Presidents Day, celebrated on the third Monday in February, honors all U.S. presidents, but is most associated with our first president, George Washington, and our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, both of whom were born in February.
Teaching about U.S. presidents is a great way to scrutinize the larger U.S. history landscape. When we teach about presidents, we examine the crucial people, events, politics and culture of their time.
The following Presidents Day lessons and activities are all free, easy to access and provide many different ways of teaching and learning about U.S. presidents.
Presidents Day 2022 (opens in new tab)
Learn all about the 200-plus-year history of Presidents Day and how it has evolved from a simple celebration of George Washington’s birthday to a national holiday linked to all U.S. presidents, patriotism, and, of course, great American consumer bargains.
PBS Presidents (opens in new tab)
A breezy animated summary of Washington’s life, this brief video is a winning introduction for kids grades 3-6.
Mount Rushmore National Memorial Virtual Tour and Lesson Plans (opens in new tab)
Can you name the four U.S. presidents whose visages are chiseled into Mt. Rushmore? Hint: George Washington is one of them. Explore fascinating learning resources, from an awe-inspiring virtual tour of the massive sculpture to detailed lesson plans on engineering, design, geology, and art.
Whitman on Lincoln – Putting Loss into Words (opens in new tab)
A moving exploration of writings from Walt Whitman about Abraham Lincoln, including the well-known poems “O Captain! My Captain!” and “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d,” as well as lesser- known poems and lectures. The writings are followed by thoughtful questions and ideas for incorporating the works into classroom lessons.
Slavery in Washington's World (opens in new tab)
Online teaching resources from the Mount Vernon website delve into the harsh truth that the father of our country was a lifelong slaveholder. A range of articles, videos, primary source documents, and artwork illuminate the lives of enslaved people at Mount Vernon and Washington’s views on slavery. Skilled interpreters bring to life many of the people known to have been enslaved at Mount Vernon in a series of remarkable videos.
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Lesson Plans (opens in new tab)
Detailed, printable lesson plans for students in grades 4-12 examine the Gettysburg Address, the two inaugural addresses, and Lincoln’s “Team of Rivals” cabinet. Be sure to check out the Gettysburg Address puzzle. How quickly can you complete it?
Presidential Primary Sources Project (opens in new tab)
The Presidential Primary Sources Project (PPSP) is a free cooperative venture from Internet2, the National Park Service, and the National Archives that uses primary source materials to spur learning about American presidents. Live interactive video conferencing sessions include “Lincoln’s Evolving Legacy in Washington, D.C.,” “Presidential Legacy through Portraiture,” and “Memorializing Young Abraham Lincoln.”
Presidential Fun Facts (opens in new tab)
A fun, light-hearted look at unusual jobs, clothing, expressions, and physical traits of U.S. presidents.
Inventing the American presidency (opens in new tab)
What would you do if you had to invent the president? This brief animated TEDEd video explores ideas the founders considered when creating the three branches of government. Click “Customize this lesson” for quizzes and further explorations.
Executive Command (opens in new tab)
President for a day? How about president for four years? In this challenging video game from iCivics, students are tasked to accomplish their presidential agenda while dealing with the unpredictable events sure to occur. With a free account, educators can download the extension pack (opens in new tab), which provides a guide to Executive Command, PowerPoint slides, lesson plans, and documents for students.
Presidents Day Puzzles (opens in new tab)
Three Common Core standards-aligned Presidents Day puzzles include an online word search, online crossword puzzle, and printable crossword puzzle. A spirited rendition of Hail to the Chief sets the tone.
Who is that President? (opens in new tab)
Online game that tests kids’ recognition of U.S. presidents. Four difficulty levels makes it suitable for students from grade 4-12. Fun!
Presidents Day Lesson Plans and Resources (opens in new tab)
A wealth of Presidents Day lessons and activities for K-12 students from the American Federation of Teachers’ Share My Lesson, covering diverse topics such as George Washington and Executive Power and Abraham Lincoln and the U.S. Constitution. The “Founding Mothers” and Eleanor Roosevelt get their due as well.
Presidential Historian Survey 2021 (opens in new tab)
C-Span’s annual survey of presidential historians reveals not only every president's overall ranking, but also their scores for each of 10 criteria, from “Public Persuasion” to “Performance Within Context of Times.” The survey serves as a fine jumping off point to compare presidents and explore questions such as “What traits matter most in a president?”
What Made George Washington a Good Military Leader? (opens in new tab)
Everyone knows of George Washington’s reputation as a general. But do you know what made him an outstanding military leader? Four lessons for high school students investigate Washington’s history in the army and his ability to tackle tough problems.
George Washington: First in War, First in Peace, and First in the Hearts of His Countrymen (opens in new tab)
This complete three-part lesson from the Library of Congress is built on letters from George Washington to James Madison, the Marquis De Lafayette, and other notables of the time. Divide the class into groups, then assign readings, questions, and activities for the students to work on collaboratively.
Time Zone X: Abraham Lincoln (opens in new tab)
This free interactive game from BrainPOP requires users to place events related to Lincoln in the correct order of occurrence. Excellent for a big-picture review.
President Abraham Lincoln Jigsaw Puzzle (opens in new tab)
An impressive digital jigsaw puzzle that offers a choice of six Lincoln images. Choose your image, then choose the number of pieces: 16, 36, 64, or 100. A great challenge for both older and younger students, who can press the help buttons if needed.
Abraham Lincoln Excelled in Wrestling (opens in new tab)
Abraham Lincoln was a fine athlete. True or false? In this fascinating article by photo historian Bob Zeller, learn about Lincoln’s skill as a wrestler, bowler, and billiards player, and his connection to the young sport of baseball.
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