Introduction

The Presidential Inauguration of the United States is a ceremony that occurs every four years on January 20 at the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, DC when the President-elect and Vice President-elect are sworn in and take office. The ceremony takes place in the year after the presidential election has been held. Some of the most memorable inaugurations include Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first inaugural, John F. Kennedy’s first inaugural, and Barack Obama’s first inaugural. Teaching about presidential inaugurations is important because it provides students with the opportunity to learn more about how the U.S. government works and the historical significance of the inauguration. 

Resources

There are many resources available online for teaching about presidential inaugurations. Now is the perfect opportunity for educators to bring this topic into their classrooms, as Joe Biden’s inauguration is only a couple months away!

Lesson Plans

  1. 7 Ideas for Teaching about the Presidential Inauguration: The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has put together a lesson plan for middle school and high school students with seven ideas for teaching about the Presidential Inauguration. The first idea asks students to read and analyze past inaugural addresses and the most used words from these addresses. Another idea requires students to brainstorm a list of questions that reporters may want to answer in order to write a news article about inauguration before writing their own news story. Educators will be able to form seven different creative lessons for their classroom from this resource!
  2. Presidential Inaugurations – I Do Solemnly Swear: EDSITEment, a project of the National Endowment for the Humanities, provides a lesson plan on presidential inaugurations. This lesson plan contains guiding questions, learning objectives, and directions for five lesson activities. These activities focus on swearing-in, swearing-in musts, the oath of office, giving/taking the oath, and the celebration. If this lesson is used during an inaugural year, educators can coordinate the teaching of this unit with current events, as there will be many examples in the media of the events being discussed. In addition, there are lesson extensions provided, including links to the text of every inaugural address, archival materials relating to Presidential addresses, poems featured at inauguration ceremonies, etc.
  3. Inauguration Day: Education World offers ten activities to help students learn about and commemorate the Presidential Inauguration. These activities will have students write letters to the president, create presidential portraits, complete an inauguration trivia hunt, and more. There are also a few resources suggested to help students learn about the history of inaugurations and inauguration festivities before educators bring these lessons to their classrooms.
  4. Inauguration Resources: The Utah Education Network has gathered resources and activities to help educators and students alike learn more about the inauguration ceremonies. The resources are split into three categories: general inauguration resources, classroom activities, and websites for students. The resources provided vary widely. Some provide information about inaugurations while others focus on fashion choices at past inaugural balls or the weather conditions during the U.S. presidential inaugurations.
  5. Inaugural Activities and Discussion Questions: The National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance has put together inaugural activities and discussion questions to help them understand and engage in presidential inaugurations past and present. Students will play “Inaugural I Spy,” design a parade float, host an inauguration poetry reading, write poems celebrating the presidential inauguration, and more.

Articles

  1. Teaching the Inauguration: Teaching Tolerance provides an article on teaching the inauguration in the classroom. For educators who are wondering how to address the 2021 Presidential Inauguration, this article will help them recognize that they should consider teaching about the inauguration instead of who won the election. Educators are encouraged to start by teaching what occurs during an inauguration, discussing inaugural acts and symbolic gestures presidents have made, having students break down the oath and come up with revisions, and more. Resources to help educators teach students about subject matters related to the inauguration are provided.
  2. My First Inauguration – An Experience to Remember: Scholastic has published a brief article on a scholastic student reporter’s first experience at an inauguration. From this article, students will hear about another student’s first-hand experience with attending the Presidential Inauguration of George W. Bush. Students will read about the thoughts the student had while watching the president during the ceremony and the inauguration parade. This may help them better understand why Inauguration Day is such an important day for Americans, young and old!
  3. The New York Times – The Presidential Inauguration: The New York Times has compiled each article written about the Presidential Inauguration in recent years. The topics of the articles in this collection include when Joe Biden will be sworn in, a local prosecutor in Washington suing the Trump Inaugural Committee, the money behind the most expensive U.S. presidential inauguration, and more. For educators who want their students to read current news about the upcoming presidential inauguration and Trump’s past inauguration, this resource will be the most helpful.
  4. 10 Things to Know About Inauguration Day: PBS Newshour Extra provides an article on ten things to know about Inauguration Day. This list of facts includes that inaugurations happen every four years, President George Washington holds the record for the shortest inaugural address ever at just 135 words, after President Washington and until 1936, the inauguration was held on March 4, and more. From these facts, students will quickly learn more about the significance of Inauguration Day!

Informational Sites

  1. Presidential Elections & Inaugurations: The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration provides information on presidential elections and inaugurations. This resource includes videos of inaugural addresses, articles/research resources on presidential inaugurations, and resources on the presidential transition. 
  2. Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies: The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies (JCCIC) “has been responsible for the planning and execution of the Inaugural Ceremonies of the President-elect and Vice President-elect of the United States at the Capitol.” Their website provides information about the committee and inaugural ceremonies.
  3. Inauguration of the President of the United States: USAGov offers a bit of information on the Inauguration of the President of the United States. From this resource, students will learn about Inauguration Day, the Presidential Oath of Office, and the events that take place on Inauguration Day.
  4. U.S. Presidential Inaugurations – “I Do Solemnly Swear…” A Resource Guide: The Library of Congress provides a web guide of diaries and letters written by presidents and those who witnessed the inaugurations, handwritten drafts of inaugural addresses, broadsides, inaugural tickets and programs, prints, photographs, and sheet music. The resources are separated based on which president’s inauguration they correspond to. If educators are looking for primary sources related to presidential inaugurations, this resource will be very helpful!
  5. Presidential Inaugurations: The White House Historical Association provides an abundance of information on presidential inaugurations. The topics covered include inaugural addresses, presidential succession, paying tribute during inauguration, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Historic First Inauguration, and others.

Videos

  1. America 101 – What Happens on Inauguration Day?: HISTORY offers a brief two-minute video exploring the change in presidency, from the Oath of Office to moving into the White House. It may be useful for educators to show students this video before bringing lessons on presidential inaugurations to their classrooms!
  2. The Very First Inauguration: CBS News provides a four-minute video on the very first presidential inauguration ceremony held for George Washington and how it set precedents that last to this day. For educators who are planning to focus on teaching their students about the first presidential inauguration, this video will be helpful!
  3. The Inauguration: History.com provides a four-minute video on the Inauguration in which David Eisenbach describes the historical significance of the process by which a newly elected candidate assumes the role of President of the United States of America.

Conclusion

Teaching about presidential inaugurations is an important task, especially now that a newly elected President is going to be sworn in and take office. Inauguration Day marks the start of a new four-year term of the president of the United States. In order to understand our country’s democracy and transfer of power, students need to understand the significance of Inauguration Day. The lesson plans, articles, informational sites, and videos above will help educators bring this topic into their classrooms!

Additional Resources

  1. Inauguration Day — Facts and Fun Activities: TeacherVision offers a printable on Inauguration Day containing facts and fun activities related to the Presidential Inauguration Day in the United States. This printable will help students understand more about the Presidential election process and Inauguration Day in the United States.
  2. Inauguration Day: National Geographic provides a resource library containing eleven images on Inauguration Day. In addition, background information, questions, fast facts, and vocabulary are also included.