President's Day is a great time to learn about influential people in our nation's history. Many Social Studies curriculums want elementary students to learn about multiple famous people, such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, or Abraham Lincoln. When learning about more than one famous person, I like to do activities where students have to compare and contrast two people. I believe this strategy helps students make valuable connections, rather than just reading facts. Keep reading to find out why comparing and contrasting requires higher-level thinking and snag some ideas you can use with your elementary learners this President's Day and beyond!
If you look at the model below of Bloom's Taxonomy, you will see that "compare and contrast" fits into the "Analyze" level, which is third from the top. In Bloom's Taxonomy, tasks are considered more rigorous and complex the higher they are on the scale. So "Create" is the most complex and "Remember" is the simplest type of task for a learner. Even our youngest learners should be pushed beyond simply remembering and reciting information to us! When we ask students to compare and contrast, they will engage in higher-level thinking in order to analyze the information they read and draw conclusions.
Compare and Contrast Activity for 1st and 2nd Graders
I created a resource for early elementary students to compare and contrast George Washington and Thomas Jefferson--two famous presidents and native Virginians! The resource includes short passages about each person and graphic organizers for students to record their ideas. One version of the organizer is blank and one includes fill-in-the-blanks for students who need more support.
Compare and Contrast Activity for 3rd Graders
The book is formatted in a way that makes the information clear about each man. Also, many students will have background knowledge about Abraham Lincoln so this book would serve as a great bridge to learning about an unfamiliar president. Here is an example of the clear formatting that compares the two men:
Here are two free graphic organizers you could use for this activity. The first Compare and Contrast Graphic Organizer is from Read Write Think. The second one is an open-ended Compare and Contrast Blank Graphic Organizer that I made. It is similar to a Venn Diagram but allows more room for students to record their ideas! Enjoy!
Compare and Contrast Activity for 4th and 5th Graders
A great activity for fourth and fifth graders would be to read a "Who Was..." book and then compare and contrast themselves with that famous person! Alternately, students could each read a different "Who Was..." book and then partner up and compare facts.
There are TONS of "Who Was..." books. If you want to stick to presidents, the series currently includes: Thomas Jefferson, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Barack Obama, Franklin Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, Ulysses S. Grant, and Woodrow Wilson. Here is a presidential 5-pack that could get your started!
There are also books featuring these First ladies: Abigail Adams, Eleanor Roosevelt, Jacqueline Kennedy, Hillary Clinton, and Michelle Obama.
Here are some free graphic organizers I found that can help students with note-taking as they read:
Here's one more graphic organizer that has a digital option!
Let me know if you try out any of these activities! Happy President's Day!