Presidents’ Day is fast approaching and it is one I kind of dreaded when I first started teaching. I knew all the other classrooms would be putting out their George Washington silhouettes and wearing their Abraham Lincoln top hats. I also knew I wanted my kiddos to learn about these important people as well, but there just were not any great materials out there for them to use. So, of course, like most special education teachers, I made my own.
And I want to share some of them with you for free at the end of this post!!
It takes more than a day
So the first thing I realized that I needed a MUCH longer time to teach this topic than most of the regular classrooms around me. That was fine. If nothing else, we had time. So I typically devoted 2 full weeks to Presidents’ Day. In a nut shell, here is what I did:
- Week 1: George Washington and Abraham Lincoln
- Week 2: Other past presidents (briefly), our current president, and the general powers of the President
Week 1 : George Washington
Who doesn’t love a good story about a hero who tries to save the country? I found George Washington an easy person to teach about. However, I did not stray into the more controversial areas of his life (like owning slaves). Because I taught K-5th grade I was not ready to go there, but I might have if I had older students. I wrote a book, we reviewed some fact sheets, and I did a circle map. It seemed to work really well, and the kids could make some nice connections to the Revolutionary War unit (click HERE) I had previously taught.
Week 1: Abraham Lincoln
Next, we talked about Abraham Lincoln, our 16th President, and a champion for trying to abolish slavery. Since we were mid-February at this point, we had been talking about Black History Month, and this fit in perfectly. I also had taught the Civil War unit (click HERE) earlier in the year, so we could also circle back to those main concepts as well. I love recycling my old materials. It is a great way to check for retention and connections to new material. Again, we did a book, fact sheet, and circle map. Now I could also introduce a Venn Diagram comparing and contrasting Washington and Lincoln. Color coding was of course added, and voila, they could successfully see how these two presidents were so alike.
We also ended the week with a fun log cabin replica made from some supplies I had in the classroom and from home.
Week 2: Other Presidents
I felt like it was important for students to at least “meet” some other past presidents, especially those we had talked about in other social studies units. For this purpose I wrote a quick book and actually made a file folder matching activity. (I know I don’t have many of those in my store, but I used them ALL THE TIME in the classroom.)
We also looked at who our current president is and what powers, in general the president has. We had already done the Branches of Government unit (click HERE) where we had really looked at the powers of each branch of government, so this was just meant as a review. Again, super cool to swing back around and revisit material we had previously done, but now presented in a new way.
Of course I had to do a writing prompt (they are my favorite!) This year, I also created some cool Sudoku puzzles to add even more variety. They are super fun, and I give you some great tips so EVERY student in your class can complete these puzzles.
A Free Download for YOU!!
As always, how can I help? I tried to find something in this unit that I thought EVERYONE could use. So I am making the Washington and Lincoln facts sheets, and the cut and paste review sheets free to download here. I know you will be able to incorporate these into any lesson plans you have for Presidents’ Day. Hopefully, it will give you just a little more time to take a breath and enjoy your students.