Presidents’ Day may just mean car and retail sales to some, but for teachers, it’s a great opportunity to kick American history lesson plans up a notch! Celebrate George Washington’s and Abraham Lincoln’s birthdays and all things historically POTUS with our classroom guide below. Students will love these Presidents’ Day activities so much, they’ll forget about the three-day weekend. Maybe.
How did Presidents’ Day evolve, and really, why do we have a president, anyway? This fascinating TedED video for elementary school kids breaks it down. Go inside one of the biggest debates in American history: how our founding fathers settled on the leader of the executive branch.
2. Put on a Presidents’ Day puppet show.
How adorable are these guys? Younger students will love acting out some of the presidential facts they’ve learned with these finger puppet presidents! Use quarters (Washington) and pennies (Lincoln) to celebrate the birthday boys. You can add in other coins for more presidential fun.
Materials you’ll need: Construction paper (black, blue, white), scissors, tape, glue stick, quarters, pennies, any other decorations (doily paper for white neckcloths). Sequins for flair.
- Cut out a couple of 3-inch squares of different color paper. Try blue for Washington and black for Lincoln (photo). Also, white for detail.
- Wrap a paper square around your finger to create a tube. Tape the tube in place, and slide off your finger.
- For the Washington puppet, tape the quarter to the top of the blue puppet. Tape the penny to the black tube for Lincoln’s face.
- Cut out a white triangle for Lincoln’s shirt. Mark buttons with black marker or glue black sequins. You can cut a cloud shape for Washington’s shirt collar from the white paper or doily paper.
- Glue the shirt shapes on each tube.
- For Washington’s hat, cut a small circle from the blue construction paper. Fold in half. Cut a small slit vertically into the center. Then unfold it and fold in the other direction. Pinch it a bit in the front and the sides (see picture). Add sequins (yellow, here) for flair!
- For Lincoln’s hat, cut a thin rectangle from the black paper for the hat brim. Tape the brim along the top of the head.
Honor all things POTUS with these awesome reads for your classroom. This clever list engages readers from Pre-K through middle school with presidential facts, history, and Presidents’ Day fun.
4. Write letters to the current president.
Nothing shows our democracy in action better than a group of elementary kids writing a letter to the commander in chief. It’s also a great chance for students to practice writing letters. During a class discussion, have students share what matters most to them. Focus on themes like kindness, compassion, and what they would do to make the world a better place. What do they think the job of the president entails? Encourage students to ask their questions and share their big ideas in their letters. Here’s the address:
The President of the USA (or write the president’s name)
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20500
Check out our other writing prompts for February with this free download of awesome ideas (includes a presidential idea, too)!
Students will love a presidential trivia game. Online resources abound to fact hunt and nail down some great Q&A options for elementary grades. Print out some fact sheets to send home to study. Older students can fact-find in teams and challenge the opposing students for game day. The White House Historical Society has great thought-starters on presidents, first ladies, and even their beloved pets. Which First Lady was the first to decorate the White House for Halloween? Why did President Woodrow Wilson keep a flock of sheep on the White House lawn? You might have trouble deciding which fun facts are the coolest!
Break out those quarters and pennies again (add in nickels, dimes, and half-dollars, too)! Science mixed with history makes this coin experiment fun to do in small groups. The students can predict, record, and chart their findings. Did they guess correctly? What’s the science behind this coin trick? Find more Presidents’ Day coin activity details here.
Students will love these quick, fun, and informative 60-Second President videos from PBS. Pick your favorites, focus on George and Abe for the holiday, or have students pick a few at random by pulling the names of presidents out of an Abe Lincoln hat. Feeling ambitious? Go for it and watch all of the videos. After all, that’s only 44 minutes of class!
Send your students on this super cool online Presidents’ Day scavenger hunt. Solve clues to track down American presidential facts. Download the scavenger hunt printable and start exploring!
What makes someone a good leader? What would your students do if they held the highest office in the land? We love how blogger Kindergarten Smiles had her kids do individual portrait art and answer the question What would make you a great president? Log the results or create an anchor chart to serve as a reminder to students about the value of good leadership qualities. It’s the lesson that lasts a school year and beyond.
The beloved and delightful Kid President may now be a teenager(!), but the wisdom in his video archives is the gift that keep on giving. There’s no shortage of motivational material with his original viral pep talk to “20 Things We Should Say More Often” and “What Makes an Awesome Leader?” We’re in good hands with this guy. Always.
You can also follow all things Kid President by creator Brad Montague. He’s written and directed all 180+ episodes of the web series, and you can learn more about his work by following him on Twitter or finding him on Instagram. Be sure to check out the amazing resources they’ve made available for educators, too.
What are your favorite Presidents’ Day activities? Share your ideas in our WeAreTeachers Chat group on Facebook. WeAreTeachers Chat is a place to post questions, share a laugh or an idea, and connect with new teacher friends.