Material that will help students research, critique, and apply the work of America's first president.
- Describe the life and contributions of George Washington
- Identify the thirteen colonies, French and Indian War, Revolutionary War, Constitution, and appointment of the first U.S. president as significant developments in U.S. history
- Describe a variety of images and infer information from them about Washington and U.S. history
- Write an opinion essay about George Washington and his impact on U.S. history
- Conduct further reading and research about George Washington, other U.S. presidents, and early U.S. history
Proper nouns: George Washington, United States of America, Westmoreland Country, Virginia, Mount Vernon, Washingtons, England, American Indians, Ohio Valley, English, French and Indian War, Martha Custis, Revolutionary War, General Washington, British, Christmas Day, Delaware River, Trenton, New Jersey, Hessian, German, Valley Forge, France, Yorktown, Virginia, U.S. Constitution, Whiskey Rebellion, Father of His Country
Descriptive/action words: serious, grumpy, tightly, unusual, friendly, certain, invited, chat, nicely, explore, measures, surveying, hunted, angry, brave, volunteer, dangerous, elected, earlier, busy, badly, fighting, treating, difficult, powerful, completely, surprised, wettest, snowiest, coldest, strongest, loyal, trapped, smart, handsome, remarkable, convince, hated, limited, willing, promised, protect, organize, argue, disagree, different, enforce
Washington words: tobacco farm, Virginia, wealthy, student, surveyor, leader, soldier, career, general, president
Colony and United States words: thirteen colonies, citizen, army, governor, taxation, freedom, commander, king, battles, new country, war, elected, first president, rights, mint, banks, U.S. Post Office, advisors, members, government, taxes
Dates: 1700s, 1732, 1775, 1776, 1777, 1781, 1789, 1799
- Copies of George Washington by Mike Venezia
- Whiteboard or chart paper and markers
- Optional: KWL Chart printable
For Lesson Extensions
- Copies of companion text, James Madison by Mike Venezia
- Optional: Venn Diagram printable
Step 1: Share the cover, title, title page, and author/illustrator of George Washington. Ask students to describe what they see on the cover and title page, and to predict what this book is about and if it is fiction or nonfiction.
Step 2: Ask students what they know and want to know about George Washington, including the image on the cover. Create a KWL chart to capture the information, and tell students you will revisit after reading.
Step 3: Read the book aloud, pointing out the art and captions and pausing as needed to explain words or phrases.
Step 4: As you read, or after you are finished, have students help you gather and sort words (See vocabulary lists above): proper nouns, descriptive/action words, Washington words, colony and United States words, dates, etc. Discuss how key words are connected, and how some overlap into different categories.
Step 5: Give each student or group a copy of the book and have them read the text again to answer in writing the following text- dependent questions. Guide students to cite evidence from the text as needed by modeling, thinking aloud, and discussing as a class. Have groups share their evidence-based answers and inferences.
- What is the main idea of this text? (George Washington’s life and his connections and contributions to early U.S. history) What words does the author use to describe George Washington and his life?
- How do the images add information to the text? Why do you think the text includes a variety of images, including illustrations, paintings, portraits, and maps?
- Choose three images and describe them. What questions do you have about the images? How could you find out more about them?
- What information can you infer from the map image on p. 9? How does this map look different from a U.S. map today?
- On page 20, why is George Washington called General Washington? Why was Washington needed as a commander of the thirteen colonies? Why were they fighting England?
- Compare and contrast the illustration on the cover and the famous painting on p. 22, George Washington Crossing the Delaware. Describe the historical event pictured.
- Read these sentences on p. 28: “One reason people trusted George Washington so much was that he had done something quite remarkable. George Washington had turned down the chance to be king.” From this context, what does the word remarkable mean? Use this word in a sentence of your own.
- Why was George Washington chosen as a leader again and again? Why did he refuse to be a king of the United States? What did he become instead?
- Summarize the many contributions George Washington made to the United States.
Step 6: Revisit the KWL chart to add, confirm, and correct information.
Step 7: Have students write an opinion essay to answer one of the following questions. Guide them to cite evidence from the text to support their opinion. Allow students to share or argue their essays with the class.
