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The third Monday in February is annually observed as Presidents Day in the United States, providing a teachable moment for the discussion of the American Presidency and the individual presidents.
 
     
Related
Subjects:
U.S. History, the American Presidency, Leadership
 
     
Sources: The K-12 TLC Guide to the American Presidency
The K-12 TLC Guide to U.S. History
The K-12 TLC Guide to Leadership
 
     
Strategies: 1. Focus on the American Presidency.

2. Focus on specific presidents, such as Washington and Lincoln.

3. Focus on groups of presidents for comparisons and contrasts.

4. Focus on presidents who hail from a specific state.

     
Questions
&
Issues:
1. The basics:
  • Who are the presidents of the United States?
  • What is the purpose of Presidents Day?
  • When is Presidents Day observed?
  • Where have the American presidents been born, lived and died?
  • Why is Presidents Day observed on this day?
  • How many presidents have there been?

2. What is the American Presidency, and what does the president do?

3. What are the powers and limitations of the American Presidency?

4. How has the American Presidency changed over time?

5. Who have been the presidents during war, and who have been the presidents during peace?

6. Who have been the most "successful" presidents?

7. How can historians' opinions about presidents change over time?

 
     
Activities: 1. Assign at least one president to each student, or group of students, so that every president is accounted for. Have the students use the K-12 TLC Guide to the American Presidency to research their president(s), and to be prepared to provide information about their president(s), such as:
  • Name
  • Height
  • Place of birth
  • Dates of birth and death
  • Place of death
  • Which college did they graduate from?
  • Public offices held other than president
  • Date first inaugurated
  • Date they left office
  • Wars fought during their presidency
  • Major issues addressed during their presidency
  • Wife's name
  • Wife's dates of birth and death
  • Wife's places of birth and death
  • Children and their names

Instead of asking for the same information or a report from each student, make it a game by asking questions that will cause the students to analyze their information. Such as:

  • Whose president was the tallest?
  • Whose president was the shortest?
  • Whose president was the first to be born?
  • Whose president was the most recent to have been born?
  • Whose president was the youngest age when inaugurated?
  • Whose president was the oldest when inaugurated?
  • Whose president served a full two terms or longer?
  • Whose president served exactly one term?
  • Whose president served for the longest time?
  • Whose president served for the shortest time?
  • Which presidents also served in the U.S. Congress?
  • Which presidents served during a time of war? Which war?
  • Which presidents were older than their wives, and which were younger?
  • Which president had the most children?
  • In which state have the most presidents been born?
  • In which states have no presidents yet been born?
  • From which university have the most presidents graduated?
  • Which presidents were not college graduates?
  • Which presidents died in office?
  • Which president lived the longest after completing the term of office?

2. Create a class spreadsheet or database by having students enter in the information about the president(s) they researched, then provide each student with copies of the spreadsheet/database. Have the students rank order the presidents using the information, such as:

  • Height
  • Length of presidency
  • Age they became president
  • Date of birth

3. Examine the major issues of each presidency, and look for trends. Which issues tend to be a major concern for the most presidents, which issues seem to come and go, and which issues were specific only to a single president?

 
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This guide last edited 10/30/2012
This guide last revised 06/14/2007
This guide created 02/10/2004