Tuesday, January 12, 2016

A crazy cool way to compare President Obama's SOTU Address to every other address

We can all read, listen to, and watch President Obama's State of the Union Address.  But to really understand the historical context of that address, we need to compare it to other Addresses by former presidents.  This site allows you to do that.

On the left half of the page is the text of President Obama's address.  On the right side is a horizontal list of former presidents.  As you click on a word or two-word phrase, a bar chart displays the frequency that a former president used that term.  For this example, I highlighted the phrase "tax cut" that President Obama used in the second paragraph of his address.  That phrase yielded this bar chart:

You can see that the former president who used that term most frequently in his SOTU Address was Bill Clinton.  Two former Republican presidents, George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, used it less than half as frequently than either President Obama or President Clinton.

The display here is sleek and dynamic.  As you click on a term the bar chart grows to the right, and presidents are listed in the order of their frequency of using the term.

It looks hypnotically cool, but how could you use it in class with your students?  Here's one idea: Have your students go to the site and read the speech.  As they read, they should compile a list of the five words or terms most important to understanding the topics of greatest concern to President Obama.  Then click on each word/term and determine what former president also relied heavily on that topic.  Have them then research how that issue impacted that former president's agenda.

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