Labor Day. The first Monday in September is a national holiday here in the United States. For many people, it signals the unofficial end to summer and the return to the classroom. Labor Day comes at a time of year when many teachers are focused on establishing routines, back to school rules, and learning how to follow directions. But learning about the importance of this holiday is something worth taking time out for. Honoring those who worked hard to make America what it is today can add a lot of value and teachable moments even in a special education classroom.
When it comes to teaching about holidays, I love exposing students to the history behind why we stop and take the time to celebrate. It is not just about having a 3 day weekend and grilling hamburgers and hot dogs (although Labor Day is the third most popular grilling day of the year.) Labor Day is a time we stop to remember all those who worked over the last hundred plus years building America into what it is today. It is a time to celebrate all workers, past and present. We remember when going off to work in a factory for a 12 plus hour shift was not only the norm, but the respectable thing to do.
It is also a time to recognize how those laborers of decades past stood up against unfair and unsafe working conditions. How unions were formed to protect the worker and ensure he or she were paid fairly. How standing up for what was just and fair, although potentially dangerous, could lead to profound and lasting change.
Teaching about the history and meaning of this holiday, honors those men and women who not only worked so hard, but also fought to make sure people in the future would be treated fairly.
As with any new material, even a holiday, there comes an opportunity to expose students to new vocabulary. Connecting a story to that new vocabulary helps to deepen the meaning for our students with special learning needs. Often, this may be vocabulary that their peers have picked up naturally in the environment. There may have been no direct teaching involved. But with our students, taking the time for direct and explicit instruction is often the only way they will attain these words and phrases so often used.
As with most new topics, having activities that students can complete helps to reinforce and generalize the main concepts. This is not busy work. This is creating meaningful connections and extensions to past material that will help make the information easier to retain and utilize later. Things like circle maps, time lines, picture sorts, and even writing prompts are all ways to make history alive and more present to our students.
A free download for you
I hope this has inspired you to consider teaching more about the history of common holidays. Download this free activity, matching community helpers to where they work, to get you started. There is a link in the download for a digital version of this activity. JUST CLICK HERE
Excited about teaching more on this holiday? CLICK HERE to check out the unit I have on Labor Day. It is in a printable AND digital format.