Lesson Plan: 2021 Joe Biden Inauguration Viewing Guides

What Makes a Good Inaugural Address

Historian and author Michael Beschloss used examples of five historic inaugural addresses to discuss what makes an effective inaugural address. He cited the inaugural address of Lincoln (1865), Roosevelt (1933), Kennedy(1961), Reagan 1981, Bush (2001), and Obama (2009).


This lesson provides several activities for students to help them understand events occurring on inauguration day and interpret the inaugural address that will be given by Joe Biden on January 20, 2021. Teachers can choose to have students view the inaugural address and use one of several viewing guides to analyze the speech. Activities and handouts include a note-taking chart, guiding questions, topical analysis, an evaluative rubric, and a BINGO game.


  • SET-UP:

    Teachers have the option of assigning one of the following viewing guides to students as they watch the January 20, 2021 inauguration of Joseph Biden. Each of these Google Docs include the links to the introductory video clip, a link to the inauguration and the individual assignment/activities. These assignments can be completed in steps as a class or students can complete these assignments on their own. To access and complete these assignments, students can make a copy of the following Google resources. Students can submit these assignments digitally by linking their completed copy of the Google Doc handout.

  • WARM-UP:

    Before beginning class, have students brainstorm answers to the following questions. This can be adapted to synchronous remote learning by having students answer in the chat or on the discussion board.

    • What challenges are currently facing the country?

    • What issues should President Biden include in his inaugural address?

    Introduce the idea of an inaugural address by having them view the following video clip featuring author and historian Michael Bechloss. Students should answer each of the questions associated with the video clip.

    Video Clip: What Makes a Good Inaugural Address (8:51)

    • What challenges faced Franklin Roosevelt in 1933? How did he use his inaugural speech to address these challenges?

    • According to Michael Bechloss, what makes a good speech?

    • How did Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address in 1865 meet the challenges of the time?

    • Why was the date of inauguration changed after the 1933 inauguration?

    • What was the focus of John F. Kennedy’s 1961 inaugural address? Why did he do this?

    • What similarities exist between the inaugural addresses discussed by Michael Bechloss?

    • Why is an understanding of history important to writing an effective inaugural address?

    • Based on this information, what advice would you give to an incoming president as they write their inaugural address?

    Using the video clip in the introduction as foundation, the following activities can be used to help students understand and analyze President Biden’s inaugural address on January 20, 2021. Choose one of the following activities for students to complete when viewing election night coverage.

    Students can view coverage of the 2021 inauguration using the link below:

    Video Clip: Video Clip: President Biden Inaugural Address (21:37)



    Handout: Inauguration General Note-Taking Chart (Google Doc)

    Students will use this handout as they view the inaugural address to take notes and focus on specific elements of the speech such as:

    • 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 demonstrate understanding, students will address the following question:

    • What was the overall message of this inaugural address? Use examples from above to support your response.

    Handout: Inaugural Address Guiding Questions (Google Doc)

    This handout uses questions to focus student’s attention on aspects of the speech such as:

    • Goal/Audience/ Primary Messages

    • Structure of the Speech

    • Examples

    • Effectiveness of the Speech

    To demonstrate understanding, students will address the following question:

    • In your opinion, did the president accomplish the goal of this speech? Why or why not?

    Handout: Inauguration BINGO (Google Doc)

    With this activity, students will use the handout linked below to play a BINGO game while watching inauguration coverage on C-SPAN. They should complete the BINGO board by writing words, topics or phrases that might be discussed during the coverage. As they watch the coverage, they will mark their board when a word or topic is mentioned. They should also take notes on what this term means and how it was used.

    After viewing the debate, use the BINGO chart and the notes to answer the following prompt:

    • Based on what you watched, what were your overall impressions of the inauguration?

    • What questions do you have after watching it?

    Handout: Analyzing the Inaugural Address by Topic (Google Doc)

    Using this handout, students will view the inaugural address and identify three topics discuss in the speech. For each topic, they should take notes on the following ways President Biden discussing this topic.

    • Description of the Topic

    • Examples Used

    • Importance of this Topic

    • Proposals to Address This Topic

    To demonstrate understanding, students will address the following questions:

    • 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 issues and topics above to give this message?

    Handout: Inaugural Address Rubric Evaluation (Google Doc) Students will use the rubric on the handout to evaluate President Biden’s speech. Student will consider the following factors as they view the inaugural address:

    • Organization/Clarity

    • Facts/Examples

    • Relevance of Supporting Points

    • Visual/Non-Verbal Performance

    To demonstrate understanding, students will address the following question:

    • Using the information above, how would you rate the performance of the president during his inaugural address?

    Historical Analysis: Using one of the following options, have students view one or more of the previous presidential inaugural address starting in the 1981.


    Write a Letter to the New President- Write a letter to President Biden explaining an issue or topic that you would like him to discuss in his inaugural address. In this letter, explain the issue and why it is important to the nation.


    • How does the inauguration represent all three branches of government?
    • How does the inauguration represent a peaceful transfer of power?

    • Why are inaugural addresses significant to a president’s legacy?

    • How can inaugural address be used to unite the country?

    • What is the overall purpose of an inaugural address?

Additional Resources


  • Chief Justice
  • First Lady
  • Inaugural Address
  • Inaugural Committee
  • Oath Of Office
  • Rhetoric
  • Transfer Of Power


Executive Branch


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