document (which I will ask them to name "DocsTeach Activity"), and the squares that contain questions that need to be answered within the platform.  Ultimately, I will have an email from every student with answers on it, a Google Doc with answers on it, and a final Inaugural Address C/C Activity document that compares Obama's Inaugural Address to Kennedy's Inaugural Address.  (To consolidate the sample student answers in the Resources section, I included a DocsTeach Activity sheet from a student that included her answers to the in-platform questions on her Google Doc as well.)

After all students understand what is expected of them, they will begin working through the documents.  The activity starts off by giving background on the Space Race, looking at the issues facing the nation both before the election of JFK (using a debate between Nixon & JFK) and after he is elected, and determining the credibility and purpose of texts surrounding the Cuban Missile Crisis.  After they develop a more clear understanding of the historical context, they will pull in some modern context by comparing and contrasting JFK's Inaugural Address and Barack Obama's Inaugural Address using the Inaugural Address Compare & Contrast Document.


5 minutes

While students should have plenty of time to complete this activity in class, they CAN finish it at home if they did not complete it in class.  (I will NOT tell them this before they start, however, because they tend to drag their feet if they know that they have time!)  Before students leave today, I want to remind them AGAIN that they should actively be studying for their final exams!  These finals will not be curved, and I will not be offering any extra credit to "balance out" a poor quarter.  (I'm crazy about this throughout the year.  I'm very opposed to extra credit in any sort of real quantity!)  I will also post some suggestions to help students study actively and to apply their skills, rather than just memorizing terms.  These are listed below just as they were delivered to my students.  Also, as finals approach, I will be soliciting review materials (like those on Quizlet or practice tests that students have made) to post on my website in order to generate a large body of test-preparation materials that can help ALL of my students succeed!

Effective (and Sometimes Dorky) Ways to Study Include...
  • Make Post-Its or small notes with information you really struggle with recalling and post them around your house (like on mirrors or door frames).  The weirdness factor will draw your attention to it, making it easier for you to remember!
  • Trying turning information into a graphic of some kind (like our Romantic vs. Transcendental tree organizer!).  The colors, shapes, and act of interacting with the information in a new capacity will help you commit the ideas to memory and develop a deeper understanding of the concept.
  • Try recording yourself explaining or applying information that will be on the test, then play it back to yourself while you're in the car, lounging around by the pool, doing your chores, running, etc.
  • Debate some of the deeper issues (like the Post-Modernist themes) with a friend or family member, trying to defend the claim of Post-Modernists. 
  • Try making up a song with information that's difficult to recall.  Hey, we all remember School House Rocks, right?  That stuff works!
  • Pull a J. Alfred Prufrock move and talk to yourself in the mirror about study material.  You'll look crazy, but just crazy enough to rock an A on the final?  Maybe.
  • Stay AWAY from multi-tasking when truly studying.  You might not think Twitter, TV, YouTube, or texting really interferes that much, but scientists at Standford say you're wrong.
  • Let Google help you find interactive ways to study with little effort to you.  Try using Boolean searching to search for things like "identifying a good thesis statement" and "practice" and you'll be amazed the interactive, fun things you uncover that will help you APPLY these concepts!
  • Make up your own test and take it (or swap with a friend).  Use the study guide to guess what kinds of questions will be on the test (or look at old tests, then come up with similar questions).  The critical thought that goes into making these practice tests increases your understanding of complex tasks!
  • Make notecards if they're your old standby (and you need to memorize things), but don't solely rely on them to prepare you for Common Core tests (which focus on skill application).  If you do make notecards, use fun interactive games with digital notecards (like those available on Quizlet...I love the Rocket one!).  Go through your study guide and highlight the things not able to be put on a notecard though and don't neglect to study these too!

Next Steps

Next class period, which is our final class period before we have our final exam review day, we will have our last lesson on Post-Modernism!  Students will have a chance to ask any remaining questions about Post-Modernism and how it differs from Modernism, and we will look at another amazing speaker in depth: Martin Luther King, Jr.