By Teachers, For Teachers
Each February, classrooms all across the nation give a salute to the U.S. Presidents by introducing their students to the men who held the highest office in our land. Celebrated on the third Monday in February, Presidents’ Day originally honored only Presidents Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. In today’s classrooms, students are now learning about, and paying tribute to, all former Presidents of the United States. Here are a few classroom activities that honor them.
Students can learn what it feels like to step into the shoes of the men who have held the highest power by learning what it feels like to veto a bill via this example of classroom activities. First, explain to students that Congress decides which bills become a law until the president either lets it become a law or decides to veto it. Allow students to take the role of the president by deciding if they are going to sign a bill or veto it. On the chalkboard, write one bill at a time and have students vote on it. Before deciding, have students take their time to discuss the pros and cons of it. Then, after each bill proposal, have students either come up and sign the chalkboard or put a line through it and veto it.
Play a guessing game to see if students know which presidents are on the money that they carry with them. Start with the $1 bill (George Washington) then move on to the $5 bill (Abraham Lincoln), then the $20 bill (Andrew Jackson), and finally the $50 bill (Ulysses Grant). Next, test them on their math skills by asking them questions like “One Andrew Jackson and two George Washingtons equal how much?” This is a great way to spark students’ interest in math, as well as pay tribute to the men who served our country.
What do the terms Handsome Frank, Big Bill and Silent Cal all have in common? These are a just a few of the presidents’ nicknames. Discuss with students the list below of a few of the presidential nicknames, and ask them if they were president, what nickname do they think they would have? Then, have them come up with one for themselves and explain why they would be called that. Then, have students write a brief summary of their nickname and all of the accomplishments that they would make if they were president.
Famous presidential nicknames:
Abraham Lincoln, or “Honest Abe” as they called him, earned his nickname by paying back an $11,000 debt. To teach students the many rewards of being honest (such as gaining respect), have students write about a time when they were honest. Make it fun by having students write their summary on a fake $5 bill. Here is an example you can show students to get them started.
“One time while I was waiting in line, I found a $5 bill on the ground. I asked the lady in front of me if it was hers and it was! She was so thankful that I found it and I was honest that she bought me coffee.”
This poetic salute to the presidents is sure to inspire students. Ask students to tell you what they think are the best qualities of a president. Then, break students into small groups and have them write a list of their top five qualities. Next, reassemble as a class and have each group share their top five qualities and write them all down on the front board. Have students refer to these qualities as they complete their presidential poetry page.
Here is the poem to have students fill in their qualities.
A President is a person who is______, and someone who______. They are a person who is______, and someone who can stop______. They are a leader, they are the President of the United States!
How do you celebrate Presidents’ Day with your students? Do you have any special lessons or activities that your students love? Please share your ideas in the comment section below. We would love to hear your thoughts.
Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.