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President Obama's Speech to Students - September 8, 2009

Teachers are encouraged to have students listen to the speech or show a video of the speech later during the first weeks of school.  NEA has developed and discovered resources to help address and extend some of the ideas in the President’s speech.

Using President Obama’s Back to School Themes Throughout the Year

The following activities are ideas teachers can use throughout the school year to build students’ awareness of responsibility. NEA will be adding to these during the course of the year.



Grades 1-6

Ask students what it means to be responsible and what it means to have responsibilities. Give examples and encourage students to offer their ideas too. Discuss what it means to be responsible and failing to be responsible.

As a group project, have students develop a chart of classroom responsibilities. Make copies of the chart for students and have them keep track of whether they are carrying out their responsibilities each day. Have students note – with a written comment or graphic – how well they are doing. Discuss the things that get in the way of students carrying out their responsibilities. Spend a few minutes discussing this every day for a week, and then revisit it throughout the year, especially at the beginning of grading periods. Getting parents to sign the charts at the end of the week’s project is a good way to link them in.

After students have used their classroom responsibility charts for a couple of weeks, construct a sample home responsibility chart. Have students develop their own version of the chart at home. Again, have students use their charts and have parents sign them.  The charts can be used as starters for stories, self descriptions, or written reflections on responsibility.

Grades 7 - 12

Brainstorm a list of ideas on how citizens exercise responsibility every day (disposing of trash, recycling, obeying traffic signals, etc.). Discuss whether responsibility is a habit of thinking and how that habit is exercised both in and out of school. The following are ways to tie the theme of responsibility into lessons in content areas.

  • Have students identify responsible and irresponsible action of characters in novels and history.
  • Discuss whether scientific discoveries require new responsibilities. Are they personal responsibilities – or responsibilities of the government and community –  or both?


Additional Resources: