Putting on a show for Presidents’ Day gives your students a chance to shine – and helps them retain valuable information about history, too. 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, then you have the ability to tailor your program to your class size, the subjects you are learning about and the abilities of your students. If time is an issue, purchasing a prewritten program can help tremendously; most come with a variety of parts and tips for costuming and production, too.
Cast the Parts
Ideally, your 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 assignment, 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 gives you the chance 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 your class and students, and which kids will both be willing to perform and likely to do so in front of an audience. Presidents’ Day is midway through the year, 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 “big” roles.
- Random Placement: Place all of 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 key roles – or your most active extroverts in the background.
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 that they’ll retain the information learned as well. Adding movement, performance and even art to your Presidents’ Day plans helps capture kids’ interest and helps them gain and retain information in a whole new way.