President's Day is one of my favorite first grade Social Studies units to teach in February!
I think it is very important for our first grade students to learn about the brave men who have served as United States presidents.
I think it is important to highlight not only facts about the presidents, but also their contributions to our country.
Here's what first grade students should learn about President's Day:
- Identify contributions of historical figures such as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and other US Presidents
Compare the lives of historical figures who have influenced the state and nation (their daily lives, comparison of timelines and changes made to the economy and politics)
The History of President's Day
President's Day is celebrated on the third Monday of February each year.
According to History.com:
Originally established in 1885 in recognition of President George Washington, the holiday became popularly known as Presidents' Day after it was moved as part of 1971’s Uniform Monday Holiday Act, an attempt to create more three-day weekends for the nation’s workers.
Why should we teach our first graders about President's Day?
Presidential biographies are a great way to inspire your students to become leaders because they are studying the great impact that even one single person can have on not just a small community, but also the world.
According to the standards set by the State of Texas (TEKS), first grade students should be able to:
- Identify contributions of historical figures
- Compare the lives of historical figures who have influenced the state and nation (compare daily lives, comparison of time in which they lived and comparison of the changes or contributions the historical figure made)
- Identify characteristics of good citizenship
- Identify historical figures and other individuals who have exemplified good citizenship such as Benjamin Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt
After teaching first grade for more than a decade, I’ve realized that biographies in first grade are actually a very powerful tool.
Learning about different people and the struggles and triumphs they encountered is an excellent way to broaden a student’s view to more than just what they know within their family or community.
I’ve also found that first grade students relate a lot more to historical events by learning about the people related to those events or places.
In fact, I would go as far as to say that biographies are a great way to inspire your students to become leaders because they are studying the great impact that even one single person can have on not just a small community, but also the world.
Students should also understand that biographies can come in many different forms. Most of the time, we read biographies in the form of books. However, there can also be magazine articles, short videos, documentaries/movies or even just an informational poster.
When considering sources for biographies look for the following information:
- Important dates
- Family information
- Early life information (education, etc)
- Career information and special skills
- Significant contributions to society
- Recognition and awards
President's Day Activities for First Grade
Fill in the Blank Activities
We typically do fill in the blank or “Describe the President” activities together as a class.
These are the activities that we do at the beginning of a unit when students are just learning the new facts about a President. I refer to this as “guided research”.
This is a really great opportunity to build student's background knowledge about different presidents and also review how things may have been different during the time period in which that person was president!
Cut and Paste Activities
I love to use cut and paste activities with my students to help review what they have learned about each US President we have studies.
I think the visual aid of seeing a timeline of the president's contributions is a great tool for first grade students.
These activities are my favorite because they can be done quickly and do not take up a lot of your classroom time.
Writing Activities for President's Day
I mentioned earlier that I really love to tie my biography units into my daily reading and writing time. Biographies naturally lend themselves to reading comprehension skills but they also offer great opportunities for different types of writing.
The easiest type of writing when it comes to biographies is informational or factual writing. It is very easy to wrap up a biography unit with students writing everything that they learned about a specific person and their contributions to their community.
However, there are also great opportunities for creative writing as well. Take whatever the historical figure is most well known for, and see how you can encourage students to write about their own ideas on the topic.
For example, when we are studying President's Day, I have my students think of what it would be like to be president and what kind of changes they would want to make!