Putting on a Presidents’ Day show gives your students a chance to shine while simultaneously helping them retain valuable information about history. Whether you start with a pre-written play or create your own, it is surprisingly easy to put on a show your kids will enjoy and remember for years to come.
Choose a Story
You can either create your own story based on one of the Presidents you are learning about, or you can use a professionally written piece. There are advantages to both—if you enjoy writing, you have the ability to tailor the program to your class size, the subjects you are learning about, and the abilities of your students. If time is an issue, purchasing a pre-written program can help tremendously. Most come with various parts for more student involvement, as well as tips for costuming and production.
Cast the Parts
Ideally, your Presidents’ Day show will have a part for everyone. You can often split narrator roles or other parts to allow more than one student to read a passage or complete an action if needed. There are several ways to handle part assignments, including:
- Auditions: Auditions give your young performers a chance to shine, and if you include a questionnaire that asks which part they are most interested in, you’ll see some self-sorting as well. An audition also allows you to spot any flight risks (young kids who might abandon the stage altogether), and those who don’t try out will likely prefer a background part. Auditions are tough—be prepared to enlist the help of another objective party if you are concerned about fairness or who you are placing in each role.
- Targeted Placement: Assign roles based on your knowledge of the class and students and which kids will be willing to perform in front of an audience. Presidents’ Day is midway through the month, so you should have a pretty good idea of which kids will work with which roles. This may be the easiest method, but be wary of hurt feelings when you select the leading roles.
- Random Placement: Place all the roles into a hat (try a Lincoln stovepipe to match the theme) and have kids draw a role from the hat. This ensures fairness, but you might end up with your shyest students in critical roles or your most active extroverts in the background. Be open to suggestions if some students want to switch parts early on, but also encourage them to be willing to expand their comfort zone.
You’ll need an audience, so include the time and date of the performance in your class newsletter and on the school calendar. If you are going to perform for parents, then a warmup at school (particularly one done for the younger grades) can help build everyone’s confidence.
Create Costumes and Props
You don’t need complex props, but a simple hat, apron, or wardrobe change can build excitement and make the kids feel like they are part of a big production. Ask for anything needed from home well in advance and check for related art projects that do double duty—some creations can be made in art class and then worn or carried on stage.
Your kids will love the idea of performing a show, and the kinesthetic nature of performing ensures they’ll retain the information learned as well. Adding movement, performance, and even art to your Presidents’ Day show will capture student interest and help them gain and retain information in a whole new way.