By Teachers, For Teachers
Every February, schools across the nation celebrate and honor Presidents' Day. Although it's still technically known as "Washington's Birthday," this day is usually intended to honor all past American presidents. Of course, among the nation's schools, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln are usually most honored. Explore the life and contributions of Americas most honored presidents with activities that showcase our past leaders' greatest accomplishments.
Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln helped reshape our country. Today, the nation honors their contributions by teaching our students important facts about these presidents. A fun way to discover these facts is to have students become time travelers, and go on a scavenger hunt. Divide students into groups of two, and then assign each group a president to research. Next, brainstorm a list of facts that the students must find out about their president.
Sample Scavenger Hunt List
After your finished brainstorming facts for the list, have students write down the final list and begin their research. Students can use websites such as Whitehouse.gov and nsp.gov to help them in their research. Younger students can find valuable information on Brainpop.com. Once the scavenger hunt is completed, pair two groups together to compare and contrast their presidents. Use a graphic organizer, such as a Venn diagram, to help students discuss how their presidents were alike and different.
One way Americans honor our past presidents is by creating a monument. Ask students to name some famous American monuments that honor past presidents. They may say the Washington Monument, Mount Rushmore, or the Lincoln Memorial. To give students an idea of what these monuments look like, have them study images or visit Thinkquest.org, a site where five of the major monuments are shown. Ask students to pretend the current president has asked them to create a monument for them. Have them imagine what that would look like. Then, divide students into small groups and have them create a monument for the president. Supply students with art supplies and model clay, and allow them full access to create their vision.
The president wears many hats, and bears a lot or responsibility. Here is a fun cooperative learning activity that will teach students all that is required of a president. Divide students into small groups and have them brainstorm the roles and duties of a president. Ideas may include: making a speech, signing new laws, meeting with leaders, holding a meeting, choosing a cabinet, or traveling to other countries. Assign each student a specific role for their group. Suggested roles may be team leader, recorder, editor, or gatekeeper. Once students have compiled a list of duties, have the recorder write them down on a cutout of Lincoln's hat. Then have the team leader present their facts to the class.
The Whitehouse is a spectacular site to see, with 132 rooms, 6 levels, and 32 bathrooms. For this activity, students are sure to get a kick out of pretending they are president for a day. To begin, have students go on a virtual tour of the Whitehouse. Have them explore rooms such as the oval office and Lincoln's bedroom. Research the history of each room, and have students choose their favorite room in the house. Then, have students sketch a picture of their favorite room and write about how that room is used and why they like it. Once completed, showcase their finished products on the bulletin board and title it "My Room in the Whitehouse."
A fun way for students to honor our past presidents is to learn all 44 presidents' names. Now when you tell your students that this is their task, I am sure that you will hear a large gasp. But, with the help of mnemonic devices, the task is not as hard as it seems. The first (and easiest) way to help students remember the names of the presidents is to learn a song. Sing the presidents' last names to the tune of the "Ten Little Indians" or to "Yankee Doodle."
The second mnemonic device to help students remember their names is to use chunking. Take the first letter of the first eight presidents' last names and create a silly sentence. For example W,A,J,M,M,A,J,V the sentence can be, Will and John made money and just vanished. Have students repeat this sentence several times. Once they have learned the sentence by heart, repeat with the next eight presidents.
Do you have a great idea or activity that will help teacher's explore the achievements and contributions of the past presidents'? Share it with us!