The United States has a long history of honoring important people, leaders, and cultures that make up our nation. Presidents’ Day is just one of those opportunities to teach about the people who have governed our country since its founding in 1776.
Whether you’re talking about George Washington, Joe Biden, or any president in between, this holiday is a chance for you and your students to reflect on how American leadership has changed over the years and how it’s shaped the world we live in.
We’ve curated a collection of text sets, videos, and interactive activities to guide your Presidents’ Day lesson plans this February or for any other government lesson throughout the school year:
Explore presidential traditions with Newsela Social Studies
Use these great social studies resources to help students learn more about our country’s presidents and what it takes to become one:
Presidents’ Day history and traditions
Do your students know the length of a presidential term? What about the number of terms one person can have? Or about the traditions presidents have started or continue to follow in office? You can explore these and other questions with our Presidents’ Day text set:
Discover what powers the president has to run the nation and work with other countries’ political leaders with an interactive video.
Learn about how United States citizens choose a president by examining our election cycle.
Explore the ins and outs of the presidency on issues like term lengths, the salary for the job, and presidential traditions for incoming and outgoing leaders.
Learn more about some of the most famous United States leaders with profiles on presidents like:
Have students show what they know about presidents’ speeches and letters with interactive assessment activities
Make your Presidents’ Day lesson plans interactive by using ready-to-go formative activities that provide practice and assessment for students learning about presidential primary sources. Use formatives that pair with Newsela Social Studies primary sources like:
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Read like a president with Newsela ELA
Use our ELA resources to explore articles, videos, and activities about U.S. presidents and coordinate novel or book lessons based on some of their favorite reads:
ELA resources for Presidents’ Day
Explore some of the most famous nonfiction speeches and selections written by past presidents and see how our nation’s leaders inspired other works with this text set:
Poems for Presidents’ Day
Discover how some of our nation’s leaders and their actions inspired poets to share their thoughts and contemplate the American experience with selections like:
“O Captain! My Captain!” by Walt Whitman
“Mortality” by William Knox
“I Hear America Singing” by Walt Whitman
“Let America Be America Again” by Langston Hughes
Words we note and remember: Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address
Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, a rallying cry for the Union cause during the Civil War, is just under two minutes long. But it had a big impact on how people saw the Civil War, and how we still learn and teach about it today. Use this text set to:
Expose students to the Gettysburg Address in its entirety, at five different reading levels.
Conduct a speech analysis to help students think critically about the purpose of a speech and how it’s received by the audience.
Share a video about the impact of the speech, both when it was given and today.
Addressing the nation: What Washington Wanted
George Washington entered uncharted territory as the first president of the United States. But that also meant that his exit from office was unprecedented too. Use this text set to:
Help students explore Washington’s farewell address and discover how he hoped others would continue his work for the country after he left office.
Compare Washington’s inaugural address to his farewell address to see how his views and vision for the nation changed over eight years.
Scaffold these primary sources by sharing the texts for both addresses at any of five different reading levels.
Presidents’ favorite novel studies
Dive into some of the most explored fictional (and real-life) worlds of the presidents with novel and book study selections of their favorite stories or by their favorite authors:
Abraham Lincoln’s book pick: “Macbeth” by William Shakespeare
Dwight D. Eisenhower’s author pick: “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” by Mark Twain
George H. W. Bush’s author pick: “Anna Karenina” by Leo Tolstoy
Barack Obama’s book and author pick: “Becoming” (Adapted for Young Readers) by Michelle Obama.
Presidents’ Day, but make it interactive
Did you know that you can take any Newsela text and make it into an interactive formative assessment with just the click of a button? Plus, with the new student practice center, you can empower your students to take control of their studying and review with flashcards, matching games, and quizzes. Try it out with any of these Presidents’ Day lessons!