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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

9 Resources for Learning About US Presidents

Here's a short list of resources for teaching and learning about US Presidents and the office itself.

Electing a President

The Living Room Candidate is an online exhibit of Presidential Campaign commercials from 1952 through 2004. The Living Room Candidate is part of a larger project called the Museum of the Moving Image. Visitors to The Living Room Candidate can view the commercials from each campaign from both parties. A written transcript is provided with each commercial. Provided along with each video is an overview of the political landscape of at the time of the campaigns. Visitors to the website can search for commercials by election year, type of commercial, or by campaign issue.

NARA, the US National Archive and Records Administration, has built a great website for students and teachers. The teacher page offers links to detailed lesson plans. The lesson plan titled the Tally of 1824 is one of the most thorough Electoral College lesson plans that I have seen anywhere. The Tally of 1824 lesson plan addresses not only the basic process of the Electoral College, it also includes the ideas of faithless electors and the possibility of losing the popular vote but winning the election.

Common Craft's Electing a US President in Plain English does a nice job of explaining how the Electoral College system works.

Inaugurating a New President

Videos of every inaugural address from Eisenhower through George W. Bush is available through Hulu.

Governing Dynamo has built a gallery containing the text of every US President's inaugural address(es). In addition to the text, the gallery includes a Wordle of every address and an image of the President who delivered that address. Finally, Governing Dynamo hosts a video overview of the Wordles in the gallery.

The Chronology of US Presidents

The video embedded below depicts the 44 US Presidents in 4 minutes. This video includes the dates of the time in office for each president.

This video is a bit dated as it ends with Clinton's term, but it's educational and entertaining.

The Lives of the Presidents

The Miller Center of Public Affairs hosts a very good reference resource about US Presidents. The Miller Center's reference, American President, provides personal and political biographical information about every US President. Each profile links to dozens of essays about various aspects of each President's life and work. Each profile also contains images of each President. Some profiles also include audio files and video of the President.

American Presidents Life Portraits is a C-Span series that originally aired a few years ago. The series profiled each of the US Presidents. The profiles were very well produced as each one struck a good balance between profiling the politics of each president and profiling the personal details of each president. (If you enjoyed HBO's Adams series, make sure you also watch C-Span's profile of Adams). Most of the original profiles can be watched online using Real Player. Each segment is also available for purchase.

C-Span also has a few great activities that students can explore on their own or with teacher guidance. Career Paths to the Presidency lets students examine the various routes that presidents took to the White House. Shaping the Nation and the Presidency highlights eight key events that shaped the United States. Each of the eight events contains a video clip explaining the event's significance. The American Presidents timeline quiz is a fifty question interactive quiz.

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