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Unit studies are one of my favorite ways to teach, so I was looking forward to the opportunity to review the White House Holidays Unit Studies by Silverdale Press LLC. Typically, when you hear of holiday unit studies you think Thanksgiving and Christmas. These holiday unit studies include so much more!
Holidays provide a natural learning opportunity that appeal to children of all ages. Kids love to celebrate holidays and that makes them a perfect learning opportunity. The White House Holidays Unit Studies provides everything you need for an engaging unit study for these holidays:
White House Holiday Unit Studies
The White House Holidays Unit Studies teach students the history behind American holidays. What was happening in the White House? How did our presidents celebrate? One unit study covers kindergarten – high school, but each lesson is broken down into recommended age sections. My kids are in 5th and 8th grade and I used both sections, depending on the lesson. I previewed the reading and activities in advance (seriously only took a few minutes) and decided what was the best fit for my kids for each topic. This lets the curriculum grow with children, but also provides flexibility for families teaching more than one grade level.
These lessons are extremely well written and full of facts. Politics are obviously discussed because the lessons include information about how presidents are involved with the holidays, but I found it to be nonpartisan and solely fact based. There were no opinions – which is important to me when discussing politics with my kids.
The facts were backed up with plenty of primary sources. I love using primary sources, but it can be time intensive to dig them up. Research takes time. The primary sources included photographs, transcripts of speeches, videos of news reports, audio clips of speeches, and even images of handwritten letters. Every single lesson included primary sources to back up the claims. This was my favorite part of the lessons.
Each unit also included at least one hands-on project. The projects were simple, but relevant to the lesson. They used common supplies that most families already have around the house – such as crayons, paper, and glue. These are completely optional and geared mostly for the elementary grades, but I tried to always include at least one per unit.
How My Family Used the White House Holiday Unit Studies
We began our first holiday unit study right after getting settled in our new house. Our time-line didn’t line up with any of the included holidays, so I selected Labor Day for our first unit. It was the next holiday on our calendar, and honestly, I knew next to nothing about Labor Day. I needed the lesson plan as much as my children!
All I really knew about Labor Day was that most people had the day off of work. I had never really stopped to even realize that I didn’t know much about Labor Day.
I was blown away by the amount of information included!
The Labor Day unit includes 3 lessons and we spent about a week on each lesson. We needed multiple days for each lesson to truly do it justice. This gave us plenty of time to read the lesson, check out the primary sources, do any related activities, and really think about the topic. Some of the topics are big and heavy. Studying each lesson for an entire week allowed us time to kick around our thoughts and dive deep.
We learned about Eleanor Roosevelt and her involvement with child labor laws, the Pullman strike, the first Labor Day parade, and the declaration of the holiday. We even made our own fair labor practice posters using quotes from actual posters and had our own little parade for Dad.
At the end of this unit study, Ben was working on a writing assignment writing a historical fiction story. I told him to pick a time in history that he knew a lot about. He picked the lead up to Labor Day because he was now a “Labor Day expert”. I love it when my kids naturally incorporate knowledge from one subject into another!
I thought I knew a bit about Martin Luther King, Jr. Day before we began this unit study. I was wrong. Sure, I knew the basics, but there was so much I didn’t know.
The MLK Jr. Day holiday unit study includes 5 lessons. It also includes a timeline and map of the USA. We read the information, plotted important dates on the timeline, and marked significant places on the map for every lesson. Martin Luther King Jr was featured, but it also provides a lot of information about civil rights.
We learned about Martin Luther King’s early life, his involvement with President Eisenhower, President Kennedy, and President Johnson, Rosa Parks and the bus boycott, integration of schools, and the impact of peaceful protesting.
It was an eye opening experience for my kids.
We typically study history chronologically and haven’t reached this time period in our history book yet, so they were absolutely shocked and horrified to read about the hatred and brutality people faced, just trying to go about their lives.
The primary sources for this unit were amazing. We watched an interview with members of the church committee that hired Dr. King, examined photographs, listened to President Kennedy deliver a news conference, listened to Martin Luther King, Jr deliver his infamous I Have A Dream speech, and tried to take a ‘literacy’ test that was given to African American voters. There is something about listening to a speech in the original speakers voice that is powerful.
This was an inspiring unit. When my kids heard that Dr. King was assassinated at only 39 years old they were impressed that he had accomplished so much in such a short life. They pointed out that I am 38 and have never met with a president or helped change laws. Clearly, I better get busy.
I am going to add the remaining holiday unit studies to my lesson plan book because I don’t want to miss anything. The lessons were all so wonderful and thought out. It really saves me a ton of planning and research time. I can’t wait to study the rest of the holidays
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