Active Engagement on Presidents' Day

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SWBAT complete two activities while reading short texts about Presidents' Day to increase engagement and show understanding.

Big Idea

While reading independently, students will code two short texts on Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. After sharing their work with partners, students will then complete a 3-2-1 activity to show what they learned from the passages.

Unit Introduction

Celebrations aren’t always about planning and hosting a party. Oftentimes in our classroom, we celebrate by learning the “how” and “why” behind important holidays or recognize student achievements. The lessons housed within this unit showcase work completed on a variety of “celebration days.” Several include reproducibles that were made with graphics from Kevin and Amanda’s Fonts, Teaching in a Small Town, and Melonheadz Illustrating.


Setting a Purpose

Over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed that my students aren’t as engaged as I’d like while reading. Oftentimes they appear to be focusing or really into a book only to have nothing to say about their reading experience once finished. So I created a few lessons that incorporate active engagement strategies and plan to use them over the next few weeks. Today is a perfect time to do this as we’re learning about Presidents’ Day. Students will read short informational texts about two presidents and complete tasks meant to stimulate thought and engagement.


Coding the Text

35 minutes

“What do you know about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln? Turn to your partner and share one fact about each.” We set right to work! I want to get the students talking right away as soon they will set to work independently reading texts. I allow a few moments for students to share and then ask for a little feedback. “Thumbs up if your partner shared information similar to your own. Thumbs up if your partner shared something you had not heard before. Great! Today you will learn more about these two presidents and the reasons why we celebrate Presidents’ Day.”


I pass out today’s materials including the two passages and work pages. I point students’ attention to the pages and explain today’s task. “Today’s work is divided into a few steps. First, you will read and code each passage independently. Now, coding is something we’ve never done before so let me show you how it’s done.” I pull up a sample passage about a related topic and the coding key. I explain the key to students by showing them the seven icons and the messages that go with each. Then I model my thinking while reading the short passage aloud. As I come to something that is interesting, I code it by putting a “!” near it. I later stop and make a connection to another topic and code that sentence with a “¥”. When I finish reading, I explain that they may not use all of the symbols and not every sentence should be coded. The point of this activity is to make sure they are focused and engaged while reading so that they can show what they’ve learned later in the lesson. 


I give students about 25 minutes to complete the assignment on their own. As they work, I walk the room offering support as needed. 

Partner Share

10 minutes

When all students have finished, I get a quick sense of how things went. I ask students to show me on their fingers how easy or difficult coding was today. Students raise one finger if the activity was very simple and five if they found it very difficult. I quickly share what I observed while students were working and praise them for their efforts.


I ask students to turn and share with their partners. When they finish sharing, I want them to discuss any similarities or differences in their coding. Were they both intrigued by the same details or did one already know that fact? I give them a few minutes to share while I listen in on their conversations. 

Closure - 3-2-1

15 minutes

Once all groups have shared, I call students’ attention back to the front of the room. Then, I explain the closing task. They will complete the 3-2-1 chart using their coded texts and what they shared with their partners. I project the chart on the SmartBoard and explain how to fill it out. First, students will write down three differences they found between the two presidents. If these details weren’t clear during their first read, then they need to re-read the text and look for this information. Second, students write down two interesting facts – one for each president. Hopefully this will be easy to do as they should have coded these sentences during their first reading. Last, students will craft a question about the topic that they still have after reading. When students have complete their work, they will turn it in to the tray.