It’s the month of celebrating love, friendship, slightly warmer weather, and the monumental legacies of people who have made lasting impacts in American history. This February, honor the lives of Black Americans and U.S. presidents with your students. Enjoy free resources, lesson planning ideas, and more in this month’s “Historical Happenings.” And remember – warmer and brighter days are ahead (and Spring Break)!
Black History Month Lessons & Activities
Originally started as a week-long celebration in 1926 by the Association for the Study of the African American Life and History (ASALH) and Carter G. Woodson, Black History Month recognizes and honors the achievements of Black Americans. This Black History Month, teach your students about the lives and legacies of African Americans and their contributions to science, American politics, the Civil Rights Movement, and beyond with these lesson plans and activities.
1. Listen to the “I Have a Dream” Speech – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington, a Civil Rights rally held in Washington D.C., on August 28, 1963. The full recording and transcript of the speech are available on NPR’s website.
While listening to the speech, students can follow along by reading the transcript and highlighting words and phrases that stand out to them. Afterward, ask your students to share what they highlighted and why they think these phrases and words are significant.
Allow this time of sharing to turn into a candid and thought-provoking discussion. A few questions you can ask your students to get the conversation started are:
What are some similarities between the issues Dr. King addressed in 1963 and the issues that we face today?
Dr. King said, “Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.” What do you think he meant by “soul force”? List examples from his speech to support your answer.
Dr. King uses lots of imagery throughout his speech. Which words or phrases create images in your mind? How do these images make you feel?
2. Experience Virtual Exhibitions – Virtual field trips mean there’s no need to get permission slips signed and charter a school bus in order for students to experience art and history exhibits. These online programs are excellent ways for students to see paintings and photographs made by Black artists, learn about the lives of influential Black Americans through historical documents and artifacts, and listen to music made by Black musicians without ever having to leave the classroom. Below are a list of must-see – and free – exhibits.
African American Artists, Smithsonian American Art Museum
Virtual Exhibitions, National Museum of African American History and Culture
Archives of African American Music and Culture, Archives of African American Music & Culture Museum
Frederick Douglas National Historic Site, National Park Service
Portraits of African Americans, Google Arts
3. Analyze Primary Sources – Help your students cultivate their higher-level thinking skills by analyzing primary sources from the Civil Rights Movement. Our free "Civil Rights Primary Sources Analysis" instructs students to examine quotes from Civil Rights leaders and dissect their meanings.
For more resources related to Black History Month, be sure to check out our Black Heritage titles.
Presidents’ Day – Monday, Feb. 21, 2022: Lessons & Activities
They’re the defenders of democracy, and on this holiday, we commemorate the presidents’ legacies and celebrate their achievements. Presidents’ Day is an excellent opportunity to teach your students about the role presidents play in the U.S. government. Below are some ideas and activities to get you started!
1. Learn About the Roles of the President – From being the head of the Executive Branch to being the commander-in-chief of the U.S. Armed Forces, the president of the United States wears a lot of hats. Students can learn more about the president’s roles and responsibilities using our “Branches of Government” lessons and graphic organizers.
2. Listen, Read, and Watch Presidential Addresses – Some of the most memorable speeches in American history were delivered by presidents. President John F. Kennedy’s most quotable words, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” came from his inaugural address in 1961. During the bleakest time in America in 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt offered his countrymen encouragement in the face of the Great Depression with the words, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
These speeches are powerful examples of the hope presidents can inspire in Americans. Your class can listen to and watch (except for the “Gettysburg’s Address” for obvious reasons) these addresses found on the presidential libraries’ websites. These sites also provide lesson plans to help your students dive deeper into the speeches’ historical significance.
From biographies to activity books, our Presidents Collection offers excellent resources for more ways to incorporate Presidents’ Day into your instruction.