Presidents Day

Presidents Day is a day in America where we celebrate the great leaders of our past. It’s a time that I really enjoy sharing fun stories about these great men (and someday women), that the kids don’t expect.

I read presidential stories to more than one grade level, but these are my favorite stories.

The second grade students love this rhyming story about how George Washington lost all of his teeth. I always ask before we read what the kids know about his teeth, and most say that his false teeth were wooden. We find out in the book though, that his teeth were carved from hippo ivory. They were probably uncomfortable though, and I’ve read online that they were stained with Washington’s favorite drink.

I need to read up on it more, but while looking for this image, I saw an article where the claim was made that Washington’s false teeth came from his slaves. As I said, that idea deserves further research.

We also enjoy George Washington’s Birthday, where some of the common misconceptions about George are dispelled. No, he did not cut down the cherry tree.

A fan favoritewith the kids is President Taft Is Stuck In the Bath by Mac Barnett.

Most kids have never heard of Taft, but they love this outrageous story, perfectly illustrated by Chris Van Dusen. It’s a fun story because we don’t know if it’s true. It’s a fun way to reinforce the point that if we weren’t there in person, we just don’t know.

Teddy Roosevelt was another great president, whom we have to thank for the creation of our National Parks system. The kids enjoy the book The Camping Trip That Changed America and Teedie as well as other books about this colorful family man.

We read a lot about Abraham Lincoln, our school being named after him, so I like to read books to them about parts of his life they may not know s lot about.

I adore Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek by Deborah Hopkinson, and the kids appreciate the story Robert Burleigh tells in Abraham Lincoln Comes Home.

I also tell them about the sadder parts of Lincoln’s story, his sons.

I don’t do a lot of other specific presidents, but I display as much as I can. Sadly, I don’t own a book on every president yet. I need to write a grant to buy a new set.

Whether you agree with a presidents policies or not, it is a huge job to become the commander in chief. The kids learned that when we read, If I Were President. I explained it like this:

It’s not easy to make everyone happy. Let’s say You are president of Mrs. O’s room. You have to buy 1 pizza to make all of the kids happy. Some only want cheese. Some can’t live without pepperoni, and some want vegetables too. Oh, and there’s always that one kid that wants tacos instead. Not so easy after all.


Groundhogs Day

For Americans, and Canadians, it seems, there is no better predictor for spring than a groundhog and his shadow. Yeah, it’s a bit sketchy, but it’s s fun tradition that would be difficult to find offense in, so we get to have fun with it at school. The kids predicted whether or not Phil would see his shadow, and I found a lot of fun books to share with them. Truth be told, there aren’t a ton of great lower-grade groundhog stories available, but here is what I found:

I have kindergarten twice each week so I started the week with simple nonfiction about groundhogs and shadows.

Then for their second class, they got to watch a Peep and the Big Wide World episode where Peep, Chirp and Quack teach a young groundhog about shadows. You can watch it here.

First grade got to come twice this last week too, so first we read The Black Rabbit about a rabbit who is scared of his own shadow.

There was time to spare so I also read Moonbear’s Shadow by Frank Asch to them.

They loved Moonbear, so I think I’ll find other ways to work his stories in. I didn’t read to them as kindergarteners so they aren’t familiar with him.

For their Friday class, we read a really fun book about a little girl groundhog who doesn’t act like the rest of the groundhogs in her family.

Phyllis wants to be a Punxsutawney Phil, like her uncle, but she is told that Phil is always a fellow.

Phyllis doesn’t deny her instincts though, and one cold day in February, she realizes an early spring is coming, even though Uncle Phil misses the signs.

I really liked this book. I am excited because she has a second book about another hard-to-find holiday: April Fools Day.

We had a couple of minutes after we read about Phyllis so we decided to learn some facts about groundhogs from Gail Gibbons. If you aren’t familiar with her picture-book nonfiction titles, you should go find them!

We learned that groundhogs are also called woodchucks, they live about 3-5 years and there are other groundhog weather predictors besides Phil.

  • Chuck Wood lives in Los Angelos
  • Unadilla Bill lives in Unadilla, Nebraska
  • Sir Walter Wally lives in Raleigh, North Carolina
  • General Lee lives in Atlanta, Georgia

There are many more, as I found in this article from Time magazine.