Patriotic Holidays: Educational Resources & Lesson Plans
Most students are familiar with our country's patriotic holidays, simply because they have the day off from school on some of them. However, many students do not know the reasons why these patriotic holidays are celebrated. The Internet is a vast resource of knowledge and lessons that teachers can use in teaching the true meaning and significance of patriotic holidays to their students. Using these educational resources and lesson plans, teachers can help their students learn why these holidays are celebrated and help them become more mindful of each special date.
Labor Day started in 1884, when the Knights of Labor Union in New York City held a parade and celebration honoring the working class on the first Monday in September. In 1887, Labor Day was declared a state holiday by Oregon, Colorado, New York, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. It wasn't until 1894 that Congress officially made Labor Day a national holiday. Labor Day now usually signals the end of the summer and the start of a new school year, in addition to its original purpose of celebrating America's working class.
- Labor Day Newspaper: In this lesson, students in grades 3-7 learn about the history of Labor Day in the United States, and then write articles to be compiled into a newspaper.
- Helping Teens Find, Get and Keep a Job: This site provides a Language Arts lesson plan targeted at grades 8 through 12. It teaches students about labor laws for teenagers, how to search for jobs and how to fill out job applications.
- Labor Day Song Lyrics: This teaching song by John McCutcheon helps students learn about the origins and purpose of Labor Day.
- Labor Day Lesson Plan: This site provides a reading comprehension lesson plan for older elementary students about Labor Day.
Constitution Day commemorates the signing of the United States Constitution on September 17, 1787. It celebrates the birth of the U.S. Government. This holiday is also known as Citizenship Day, in which Americans show pride in their citizenship. The idea of Citizenship Day began in 1940, and the date of September 17 was decided by American citizens. The holiday "officially" changed to Constitution Day in 1952.
- Constitution Day Lessons: This site features a variety of Constitution Day lessons for kindergarten through Grade 12.
- Constitution Day Implementation Guide: Sponsored by NASPA, this Constitution Guide helps teachers teach students about the Constitution and the significance of Constitution Day.
- Interactive Constitution: Sponsored by the National Constitution Center, this site features an interactive Constitution, searchable by keyword.
- Charting the Three Branches of Government: This lesson plan targeted at grades 6 through 12 helps students learn about the three branches of government under the Constitution.
- Citizenship Education: This site from the Tom Burnett Family Foundation for middle school students helps educators teach students how to become better citizens.
- European Settlers and Native Americans: Targeted at grades 6 through 8, this site presents a lesson plan focusing on relationships between European settlers and Native Americans.
- Columbus Day Power Point Presentations: This site offers a variety of free Power Point presentations teachers can use to teach students about Columbus Day.
- Famous People - Christopher Columbus: This site by the BBC offers an interactive quiz about Christopher Columbus.
- Columbus Day From a Native American Perspective: Written by a teacher, this site offers a lesson plan for teachers of fourth and fifth grade students to teach about Columbus Day from the point of view of Native Americans.
- Who Writes History? Rethinking Columbus Day: Targeted at grades 5 through 8, this site offers a lesson plan discussing the accuracy of history surrounding Columbus and other historical figures.
- Reader's Theater: Columbus Day: This site offers a play about Columbus Day teachers can use, having students read and act out the various roles.
United Nations Day
United Nations Day was declared in 1947 to be celebrated yearly on October 24. This holiday celebrates the anniversary of the date the Charter of the United Nations was signed. United Nations Day is not only recognized as a holiday in the United States, but also as a public holiday by all states who are members of the United Nations. The entire week containing United Nations Day is dedicated to increasing public awareness of the achievements of the United Nations.
- Lesson Plan: The National WWII Museum: Created by The National WWII Museum, lesson plans that you may print out for your classroom use.
- World Food Programme Lesson Plans: Sponsored by World Food Programme, this site offers classroom activities and lesson plans for grades 5 through 8.
Election Day in the United States is held on the Tuesday following the first Monday in November. The reason that this strange date was selected is twofold. One, when Election Day was established, many Americans were farmers, and were done with the growing season by November. Two, Tuesday was chosen to give Americans who lived far from the polls enough time to get there, even if they lived so far away that they had to leave Monday to do so.
- Getting Out the Vote: An Election Day Classroom Experiment: This lesson plan which can be tailored to teach grades 3 through 12 shows students the importance of voting on Election Day.
- Election Day Lesson Plan: Sponsored by Scholastic, this site offers a lesson plan for grades 3 through 8 to help them follow Election Day coverage.
