Monday, February 10, 2014

President's Day Activities for First Grade

One of the things I love about first grade is being able to do activities that are authentic and engaging because they eat. it. up! Don't get me wrong, I've had some flops. Big time. Overall though, if you are excited about your cheesy, (but super educational) activity, so are they. I made this unit a few years ago when I was struggling to make S.S. fun. There, I said it. I love history personally, but I was really having a hard time engaging my little firsties when I taught it. In the back of my head I was thinking, "Is it science time yet?" To be honest, I had a hard time wrapping my head around it all myself. For President's Day I always did the traditional lessons- read about Abe Lincoln and George Washington and do an adorable craft (totally not knockin' it- love me some good craftivities!) Anyway, I decided to go for it. I spent the weekend (pre-kids) developing this unit. My dad is always ranting and raving about how "kids these days don't know anything about government". Ha! Enough babble, I'm moving on to show you the activities in this unit. 

Keep in mind, I am not an expert and this is for first graders. :)  

First, we do this anticipation guide about presidents. We only do the before column though. 

Then we read this book:
After reading, we filled out the other side of the anticipation guide. 

I wrote this reading passage:
then we fill out this chart to organize our thinking:

We also do this little bubble map together:

Then we focus on the jobs of a president. We spend the week pretending to be president. 

As a class, we brainstorm ideas for a bill (to become  a law). We talk about how the president can't do it alone. As presidents for the week, we get to suggest a bill to congress (the rest of the class). We thought about laws we'd want for our class or school.  

From this list, the kids chose four laws to write on this page. Then they signed or vetoed the bill. (Sorry about the green paper. It was in the copier and I didn't notice. I just went with it.)
For kids who need more support, you could pre-write four of the bills before you make copies. Then they just have to read and sign or veto.


Each student wrote about a law they would like to pass:

(We discuss our ideas before picking up our pencil.) To support your students who have difficulty writing, you could write the beginning sentence for them before copying: If I were president, I would make a law that...
You could give them the option of making a law for the classroom, school or country. 

Then we read our idea to congress (the rest of the class). Afterward, we voted on the bills we wanted to pass. 

For this activity, we got a taste of what it's like to have to balance the budget for the country. 
Each group was given these cards. The cards are all different options for how to spend the country's money. As a group, they had to decide how much money to give to each program. They only had $2 to spend though. They filled out the student sheet to show their decision.

I had them put the dimes on the cards first to help them keep track of the money and where it was going. Then they filled out the student sheet.

Here is a picture of a group trying to decide:

Then they wrote about which program they thought was the most important.  

There's two versions- a country and a classroom version. We did the classroom version together so they could learn how to do the activity. Then they did the country version in small groups. 

Another activity was writing about who would be in their "cabinet". We discussed qualities that make a good leader and which qualities we would look for in our cabinet members. Then they wrote about who they would choose and why. 


Another important job of the president is to be a peacekeeper or problem solver for the country and the world. Each student was given these cards with a problem to solve. They thought about how they would help solve the problem and wrote about it. The cards are all problems for a classroom president.  

We also read about Lincoln and Washington and completed this T-chart. 

Here is a preview of all the activities in this unit: 

I shared this freebie from my unit last year.


  1. This looks great- I like the different activities. I'm putting it on my "wish" list. Thanks! Carol

  2. Just found your blog from Pinterest, and these presidential activities are amazing! Talk about rigor and relevance!! I can't believe you incorporate these with FIRST graders!! Oh, why didn't I see this 2 weeks ago? Pinning for next year:) Love it!

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