Given Voices of Democracy's rich collection of material, it's a great site to explore over the summer or during school breaks -- it's the kind of resource you plan a year around, not one you use to find sponge activities. First consider the themes and events you need to cover over the year and then begin your research.
As the majority of speeches are dense in text, and from an unfamiliar time period, all students in grades 8-12 will need some scaffolding and pre-teaching -- particularly in vocabulary -- and possibly some jigsaw-type group reading activities. That said, students more adept in research and independent study could simply be given the site's link and be successful. The good news is that the heavy lifting of using the site effectively lies only in the pre-teaching. Once students have a working understanding of a speech, they can be led through the classroom activities, research project ideas, and "Citizenship Resources" with much less front-loading.Continue reading Show less
Voices of Democracy is an online resource for primary source speeches and supporting curriculum. The extensive collection of speeches ranges in time from Colonial America to the Obama administration, and represents a diverse group of historical figures. Not only will you find presidential addresses, but also the words of prominent leaders and thinkers like Dorothy Day, Shirley Chisholm, Stokely Carmichael, Cesar Chavez, and Harvey Milk.
To navigate the collection effectively, speeches are grouped by topic: Citizenship & Civic Identity, Civil Rights, Freedom of Speech, Religion & Morality in Public Life, Social & Economic Justice, U.S. Internationalism, and War & Peace -- although users can opt to search by an historical figure's name or by time period. The site also features a blog, updated monthly, that connects recent events to speeches in the archive.
Though Voices of Democracy may not do all the planning for you, it certainly gives you a head start. Each speech is accompanied by an interpretative essay, suggested resources, classroom activities, student research project ideas, and "Citizenship Resources," a list of prompts connecting the themes of the speech to current events. The activities will prompt rich discussion and debate; student research project ideas will encourage learner independence; and suggested resources include credible online sources that may feature video and/or audio recordings of the speech.
Most notable here is the commitment to true representation -- a demonstration of democracy's voice. Not only does the curation of speeches and addresses reflect diversity, it shows that it doesn't shy away from the controversial: Louis Farrakhan is included, as is Jim McGreevey and his State House Confession, and Dan Quayle's Murphy Brown speech.
Key Standards Supported
Reading History/Social Studies
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary describing political, social, or economic aspects of history/social science.
Analyze how a text uses structure to emphasize key points or advance an explanation or analysis.
Assess the extent to which the reasoning and evidence in a text support the author’s claims.
Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.
Analyze in detail a series of events described in a text; determine whether earlier events caused later ones or simply preceded them.
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including analyzing how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term over the course of a text (e.g., how Madison defines faction in Federalist No. 10).
Analyze in detail how a complex primary source is structured, including how key sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text contribute to the whole.
Evaluate an author’s premises, claims, and evidence by corroborating or challenging them with other information.
Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.
Evaluate various explanations for actions or events and determine which explanation best accords with textual evidence, acknowledging where the text leaves matters uncertain.