Menu Bar

Monday, September 30, 2013

Current Events Lesson - Obamacare (The Affordable Care Act)

This week's free downloadable lesson discusses the debate over Obamacare.

Seeing as how the new health care exchanges open tomorrow, discussing Obamacare today seemed like a good idea.  People can begin signing up for the exchanges on October 1, but coverage does not actually begin until January 1, 2014.  Several aspects of the bill have already taken effect.  Some of the most important include
  • Health insurance companies cannot deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions
  • There are no more caps on lifetime health insurance payouts
  • Children can stay on their parent's health insurance until age 26

Because the health exchanges are the main emphasis of the law--and the part of it that Republicans hate the most--there is a heated debate going on in the Senate and the House of Representatives.  Complicating the issue is the insistence by House Republicans to tie the bill to repeal Obamacare onto the bill to continue funding the U.S. government.  If no bill gets passed by tomorrow to fund the government, several services will shut down, and government employees who do work will not get paid until a deal is reached.

Both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate have agreed that the bill to fund the government should not be tied to Obamacare.  Even though Senate Republicans dislike Obamacare, they want to ensure that the government does not shut down.  Then, they can focus their attention on Obamacare.  Democrats have asserted that Obamacare is already the law of the land, so it is non-negotiable.  It will certainly need to be tweaked once the exchanges open, but there is no knowing what is needed until the bill is given a try.

Because Obamacare will likely have a direct impact on many of your students, introducing students to the topic in an objective manner will provide them with the necessary information to decide how they feel about it.  Perhaps, if Obamacare stays intact, many of your students could benefit from its health care coverage.

There are two videos for this lesson.  Links to both videos are included on the slideshow in the download.  The first video introduces students to some details about Obamacare.

The second one illustrates the current debate being waged in Congress.

  • How a bill becomes a law (the legislative process)
  • The composition of Congress (i.e. there are 100 Senators, 435 Representatives, etc.)
  • The different Congressional committees (standing, special, and joint)
  • Supreme Court cases that have upheld Obamacare so far ( U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services v. Florida)

I hope you and your class find this lesson engaging and invigorating.  Please leave me any questions or comments.  Enjoy!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Current Events Lesson - Navy Yard Shooting

I wanted to focus this week on discussing the tragic mass shootings that seem to invade our country’s sense of safety and stability every few months.  The latest of these, of course, is the shooting at the Washington, D.C. navy yard.

According to, the U.S. experienced several mass shootings in the 1990s, several in the 2000s, but in the last three years, we have suffered from 12 of these tragedies.  Even one shooting is obviously too much, which is why this topic should elicit some passionate discussions amongst your students.

On the morning of 16 September 2013, Aaron Alexis opened fire on employees at a U.S. navy yard in Washington, D.C.  Before being finally gunned down by police, he killed 12 people and injured 8 more.

He was able to gain access to the naval yard because he had a security clearance.  In the time leading up to the attack, investigators have discovered several disconcerting episodes in Alexis’ past, which many believe should have raised a red flag.  As a result, the conversation about how to prevent further such attacks has focused on improved background checks for government contractors and possible new gun regulation.

The video for this lesson is included here and a link is also included in the PowerPoint presentation on the free download.

  • The wording of the Second Amendment
  • Other rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights
  • Supreme Court cases related to the Second Amendment, especially District of Columbia v. Heller
  • How lobbies influence legislation (in this case, most notably the National Rifle Association NRA)
  • Current gun regulation proposals, such as a firearms registry and the limiting of magazine sizes

Download from my TpT page
Download from my Google Drive

I hope you and your class find this lesson engaging and invigorating.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Current Events Lesson - The Syrian Civil War

Hello everybody!

I wanted my first post to represent the vision I have for my blog, which is to provide up-to-date and free current event resources for social studies teachers.  Whenever I include a free current event lesson for you, it will contain a small slideshow presentation, a student worksheet, and an answer key.  The current event will come in the form of what else? -- a youtube video! (from a reputable news source of course).

As for me, I have taught and learned in several educational settings in middle and high schools and I feel that I have a strong grasp of how to design lessons for these students.  The information provided in my blog posts, I hope, will provide you with good free resources for your social studies classroom and will enhance your insight into designing lessons for yourself.


As I am sure you are all aware, the Syrian Civil War has been going on for some time -- since March of 2011, in fact.  It is a very hot topic in the news today, so I decided that it was a perfect topic to get my feet wet with.

Bashar al-Assad's alleged use of chemical weapons has provoked the United States into action.  At first, President Obama wanted to use a military strike as punishment against the Syrian government.  The big news story of the last week, however, has been the Russian proposal (actually it was first proposed sarcastically by John Kerry) to rid Syria of its chemical weapons peaceably.

The video for this lesson is included here and a link is also included in the PowerPoint presentation on the free download.

Because current events help bring relevancy to the topics we teach in social studies, I think it is important to explain to students how a current event directly relates to the topics we have already learned in class.  There are many ways to connect this topic to your social studies class, but I have included a few ideas below.
  • Role of the executive branch, especially the role of the state department
  • The powers of the president, especially his/her role as commander-in-chief
  • The war powers clause in the constitution, which grants Congress the right to declare war, not the president
  • The five times in U.S. history that the we have actually declared war (War of 1812, Mexican-American War, Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II)
  • The history of the Middle East, especially regarding the difference between the different branches of Islam
  • The use of chemical weapons during World War I

I hope you and your class find this lesson fun and insightful.  Enjoy!

- Nick