Why Should Students Celebrate Presidents Day?
February is a great month to celebrate! It is the time of year when we truly need to rejuvenate and refocus. It just so happens that most school districts have a well-needed and timely extended weekend in honor of Presidents Day. Our history books show that Presidents Day was created by an act of Congress that was passed in 1879 to honor our first president of the United States, George Washington on his birthday, which was February 22nd. We celebrate the life and hard work of Washington and now observe Presidents Day on the third Monday of February each year.
Celebrating Presidents Day weekend is a way to acknowledge not just Washington’s Birthday, but Abraham Lincoln’s as well. Lincoln’s birthday was just 10 days earlier than Washington’s and the extended weekend is in honor of both Presidents. Some states have also incorporated all of our presidents into this extended weekend and honor them as well.
While we all love an extended weekend, it is so very important for our students to understand the significance of why we celebrate Presidents Day. Classroom celebrations honoring George Washington and Abraham Lincoln are just one way to remind our students of our great leaders who had a tremendous influence on our great county.
Presidents Day Activities to Try in Your Class
There is a vast amount of resources that educators have right at their fingertips and can incorporate several cross-curricular activities that acknowledges Presidents Day weekend. It is a perfect time to use the presidency as a catalyst for learning, whether it is about history, civics, or any other subject that we teach. Teachers can develop lesson plans to help students understand Presidents Day and include activities such as creating trading cards or holding a readers theater based on information that they have researched and discovered about Washington and Lincoln. There is also the opportunity for students to look at all of the dates and facts and incorporate these numbers into word problems.
In a time when we are faced with different virtual formats, students can take the research they have found and incorporate this into their readers theater. This may push their technological strengths to the test but also could incorporate the information that they retained from classroom readings, research, or in-depth lecturing about the accomplishments of our presidents.
Creating a document using the virtual platform that is in place will enhance not only the students’ knowledge about celebrating Presidents Day weekend but would also challenge them to be comfortable with the technology being used within their school.
Using creative thinking skills based on comprehension questions enhances our students’ reading skills. Incorporating short stories into our guided reading circles or our English language arts curriculum will make this holiday more meaningful to our younger students. Pulling in a KWL chart and other graphic organizers is also a way for students to organize the information that they are learning about and help gain a better understanding of the historical material.
Several secondary schools have a debate team as one of their clubs. An activity that could take place for our older students is to hold a debate with George Washington versus Abraham Lincoln, or any of our former Presidents. Pointing out the historical leaders’ strengths and accomplishments, as well as facts versus fiction that are discovered, could be an engaging activity for our older students.
While we celebrate Presidents Day weekend, this may be the perfect time to not only educate our students about Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, but all of our other great presidents in American history. Setting up a wax museum as students dress to look like their assigned president and have note cards to share with visitors who stop by is a great motivator to get students excited to learn about our country’s great leaders. This is sure to be a project that they remember for a long time.
Sometimes allowing time for a craft in your classroom brings excitement to the material that is being made. Reading a presidential read-aloud while students craft Abraham Lincoln hats and a George Washington hair-do is a fun way to keep students engaged with an age appropriate hands-on activity.
It is important to also incorporate Presidents Day at every learning level. Some of our students use social stories to learn about events. Creating a social story with a student helps them understand in a familiar format at different levels of a student’s ability while meeting all of our learners needs.
As the month of February wraps ups, using a Jeopardy-like game as an assessment tool in your classroom will keep students engaged as you monitor all that they have mastered. Having students write a letter to Washington or Lincoln and noting their accomplishments will also assess the students’ knowledge and understanding of Presidents Day.
Over time it seems as if our history books are pushed to the side. Unfortunately, history is not a tested area, and often we see history not being taught as a core content subject. While what is tested or not tested shouldn’t really matter, unfortunately, sometimes this does impact the amount of time spent on a particular subject.
Even if time is not allotted in a schedule to teach “history”, we can be creative and teach across the curriculum to be sure that our students are getting the best education possible and learning about our county. The amount of online resources can be used as a tool to springboard off of as we bring this historical material into our classrooms. More now than ever, let’s focus on the positives of our great presidents and educate our students to the best of our abilities.