Presidents’ Day is February 20th this year, and as elementary and/or Social Studies teachers, it’s important to educate students on the history of this day and the presidents it celebrates. We have put together 5 Presidents’ Day activities to be used in the elementary or middle school Social Studies classroom.
Presidents’ Day was first introduced in 1880 as a way to celebrate and remember our first president, George Washington’s birthday, which is February 22nd. Incidentally, because President Lincoln’s birthday is also in February on the 12th, Washington and Lincoln are two of the main presidents that were first celebrated on the third Monday of February. In 1971, this day became part of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act as a way to give the nation’s workers a three-day weekend, and it became a day to celebrate all of the nation’s presidents.
1. Presidents’ Day Read Alouds
These picture books are perfect for students to learn all about Presidents’ Day!
Presidents’ Day by Anne Rockwell, Illustrated by Lizzy Rockwell
This adorable picture book is informative about the origins of Presidents’ Day, presidential elections, and various presidents such as Jefferson, Roosevelt, Lincoln, and Washington. The information is set against the backdrop of a class putting on a Presidents’ Day play.
I Am George Washington by Brad Meltzer, Illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos
Told from the perspective of George Washington, this “I Am” book contains interesting facts and not as well-known stories of the first president. My favorite part of this picture book is the comic-book style pages that not only show events from Washington’s point of view as a child and adult but details his potential thoughts and feelings as well.
I Am President Lincoln by Brad Meltzer, Illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos
Similar to I Am George Washington, this picture book details the life of Abraham Lincoln from childhood to his presidency. Each of the I Am books contains a simple lesson written on the back that the reader can learn from each president’s life. The following link is a video of Brad Meltzer, the author, reading I Am President Lincoln, and he includes some interesting commentary and funny anecdotes.
P is for President by Catherine Stier
This non-fiction picture book is informative about the presidency and the duties and obligations of this important job. It tells about the requirements of becoming president as well as the journey which entails education, campaigning, and the election. It also tells of fun facts such as presidential pets and how many bathrooms are in the White House.
2. Biography Studies
The month of February is an awesome time for students to read various biographies, whether for Black History Month or Presidents’ Day.
Who Was biographies are the perfect length for upper-elementary and lower-grades middle school students. Some Who Was presidential books include Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Andrew Jackson, and Ulysses S. Grant to name a few.
Students choose a presidential Who Was book to read and complete a Biography in a Can project. If Who Was books are not available, learning about the president on the internet or through other books can suffice.
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Students complete research about their president on a graphic organizer and on an index card report template. They also create their president out of a chip or coffee can. The index card report is then inserted in the can for easy access for students to use during their presentations.
3. Learn about Mt. Rushmore
What’s more appropriate and iconic to learn about on Presidents’ Day than Mt. Rushmore? The monument showcases four of our presidents. The project took 14 years to complete. It was built in South Dakota and completed in 1941.
Explore the National Park Website with students to learn all about it. The website includes the history of the monument, the reasoning behind choosing those four presidents, and the local Native American groups whose sacred land was used for this monument. It also contains so much more!
On the website are also curriculum materials and lesson plan ideas.
A simple activity your students can complete after learning about Mt. Rushmore is to have students build Mt. Rushmore using play-doh or clay.
Students could also choose what four presidents they would have in their own Mt. Rushmore monument, build it out of play-doh, and write their reasoning in an essay or paragraph.
4. President Research Google Slides Project (Free!)
Presidential Research Google Slides Project can be utilized in grades 5-8. Students choose a president to research. They use the provided template to answer questions and create a thorough Google Slides Presentation. It takes about one to two weeks to complete in the classroom if students work about 45 minutes daily. Once completed, students present their President Projects and their classmates learn about different presidents in this way as they listen to the various presentations. Check out this FREEBIE here!
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Utilize Scholastic.com to learn all about George Washington. Students can listen and read an article about our first president, watch a quick video, play an interesting game called Here Comes George, and view a slideshow to learn vocabulary words. Teachers can also print out a fun Presidents’ Day writing activity in which students draw themselves on the one dollar bill and write what they learned and what they would do if they were president. You don’t need to log in for access to this either!
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Do the same for Abraham Lincoln. (No log-in required.) On this link, teachers can also print out an Abe Lincoln Fact Mask, complete with top hat.
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This wonderful book, Super Simple Presidents’ Day Activities, has a treasure trove of fun activities. See if your local library or used bookstore has this awesome book that contains lots of fun ideas for your students to complete!
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Presidents’ Day shouldn’t just be chalked up to another 3-Day weekend. (Even though teachers definitely deserve a day of rest!) It’s a historical day that is not only important, but interesting and fun to learn about. We hope you’re able to use these five activities in your classroom for Presidents’ Day this February.
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