Presidential Facebooks – Ford and Carter

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Toward the end of US History II, things get a little rushed. It seems like Ford and Carter get crammed into a week or less to make enough room for Reagan. So how does one assess students on two brief presidents? Surely there’s not enough time for an essay or a class presentation. How about Facebook?

Here is an assignment I used for two 11th grade US II classes. Students completed the assignment with a partner or alone during one class period (about 30 minutes) and then shared their work with the class. The atmosphere was light and many students produced interesting Facebook profiles for their president. It was a good way to show their depth of understanding: students who knew more had more to say, and students who had only read enough to know that Jimmy Carter had something to do with peanuts had much less to say, which was reflected in their grade.

I used the following template for a “blank” Facebook profile. Unfortunately, Facebook changes its appearance every few months, so Facebook doesn’t look quite like that anymore. Taking a screenshot of a more current Facebook and editing out the photos/text in paint or Photoshop would be a good solution.

Here is the text of the worksheet I used to explain the assignment:

Presidential Facebook: Ford & Carter

Facebook is a social networking website used by people of all ages. Your task is to use information from your textbook and notes to create a Facebook profile for Gerald Ford or Jimmy Carter. This is an opportunity for you to show me what you know about these Presidents’ accomplishments in a creative way.

You must include:
• Information about his personal & political background
• Major events/issues that occurred while he was president
• His beliefs and goals as president (in the “about me” & “groups” sections, also could be revealed through wall posts, etc)
• Wall Posts: messages written by friends (or enemies)

If you’re not sure of something, such as his birthday or favorite movies, make it up based on what you do know. For example, what movies do you think Ford or Carter might like? Did they have time to watch movies? Make sure, however, that you’re keeping it school-appropriate and demonstrating your understanding of Gerald Ford or Jimmy Carter’s presidency.

The Results:

Students produced some very interesting work.  Some of them kept it strictly within the historical period, making Ford be friends with Nixon and his political counterparts and debating whether or not they would “friend” Democrats just to keep on eye on them.  Other students made connections with today by having Carter “friend” Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.  Artistic students were able to express themselves, but it was by no means necessary.  Some of the most insightful presidential Facebook entries featured Carter as a grinning Mr. Peanut and Ford as a stick-figure.

Some students’ work was more limited.  If they hadn’t done much reading, they had trouble remembering who was in which political party or what major events happened during their administration.  They had an opportunity to do quick research and many of the details (birthday, years in office, etc) were easy to find, but it was hard to make a thorough, clear understanding.

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