Teaching About Presidents’ Day

Introduction

Presidents’ Day is a federal holiday celebrated each year on the third Monday in February. The holiday was originally established in 1885 to recognize George Washington, but after it was moved as part of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act to create more three-day weekends for the nation’s workers in 1971, it became known as a day to celebrate all past and present U.S. presidents. George Washington and Abraham Lincoln both have birthdays in February, so the holiday celebrations tend to focus around these two famous presidents. Teaching about Presidents’ Day is important because students should be given the opportunity to learn about and celebrate the accomplishments and sacrifices of each one of our nation’s presidents!

Resources

There are many resources available online for teaching students about Presidents’ Day. The majority of these lesson plans, articles, and informational sites will focus on providing students with information about Presidents’ Day in general along with more specific information on George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, but there are some resources that will also give recognition to and celebrate lesser known presidents.

Lesson Plans

  1. Our Favorite Presidents’ Day Activities for the Classroom: We Are Teachers provides a lesson containing some favorite Presidents’ Day activities for the classroom. A few of the recommended activities include watching a TedED video on how the American presidency was invented, putting on a Presidents’ Day puppet show, and writing letters to the current president. For educators who are looking for activities to get their elementary students excited about Presidents’ Day, this resource has plenty of great options to choose from!
  2. Presidents’ Day Teacher Resources & Activities: TeacherVision has put together a collection of Presidents’ Day educational videos and activities, printables, lesson plans, slideshows, games & puzzles, literature and language arts resources, math activities, and more. With these resources, students will learn a lot about George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and more presidents through creative activities!
  3. Presidents Day Lesson Plans and Resources: Share My Lesson offers elementary and secondary school materials for Presidents’ Day. An introduction on the history of Presidents’ Day is given, but students will be able to explore more about individual presidents and the function of a president in a democracy through any of the lesson plans and activities listed at the bottom of this resource.
  4. Presidents’ Day Lessons: The Center for Civic Education provides a few lessons that will help students learn about some of the most influential presidents and how they shaped the history of our nation. There are elementary, middle, and high school level lessons on the executive branch, and there are lessons for students in grades 10-12 on George Washington, James Madison, Abraham Lincoln, and Ronald Reagan.
  5. Presidents Day Activities: After providing a brief timeline of the history behind Presidents’ Day, Education World has put together a list of five activities to teach students about the presidents of the United States. In these activities, students may make a picture book of presidents, design a new presidential monument, imagine they are president for a day, and more!
  6. Presidents’ Day in the Classroom: Scholastic offers several Presidents’ Day resources, which are split into five different categories: Quick Classroom Activities, Presidential Projects, Be the President, Crafts, and Learn About the Presidents. These activities, projects, and crafts will ask students to research past presidents and learn about the many skills an individual needs to be successful in leading the people of the United States.

Articles

  1. What is Presidents’ Day? A Kids’ Guide to the National Holiday: Today has put together a guide for kids regarding how they should celebrate Presidents’ Day in the classroom. The guide begins by explaining the origin of this national holiday and its significance before providing age-appropriate activities for students in pre-K & kindergarten, grade school, middle school, and high school. Though the guide was created with parents trying to find ways for their kids to check out presidential history in mind, many of these ideas can be used in the classroom.
  2. Presidents’ Day – A Life Lesson for Students: edutopia has published a brief article on how to teach students about Presidents’ Day and life lessons educators can incorporate into their lesson. The author discusses four questions that she would like to see every student in every grade asked and then explains a few different life lessons that should flow naturally from the previous questions. In addition, she offers a sample assignment that educators can try out where they will have students pick a president that they find interesting and find the most important things that the president did and write about the obstacles they faced in trying to get them done. 
  3. How to Explain Presidents’ Day to 5-Year-Olds: Scholastic provides a blog post on how to explain Presidents’ Day to five-year-olds. Understanding the concepts of democracy and the presidency can be difficult for young students, and this post recommends several short lessons educators can use to teach the most basic and important facts.

Informational Sites

  1. Presidents’ Day 2021: History.com provides information on Presidents’ Day 2021, specifically on Washington’s Birthday, the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, what presidents we celebrate on Presidents’ Day, what is closed on Presidents’ Day, and Presidents’ Day celebrations and traditions.
  2. Presidents’ Day: Britannica offers a brief informational article on Presidents’ Day that provides basic information about what the national holiday celebrates and its origins.
  3. Presidents’ Day Facts for Kids: Sylvan Learning provides some Presidents’ Day, George Washington, and Abraham Lincoln, facts for kids. In addition, there are some activities linked at the bottom of the page that kids can take part in to learn more about our presidents.

Conclusion

Teaching about Presidents’ Day is important and can also be very fun for students. From these resources, students will learn about the significance or Presidents’ Day and the presidencies of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and others.

Additional Resources

  1. Presidents Day | All About the Holidays: PBS LearningMedia provides a one-minute video on Presidents’ Day which explains how the national holiday evolved from a birthday party for George Washington to an observance honoring all of the presidents. Below the video, there are support materials for educators, including a Presidents’ Day vocabulary word search and answer key along with discussion questions for students.
  2. Presidents Day – 5 Ways to Help Your Kids Honor Washington, Lincoln, and More: The U.S. Department of Education provides five ways for educators to help their students honor Washington, Lincoln, and more past presidents. The resource includes social studies, math, reading, get moving, and cooking activities, which range from comparing the nation at the time of Washington with that of Lincoln to having popular foods of the times that particular presidents were in office. 

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