- POV: Election Day Lesson Plan: Sponsored by the PBS program "POV," this site provides a lesson plan to be used in conjunction with the film "Election Day."
- Lesson Plans: Teaching the Presidential Election: This site by the National Constitution Center offers lesson plans for middle and high school about the Presidential Election and the Electoral College.
- Presidential Election Vocabulary: This site will help you build vocabulary word comprehension skills as well as word-learning strategies related to presidential elections.
Held on November 11, the day that the Armistice ending World War I was signed, Veterans Day is a yearly United States holiday that honors veterans of our military. Around the world, it is often known as Remembrance Day or Armistice Day, as the Armistice was signed by the Germans at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, ending World War I. In 1971, the U.S. Government changed the date of Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October, to comply with the Uniform Monday Holiday Act and make it easier for public schools and businesses to close on that day. They moved the holiday back to its original date, November 11, in 1978.
- What Is Veterans Day? Lesson Plan: This lesson plan for grades 3 through 6 explains the reasons for Veterans Day, focusing on reading comprehension skills.
- Veterans In My Family Lesson Plan: This lesson plan which can be tailored for students from pre-kindergarten through grade 12 creates a visual memory of students' family members who are veterans.
- The Wall Inspires Letters to Veterans Lesson Plan: This lesson plan which can be tailored for students from kindergarten through grade 12 uses Eve Bunting's The Wall to inspire students to write letters to veterans.
- Speakers, Projects Bring Veterans' Stories to Classroom: This site offers teachers a variety of ways to use guest speakers and projects to teach students about veterans.
- This Was War Lesson Plan: This lesson plan from a public school in Florida uses literature to teach students about war.
Originally started as a harvest festival, Thanksgiving today is commonly associated with thanking God for our blessings. It has been celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November since 1863. Although it was conceived as a religious holiday, Thanksgiving is now a widely accepted secular holiday. Children often learn about the Pilgrims coming to America and their first meal with the Native Americans celebrating the first Thanksgiving.
- Free Thanksgiving Presentations in Power Point Format: This site offers free Power Point presentations teachers can use to teach students about Thanksgiving.
- Native Americans in Olden Times: This site provides a variety of lesson plans for different ages to help teachers teach students about how Native Americans lived in the old days.
- Thanksgiving Essay & Bulletin Board: This site provides a lesson plan for middle school language arts students, in which they write an essay on what they're thankful for and help create a bulletin board about Thanksgiving.
- Myth and Truth: The First Thanksgiving Lesson Plan: This site provides a lesson plan for middle school students on myths and facts about the first Thanksgiving.
- Lesson Plan - Thanksgiving: This site offers a lesson plan to teach students about how the Thanksgiving holiday originated and what it means today.
Bill of Rights Day
The first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, also known as the Bill of Rights, came into effect on December 15, 1791, a day which has since come to be known as Bill of Rights Day. The purpose of the Bill of Rights is to set limits on what the federal government can and cannot do. It protects personal liberties such as the right to exercise freedom of religion, free speech, and guarantees due process of law. This day is recognized annually in commemorating the ratification of the Bill of Rights as a symbol of our freedoms.
- Bill of Rights Day Mini Unit: This site provides a unit for fifth grade teachers to use to teach students about the significance of Bill of Rights Day.
- Lesson Plan: Bill of Rights Book: Targeted at grades 4 through 6, this site teaches about the Bill of Rights and what they mean to them.
- Activity Page: Bill of Rights: This site presents an activity for teachers to use with students in determining certain situations which violate the Bill of Rights.
- Bill of Rights Day is Observed: This site offers a classroom activity for grades 5 through 12 on students' rights issues.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a U.S. Federal Holiday which celebrates the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. King advocated nonviolent civil disobedience during his lifetime. He was assassinated in 1968. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day has been celebrated on January 15 annually since 1986 in honor of the birth of this great American.
- King & Civil Rights Lesson Plan Using the Web: This lesson plan has students in groups create a time line on Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights movement using the Internet.
- Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream": This site provides a text version of King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech.
- Non-Violent Protest Through The Ages Curriculum: This site by Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute provides a lesson plan to teach students about the history of non-violent protest, including King.
- King's Letter from Birmingham Jail Lesson Plan: This site by the King Center presents a lesson plan for teachers to teach students in grades 9 through 12 about King's letter from Birmingham jail.
