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Online Lesson Plan
The Presidents Song

  Suzanne Ratzlaff  
Use a singing exercise to help students learn the names of the presidents. You can even produce your own Star Search episode after students add their own lyrics to the song.

Lesson Plan by Suzanne Ratzlaff, Fourth Grade Heartland Community Schools, Henderson, Nebraska.


Objectives

Suggested Grade Level – 3rd-5th and 6th-8th. The student will:

As a learner

  • memorize and sing “The Presidents Song,” while learning the presidents' names in order from Washington to Coolidge;
  • compose lyrics to “The Presidents Song,” to include all the presidents up to the current president;
  • read, discuss, and discover the presidency of FDR during the Depression and his New Deal program.

As a reader

  • apply reading strategies that are content area specific to the Great Depression and the New Deal program.

StandardsAs a writer

  • write creatively by adding names to the song;
  • recognize the connections between writing and music;
  • relate writing to producing songs;
  • acquire specific terminology and vocabulary in order to articulate higher levels of thinking through music.

As a speaker

  • communicate as a group while performing a song.

As a listener

  • retain, use, and apply information incorporating prior knowledge and experience.


Introduction

   

"Bell Ringer"
Dressed in a prairie bonnet or a pair of suspenders and white shirt, welcome your class as they enter the room. While swinging a ruler, introduce yourself as Mrs. Crabtree or Mr. Crabapple and inform them it is time for class to begin. Don’t forget to slap your desk with the ruler! Start with the flag salute and then do an old-fashioned roll call, by having each student say present when his/her name is called. Next, inform the class that they have one minute to write the names of the first ten presidents in order. “Go!”
When the minute is up, have some of the brave students read their answers. This could be interesting. Then inform them that you know a song with the names of all the presidents in order, starting with Washington and ending with Coolidge. Now this is where you have to be brave and sing. The lyrics to “The Presidents Song” goes to the tune of “Yankee Doodle.” Just remember, the kids will love it if you sing for them, so be daring. (If you don’t have the courage, read “For Chickens Only” in the advice section of this lesson plan.)

Here are the lyrics to “The President Song.”


The Resources

Materials needed –

  • Old-fashioned costume – a ruler, plus a bonnet for women, suspenders and white shirt for men;
  • Copies of “The President Song” lyrics; [see above]
  • Computers with Internet access

Links from within the Wessels Living History Farm site. [Note that clicking on these links will open a new browser window. Just close it and you'll be back to this page.] Direct the students to these pages to learn about the Depression and FDR’s New Deal Programs.

Other links:

  • “The President Song” has the names of all the presidents from George Washington to Calvin Coolidge. It is sung to the tune of “Yankee Doodle.” [The lyrics are here.]
  • The following video was produced by Nebraska Public Television around 1980, and in the section titled “Good Old Golden Rule Days” a grandfather sings “The Presidents Song” to his granddaughter. When he was in school, Coolidge had been the president.
    • We Are One
      Nebraska Studies Video
      Unit III
      Banbrytare
      “Good Old Golden Rule Days”
  • To learn more about the presidents of the United States, visit this web site:
    http://www.whitehouse.gov/history/presidents/

The Process

After singing the song to the class, discuss when and why it would be important to know the names of the presidents in order. Then discuss why the song ends with Coolidge. When would this song have been written? When was he President?

Next, pass out copies of the lyrics and practice singing the song. After a few times, tell them that their homework tonight is to learn the first stanza. Check them in the morning by singing together. Continue for the next few days until the whole song has been learned. Let them know that next week they have to write the names of the presidents in their correct order from Washington to Coolidge. Hence, a purpose for learning the song.

At the end of the week, have the class find the names of the next two presidents after Coolidge. Who was President when the Depression began? (Hoover) Continue discussing the Depression and the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Have the students access the Wessels web site and visit these links to learn more about the Depression and FDR’s New Deal Programs.


Learning Advice

Timeline – The initial introduction should take about 30 minutes. Practicing the song should take five to ten minutes each day for one week. Connecting the presidents to the time of the Depression and studying information from the Wessels site will take 45 to 60 minutes. The final assessment, when the students write the names of the presidents, will take about 20 minutes. Give the students a few days for composing and have a class period set aside for the “Presidents Song Star Search.”

Some children will open up and shine when asked to perform while other retreat into a shell. This activity should be presented in a way that takes away all “fear.” If the teacher makes a mistake, mixes up a name in the song, or sings a bit off tune, that‘s great. Once kids know that it’s ok to make mistakes, they will be much more willing to take chances.

For Chickens Only: If you are too chicken to perform in front of the class, tape you or your school’s vocal music teacher singing the song, and then play it back to the class.


Conclusion

Presidents Song Star Search – Update the song by having the students write more verses to include all of the presidents up to the current one. Then have these young composers perform their new songs to the whole class, as well as a panel of judges. The students could create and perform as a group or there might be some brave, young soul who wants to compose alone. Who knows, there could even be an accompanist in the group. This song could be turned into a “Rap,” so let their creative juices flow! Why not serve some popcorn and enjoy!


Assessment Activity

Assess the students by having them write the names of all the presidents in order starting with Washington and ending with Coolidge.

Have the class learn the updated version and then be assessed by writing all the presidents’ names in order up to the current President.


General Notes

Where Did This Song Come From? Years ago it was quite common to sing songs in order to learn information and that is exactly when “The Presidents Song” originated. The following video was produced by Nebraska Public Television around 1980, and in the section, titled “Good Old Golden Rule Days,” a grandfather sings “The Presidents Song” to his granddaughter. When he was in school, Coolidge had been the President. Dig around in your school’s media center or look up the fourth grade teacher, and you might just find it.

We Are One
Nebraska Studies Video
Unit III
Banbrytare
“Good Old Golden Rule Days”

To learn more about the presidents of the United States, visit this web site:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/history/presidents/

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