Presidents Day Lesson Plans & Resources

Presidents Day was originally established in 1885 as “Washington’s Birthday” to celebrate President George Washington’s birthday on February 22. In 1971, the federal government renamed the holiday Presidents Day in order to honor all U.S. presidents, past and present. Share My Lesson has curated a collection of free lesson plans, educational resources and classroom materials on the accomplishments of U.S. presidents, first ladies, and the role and responsibilities of the president in government and in a democracy.

  • Resource Type: Essays, Lesson Plans, Research (Digests of Primary Sources)
  • Subject: Executive Branch/Presidency
  • Grades: K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

“No Event Could Have Filled Me with Greater Anxieties”: George Washington and the First Inaugural Address, April 30, 1789

Phillip Hamilton’s “‘No Event Could Have Filled Me with Greater Anxieties’: George Washington and the First Inaugural Address” reminds us how precedent setting our first president was. Anxious that his lack of administrative experience might make his task as the executive of a new nation difficult, Washington nevertheless proved he was as expert at statesmanship as he was on the battlefield. Registration at the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is required to view this resource.

  • Resource Type: Essays, Primary Sources
  • Subject: Executive Branch/Presidency
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

The Acts of Congress

George Washington’s copy of the Acts passed at a Congress of the United States of America (New-York, 1789) contains key founding documents establishing the Union: the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and a record of acts passed by the first Congress. In the margins, Washington wrote “President,” “Powers,” and “Required,” underscoring the responsibilities of the first Chief Executive. Learn more about this rare volume in the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington.

  • Resource Type: Books
  • Subject: Executive Branch/Presidency
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

The Constitution in Action: Strict vs. Loose Construction

History is the chronicle of choices made by actors/agents/protagonists in specific contexts. This simulation places students in the Early Republic and asks them to engage with questions of Constitutional interpretation faced by President Washington and the First Federal Congress. Did the Constitution empower Congress to charter a national bank? Finance and maintain lighthouses? Regulate working conditions of merchant seamen? Support higher education?

  • Resource Type: Interactives, Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit), Primary Sources
  • Subject: Federal Government
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

Congress, the President, and the War Powers (Fundamental Principles of Government)

This lesson will explore the implementation of the war-making power from the first declared war under the Constitution—the War of 1812—to the Iraq War. Using primary sources, students will investigate how the constitutional powers to initiate war have been exercised by the legislative and executive branches at several key moments in American history. They will also evaluate why and how the balance of authority in initiating war has changed over time, and the current balance of power.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit), Primary Sources
  • Subject: Federal Government
  • Grades: 10, 11, 12

Early Presidents (CKHG Unit)

This unit (first half of Early Presidents and Social Reformers) focuses on the first seven presidents of the United States. Across 9 lessons, students learn about how the early presidents organized the federal government, built a national capital, directed a second war with Great Britain, more than doubled the size of the country, and formulated a “hands-off” foreign policy in the Western Hemisphere.

  • Resource Type: Assessments, Books, Descriptive Text, Lesson Plans, Media, Modules (Teaching Unit), Primary Sources, Timelines
  • Subject: Executive Branch/Presidency
  • Grades: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

What Does July 4th Mean to You?

July 4th brings to mind fireworks, parades, and picnics but what are we celebrating when we remember the signing of the Declaration of Independence? What does July 4th mean to you? This lesson plan lets students make connections between the birthday of America and its significance in today’s world.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Rights and Responsibilities
  • Grades: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Washington and the Whiskey Rebellion

Students weigh the choices Washington faced in the nation’s first Constitutional crisis by following events through his private diary.

This lesson plan examines a critical episode in George Washington’s second administration, when federal efforts to collect an excise tax on liquor sparked armed resistance in the frontier communities of western Pennsylvania. Students first review the events that led up to this confrontation, then read from the diary that Washington kept as he gathered troops to put down the insurrection.

  • Resource Type: Essays, Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Executive Branch/Presidency
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

Inaugurations: Stepping into History

Discover what inauguration ceremonies over the centuries can teach us about our changing nation and the leaders who have shaped it.

Taking a close look at the moments in which these leaders first took office can provide rich opportunities to investigate the history of the United States as it has changed over the centuries. It can also provide unique insights into these remarkable individuals as they first stepped into history.

  • Resource Type: Primary Sources
  • Subject: Executive Branch/Presidency
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Lincoln and the “Writ of Liberty”

The actual right of habeas corpus is not stated anywhere in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights. The authors of these documents apparently believed that habeas corpus was such a fundamental liberty that it needed no further guarantee in writing. The only mention of the writ of habeas corpus in the Constitution relates to when it can be taken away from judges. On September 24, 1862, Lincoln issued a proclamation unprecedented in American history. He suspended the writ of liberty everywhere in the United States.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Executive Branch/Presidency
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12