Lesson Plan: Analyzing Historical Presidential Inaugural Addresses

President Trump Delivers Inaugural Address

Following his swearing-in by John Roberts, the chief justice of the United States, President Trump delivers his inaugural address. He promises to deliver on his campaign promises and says, "Together, we will make America great again."


This lesson provides multiple options and activities for students to engage with and analyze presidential inaugural addresses starting with Ronald Reagan’s first inauguration in 1981. Teachers can choose to have students focus on one or more historical inaugurations and analyze the speeches by looking at the historical challenges facing the nation, topics discussed in the speech, or rhetorical elements of the inaugural addresses. This lesson provides digital handouts and resources for students to use and access these videos.


  • SET-UP:

    This lesson offers several options for you to have your students analyze past presidential inaugural addresses. As a teacher, you can either assign one or more of the presidential inaugural addresses to view or have students choose. You can also have students choose which of the following tasks or activities to complete or choose for them.

    Students can access all of the video options using the Google Docs linked in the lesson and complete the activities on the Google Docs after making a digital copy of them.

  • WARM-UP:

    Begin class by having students answer the following questions about inaugural addresses.

    • What is the purpose of an inaugural address?

    • What should a president try to accomplish in an inaugural address?

    The following are video clips of presidential inaugural addresses starting in 1981. Students will use these video clips and the Google Doc handouts to analyze one or more inaugural address. Teachers can assign videos to students or have them choose.


  • Option: General Note-Taking Chart

    To provide an overview of the general themes and message of the address, have students use the handout linked below to guide them as they view one of the speeches. Students can choose (or be assigned) the video to watch.

    Handout: Inaugural Address General Note-Taking Chart (Google Doc)

    Have the students provide information on the following categories as they view the inaugural address.

    • Specific Issues/Topics Discussed

    • Tone and Images Used

    • Words and Ideas Repeated Throughout

    • Notable Quotes/Historic Events/Important Documents Referenced

    • Principles of Government/American Ideals Referenced

    • The Role of Government in Addressing the Nation’s Problems

    • Priorities for His Presidency

    To summarize the inaugural address, discuss the following prompt:

    • What was the overall message of this inaugural address? Use examples from above to support your response.
  • Option: Inaugural Address Guiding Questions:

    Have the students view one of the inaugural addresses included in this lesson. As they view the speech, they should answer the questions below and included on the handout:

    Handout: Inaugural Address Guiding Questions (Google Doc)

    • What is the overall goal of this speech?

    • Who is the audience for this speech?

    • What is the primary message of this address?

    • How did the president begin his inaugural address?

    • What points did the president make in the body of the speech?

    • How did the president use historic or current examples and statistics to make his points?

    • How effective was the president’s conclusion? Was it memorable? Was it concise?

    To summarize the inaugural address, discuss the following prompt:

    • In your opinion, did the president accomplish the goal of this speech?
  • Option: Presidential Inaugural Address Rubric

    Students will choose (or be assigned) one of the inaugural addresses from the list. As they view the speech, they should use the following handout to take notes on the categories listed below. Once they have completed the chart, they should use the rubric to assign scores for each category.

    Handout: Presidential Inaugural Address Rubric (Google Doc)

    • Organization and Clarity of the Address

    • Use of Facts and Examples

    • Relevance of Supporting Arguments

    • Visual and Non-Verbal Performance

    Using these notes and scores, they should discuss the following prompt:

    • How would you rate the performance of the president during his inaugural address?
  • Option: Inaugural Address Analysis by Topic

    Have students choose (or assign) one of the inaugural addresses linked in this lesson. Students will identify three topics discussed during the speech. Have them use the handout linked below to take notes on the following information as they view it.

    Handout: Inaugural Address Analysis by Topic (Google Doc) For each topic discussed in the inaugural address provide the following:

    • Description of the topic.

    • What examples does the president use when discussing this topic?

    • Why is this topic important to America?

    • What, if anything, does the president propose to be done to address this topic? To summarize the inaugural address, discuss the following prompts:

    • What topics were emphasized throughout the speech? What topics or issues are not discussed in his speech? Why do you think this is?

    • Summarize the overall message of this inaugural address. How does the president use individual the issues and topics above to give this message?
  • Option: Historical Analysis

    Using the list of inaugural address from the lesson, have students choose (or assign) one of the speeches. They will view the speech and analyze the speech from an historical perspective. Use the handout linked below to have students view one of the inaugural addresses and complete the activity.

    Handout: General Historical Analysis (Google Doc)

    Complete the chart on the handout to provide the following information:

    • What significant historic events preceded this inaugural address (i.e. wars, contested elections, national tragedies, economic events, etc.)

    • What issues or topics did the president discuss?

    • What promises or policy proposals did the president make?

    • Describe the overall message of the inaugural address. How did this message fit the events occurring at that time?

    • What issues did the president discuss that are still relevant today? What issues are not relevant anymore?

    • After viewing the speech, research the president’s administration using websites like the White House Historical Association and presidential libraries. Based on this research, how effective was the president at addressing the issues he discussed in his presidency? Did he keep his promises? Did he accomplish his policy goals?
  • Option: Comparing Historical Inaugural Addresses

    Using the list of past inaugural addresses, students will choose (or be assigned) two speeches. These can be from the same president or different presidents. Have student take notes on the following categories as they view each speech.

    Handout: Comparing Historical Inaugural Addresses (Google Doc)

    • Topics Discussed

    • The Role of Government

    • Tone

    • Examples and References

    • Overall Message

    Using the notes from the speech, they will summarize what they learned by completing the following prompt:

    • Discuss the similarities and differences and explain why these similarities and differences exist. Evaluate which president was more effective in their speech.

    Write your Own Inaugural Address- Imagine that you were elected president. What would you include in your inaugural address? What topics and issues would you emphasize? With this in mind, use what you learned from hearing previous inaugural addresses and write a speech that you would give at your inauguration.

    Draw the Speech- As you watch the inaugural speech, use a blank sheet of paper to draw your reactions to the speech. This can include drawing topics discussed in the speech, ideas and references made in the speech or your general reaction to the president’s inaugural address. On the back, explain your drawing.

    Inaugural Address Bingo- Before viewing the presidential inaugural address, brainstorm a list of 24 vocabulary terms and topics that you think might be discussed in the speech. Place those 24 terms/topics on a blank BINGO card. As you view the speech, mark off the square if that term/topic is mentioned.


    • Why do you think presidents often reference historical events during their inaugural addresses?

    • How can inaugural addresses serve as unifying force for Americans?

    • How have inaugural addresses changed?

    • How do inaugurations showcase all three branches of government?

    • How do inaugurations for a president’s second term differ in their message and tone?

Additional Resources


  • Inauguration
  • Oath Of Office
  • President


Executive BranchU.S. History


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