The First 100 Days

by Mary Ellen Daneels, Civics Instructional Specialist
The past week has been a testament to the importance of the work we do together to prepare students for civic life. Teachers have risen to the challenge of the recent violence at the Capitol. A special Social Studies Network Chat on Twitter (#sschat) on the evening of the riots provided a safe space for teachers to process, ask questions, and share resources as they prepared to meet students the next day. Through the Illinois Civics Hub Facebook group, teachers collaborated in real time to curate materials for classroom use. Illinois Civics endeavored to support classrooms with curated materials to address questions about insurrection, the 25th Amendment, impeachment, and discussion strategies appropriate for this time.

On Monday, Civics 101 Podcast was the host of the weekly #sschat centered on the theme of Transitions of Power. The final question of the night asked, “How has teaching during this election cycle changed the way you’ll approach the subject in years to come?” “Of course, this election cycle has been instructive!” was my reply. We can in many regions of the country, including the Land of Lincoln, celebrate how we met the challenges of implementing free and fair elections amidst a pandemic with state legislation and other institutional supports while also acknowledging where we as a nation missed the mark in working towards “a more perfect union.”

While we are still enduring the transition between the elections and the inauguration, we should heed the advice of John Dewey who reminded all of us of the power of taking a pause and reflecting on all we have learned.

We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience.

John Dewey


This week, the IllinoisCivics.org team took time to reflect and look ahead at the first 100 Days of the Biden administration. Dr. Shawn Healy, Director of the Democracy Program at the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, provided an overview of how both history and recent events might inform President-Elect Biden’s agenda, especially the First Hundred Days of the new administration. If you missed the webinar, you can access a recording on the IllinoisCivics.org Webinar Archive page.

At the conclusion of the webinar, the IllinoisCivics.org Instructional Coaches shared their own strategies and favorite resources from the Post Election Resources page to engage students in looking towards the new administration.
  • Jason Artman from Mendota shared, “iCivics has a First Hundred Days lesson that includes 1:1 resources which could be used for teaching remotely.” Jason added another idea he plans to use in his classroom. “As the new president lays forth his agenda for the first 100 days, I plan to have students identify his early goals and check progress on those goals periodically. Our semester begins January 20th, so this is something we can carry through the semester, reaching 100 days near the end of school.”
  • Alia Bluemlein from Crystal Lake shared, “Something that I plan to do with my government students is to compare and contrast the first 100 days of several presidents, allowing students to select from various integral time periods (presidents who took office during times of great strife/crisis) throughout our country’s history. We will then be facilitating a tournament-style bracket and deciding collaboratively who had the most impactful/monumental first 100 days, practicing our argumentation skills.”
  • Candace Fikis from Oswego offered, “If you are looking for some ties to American History or to do a presidential comparison, The History Channel and PBS News Hour has some resources and can be used to teach remotely. 
  • Matt Wood from West Chicago explained, “We’ve been discussing the power of words (ala events of Jan. 6) and how the context of the words matter. Inaugural addresses are a chance to make great plans, but that 100 days legacy that FDR established is a tall order. With control over the House, Senate (barely), and the Executive office, President-Elect Biden has the same opportunity to change things as President Trump did in 2016. Focusing on the inaugural address using EDsitement resources, students can process this moment and reflect on what previous inaugurals can tell us about presidential promises. Also, NYT Upfront Magazine has a middle school level appropriate article on the challenges facing Joe Biden, which can provide a needed context to Biden’s 100-day promises.”
What are you doing to engage students in looking ahead to the new administration? Please comment below. Together, we can support ALL students in preparing for college, career, and civic life in remote, hybrid, and traditional classrooms.

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