- Do you think the colonists were justified in fighting for independence from England? Why or why not?
- Which of George Washington’s qualities made him best suited to be a good leader?
- Which of George Washington’s contributions was the most significant in American history?
As a companion text, read James Madison by Mike Venezia about the fourth U.S. president and Father of the Constitution. Compare and contrast the two texts and set of images, perhaps using a Venn diagram. Discuss how Washington and Madison were similar and different, and how their contributions to the United States overlap in many ways. Point out the mention of slavery, the Declaration of Independence, the more in-depth explanation of the Constitution, and the War of 1812 in the companion text, as well as additional information about Washington. You may choose to read other titles from the series, including John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, and do a three- or four-way comparison. Some students may write a compare and contrast essay.
Using the dates in the featured text (and companion text if chosen), have students create timelines portraying the main events of George Washington’s life (and James Madison’s) and the surrounding developments in U.S. history. Have students add art to their timelines and present them to the class.
Differentiation: Write an opinion essay together, modeling how to state and support an opinion using the text. Create a class timeline. You may assign various extension activities to different groups of students by ability.
Have students research to learn more about George Washington and significant developments in U.S. history: the thirteen colonies, slavery, the French and Indian War, England’s taxation of the colonies, the Revolutionary War, the crossing of the Delaware, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the organization of the U.S. government (mint, post office) and banks, other presidents, the War of 1812, etc. Students may search photographs, primary documents, and other items through the Library of Congress. Have students write informational reports and share with the class.
Have students research to learn more about the history of Virginia, the home of eight U.S. presidents: Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Harrison, Tyler, Taylor, and Wilson. Discuss how Virginia has changed over time, and the historic houses people visit today, e.g., Mt. Vernon and Monticello. Have students study the map of the thirteen colonies on p. 9 of the featured text, and discuss how the United States has changed over time.
Have students use their opinion essays to form debate teams. Guide them in arguing their points about George Washington’s best qualities and contributions, and other developments in U.S. history, using evidence from the text as support. If using the companion text(s), have students argue points about James Madison, such as whether his role in the writing of the Constitution was more significant than Thomas Jefferson’s role in writing the Declaration of Independence, etc.
Using the vocabulary lists, have students group words into categories: proper nouns, descriptive/action words, colonial and United States words, etc. Create word clouds and add to them. You may also include some words students used in their opinion essays, timelines, and informational reports.
Show students pictures of the Washington Monument on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and explain that the obelisk structure was built to commemorate Washington as commander-in-chief and first president. Point out that the capital city itself is also named after George Washington.
Show students George Washington’s face on a dollar bill and quarter. You may also choose to show students other portrayals of founding fathers on currency, such as a picture of James Madison on a five thousand dollar bill.
- Compare and contrast George Washington and John Adams.
- What qualities do you think are important in a leader/U.S. president? Would you like to be president? Why or why not?
- Why do you think so many presidents came from Virginia?
- Compare and contrast the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
Read a poem about George Washington, such as “George Washington” by Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benet, or a poem about early U.S. history. Students may write their own poems.
Study the various images in George Washington. Discuss the differences among the maps, illustrations, historic portraits, and famous paintings. Discuss the humor used in the illustrations. Research to find out more about the events pictured in the paintings, e.g., George Washington Crossing the Delaware and George Washington and Lafayette at Valley Forge.
Read the legend “George Washington and the Cherry Tree.” Discuss the difference between a myth or legend and a true story. Guide the conversation about why this legend may have been created about Washington.
Listen to songs about George Washington and other presidents at the Songs for Teaching website. Listen to U.S. anthems such as “The Star-Spangled Banner,” “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” and “America the Beautiful” and discuss the historical references.
Featured 4-5 ELA Common Core State Standards
- RI.4.2/RI.5.2: Determine the main idea of a text and explain how it is supported by key details; summarize the text.
- W.4.1/W.5.1: Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information.
- SL.4.1/SL.5.1: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions with diverse partners on grade 4/5 topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.
- L.4.4/L.5.4: Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grade 4/5 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.