Activities for all ages, CCSS-ready lesson plans, and more.
Pillars of Character
Standard Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.4
What You Need: Lincoln Tells a Joke: How Laughter Saved the President (and the Country), by Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer; bulletin-board paper; scissors; pencils; markers or crayons
What to Do: Explore events that shaped Lincoln’s character by reading aloud Lincoln Tells a Joke. Point out that the final illustration shows the Lincoln Memorial, and share photos of the memorial and the text inscribed behind the statue: “In this temple as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the Union, the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever.” Discuss what these lines might mean, explaining that “saved the Union” refers to a fact in the book (that Lincoln’s brilliant and often humorous speeches helped keep the North and South together). Note that two of these speeches are carved on the memorial walls.
Next, have pairs or small groups create pillars for a Lincoln Memorial display. Cut white bulletin-board paper into long, pillar-like strips, and give one strip to each group. On separate paper, have groups draft the following elements: a short poem about President Lincoln, one word that describes him and why, a strong belief Lincoln held, and the group’s favorite Lincoln joke from the book.
Have students inscribe their final text on the “pillar” in pencil and outline it in markers or crayons, adding illustrations if they wish. Line up the pillars on a bulletin board display, adding a horizontal white strip to the top and bottom to make the roof and steps of the “memorial.”
Standard Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.3
What You Need: The White House: A Pop-Up of Our Nation’s Home, by Robert Sabuda; construction paper; drawing paper; rulers; markers, crayons, or watercolors; scissors
What to Do: Students can make eye-popping biographies using a simple pop-up book technique. First, present The White House, a
three-dimensional tour through White House history. (If you’re not able to buy the book, watch this video of Sabuda showing the interior pages.) Then, tell students they will each choose one president from the book as a subject for their own pop-up book.
Adapt Sabuda’s instructions for making a pop-up layer as follows: Give each student four sheets of
light-colored construction paper. They should fold the sheets in half and use a ruler to draw and cut two parallel two-inch lines perpendicular to the crease, centered along the edge and one inch apart. Unfold the paper, and push the “tab” so that it pokes out from the paper base, making a pop-up feature.
Next, have kids make storyboards to plan their biographies. These should include important events in their president’s life, with two to three sentences per biography page. As they research, they should choose an image to pop out on each page, such as a picture of Abraham Lincoln’s stovepipe hat or Mount Rushmore. Have students draw these images (or print ones they find online) on separate sheets of paper and cut them out. Show students how to glue a picture to the front of a pop-up tab to make it “jump out” when the page is opened. They can illustrate the background behind each pop-out image and write the biography text on the facing page. Glue or staple the pages together to make books.
Founding Fathers Scrapbook
Standard Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.4
What You Need: The Founding Fathers!: Those Horse-Ridin’, Fiddle-Playin’, Book-Readin’, Gun-Totin’ Gentlemen Who Started America, by Jonah Winter; construction paper; drawing paper; scissors; glue; markers or crayons
What to Do: Our nation’s founders were so revered that it’s easy to forget they were people just like the rest of us. The Founding Fathers! reminds us of that. After sharing background information from the introduction, pass out copies of the pages on George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison. Read each biography aloud, sharing colorful details such as shoe size, nickname, even the amount of cheese owned! Ask students how these bios are different from others they’ve read (they include more humorous personal details). Next, show examples of scrapbook pages. Point out that a scrapbook is a personal diary that includes snippets from important events—like photos, newspaper clippings, etc. Have each student choose one Founding Father and create a scrapbook page that person might have made. Tell them they can include fun items—such as a drawing of a favorite pet or a lock of hair from a powdered wig—as well as things that represent important historical events. Also, encourage students to mix media—for example, using a twig to represent a branch of a cherry tree for Washington’s scrapbook. Remind them that any diary text should be written from the point of view of the Founding Father, using “I.”
Persuade the President
Standard Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.4
What You Need: Miss Paul and the President: The Creative Campaign for Women’s Right to Vote, by Dean Robbins; construction paper; markers or crayons
What to Do: Read Miss Paul and the President, the true story of the woman in a purple hat who helped persuade President Woodrow Wilson to support women’s suffrage. As you read, point out techniques Alice Paul used to draw attention to her cause: a parade, speeches, letters, and even a dramatic publicity stunt in which women got jailed on purpose. Discuss the steps (described in the author’s note) of getting the law passed: presidential support, the passage of an amendment, and the approval of 36 states. Then, tell students they can amend classroom rules for one day if they persuade you, the “president,” to support their proposed changes; a majority of the classroom “Congress” must approve the changes. Have students work in groups of three or four to decide on a proposed change and use persuasive tools—such as posters, letters, or even performances—to present the idea to you. After each group presents, decide whether to send the proposal to Congress or send it back for revision, explaining your reasoning as you do. For each bill you support, the rest of the class should vote on whether to add it as an amendment to the classroom rules for the day.
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