- Mini Unit: Celebrating Martin Luther King Day: This site provides a mini-unit teachers can use with 4th and 5th grade students to teach about the significance of Martin Luther King Day.
Celebrated on the third Monday in February, Presidents Day is a federal holiday that is also known as Washington's Birthday. It was first celebrated on February 22 in 1880 in honor of the birthday of our first President. In 1971, the holiday was changed to the third Monday in February under the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. Today Presidents Day commemorates the birthdays of both George Washington (February 22) and Abraham Lincoln (February 12).
- The Many Powers of the President Lesson Plan: This site for older elementary school students provides a lesson plan in which students learn about the roles and powers of the president.
- Executive Power: Comparing Different Heads of State Around the World: Sponsored by Minnesota Civic Education, this site presents a lesson plan for high school students comparing the powers of international heads of state.
- Presidents at Inauguration Graph: How Old Were They?: This site provides a lesson plan for use in kindergarten through grade 8 in which students graph the presidents' ages at the time of their inauguration.
- Lesson Plan - Who Killed Abraham Lincoln?: This site provides a lesson plan for grades 6 through 12 teaching students about Lincoln's assassination.
- Teacher Guide: George Washington - A National Treasure: This Smithsonian website offers a teacher's guide for teachers to use to teach students about George Washington.
Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday in May. This federal holiday honors U.S. military members who died defending our country. First held in 1866 to honor those who died in the Civil War, Memorial Day was originally held on May 5, then moved to May 30. In 1968, it was changed to the last Monday in May to comply with the Uniform Holidays Bill, creating a three-day weekend. Some say that the true meaning of Memorial Day has been lost since moving the holiday, as it now just signifies a day off work or school to most people.
- Graphing Our History of Sacrifice Lesson Plan: Sponsored by the National Education Association, this site presents a lesson plan for grades 3 through 12 in which students create a graph of men and women who have lost their lives serving in wars.
- Memorial Day Shoebox Parade: This site by the National Education Association offers a lesson plan for grades 3 through 12 in which students make shoebox floats for a mock parade to commemorate different soldiers throughout our history.
- The Memory Shall Be Ours: Celebrating Memorial Day: This site presents an Internet treasure hunt for students to use web resources to learn about Memorial Day.
- Put the Memory Back in Memorial Day: This site offers ideas for teachers to teach students about the meaning and significance of Memorial Day.
- Mapping Your State's Role in the Vietnam War: This site presents a lesson plan for grades kindergarten through 12 in which students create a map showing their state's impact in the Vietnam War.
Held each year on June 14, Flag Day commemorates the date in 1777 that the U.S. flag was adopted nationally, by resolution of the Second Continental Congress. The holiday was proclaimed by President Woodrow Wilson as a national holiday in 1916. An Act of Congress passed in 1949 established National Flag Day as a holiday. Although not an official federal holiday, Flag Day and the week in which it occurs is celebrated nationally and the U.S. flag is displayed on all government buildings during that week.
- Flag Day Web Quest: This site presents a Web Quest for students to use to explore the meaning and significance of Flag Day using the Internet.
- A Salute to Flag Day Lesson Plan: This site offers a lesson plan for teachers to use to teach about Flag Day.
- Stars and Stripes Forever: Flag Facts for Flag Day: This site presents facts about Flag Day and various lesson plans teachers can use to teach students about Flag Day.
- Lesson Plan: Our Flag Throughout History: This site presents a lesson plan for students grades 3 through 12 in which students use the Internet to create a timeline about the history of our flag.
- Interactive Flag: Sponsored by the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, this site offers an interactive American flag that students can click on to learn more about the flag.
Also called the Fourth of July, Independence Day commemorates the date in 1776 when the United States adopted the Declaration of Independence, declaring our nation independent from Great Britain. Perhaps the most publicly patriotic of all holidays, this day is commonly celebrated through parades, fireworks, and barbecues. The Declaration of Independence was actually signed by most delegates on August 2, 1776. In 1938, Independence Day was declared by Congress to be a national paid federal holiday.
- Class Independence Day Ceremony: This site offers a unit teachers can use to teach about Independence Day, including vocabulary, flag information, monuments information, and more.
- Lesson Plan: Independence Hall: International Symbol of Freedom: This site presents a lesson plan for teachers to use to explain the significance of Independence Hall.
- Independence Day Lesson Plan: This lesson plan is targeted at older elementary students and works on vocabulary and comprehension in teaching about Independence Day.
- The Pledge of Allegiance Unit: This site presents a unit for 5th graders that helps them understand the meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance.