Presidents, President’s, or Presidents’ Day? Which do we celebrate?
Technically, we don’t celebrate a holiday by any of those names. Though commonly used, according to 6103(a) of title 5 of the United States Code, the holiday observed on the third Monday in February is Washington’s Birthday.
Without an official celebration of the presidential moniker, there isn’t an official position on whether it is spelled with a plural, singular possessive apostrophe, or plural possessive spelling – in fact, all three can be grammatically and stylistically justified.
In this Lively Lesson, students find a variety of real world examples of differing holiday spellings, then take a position on what an “official” spelling should be. Finally, they write persuasive letters to companies explaining why they should keep or change the spelling in their advertising or text.
Note: Discovery Education opts for “Presidents’ Day,” which will be used for the text in this lesson. We look forward to hearing from your students if we should change.
For more resources, explore the Presidents’ Day Content Collection.
Tell students that they will be learning more about Presidents’ Day. As with SOS: Quick Write, have students quickly journal what they know about Presidents’ Day already. Then, have them turn to partners and share. Finally, ask students to compare how they spelled Presidents’ Day, and do a poll of students and record the use of Presidents, President‘s, or Presidents’. Share with student that, just like in their class, a variety of spellings is used in advertising, print, books, and more.
Bring several weekend newspapers to class, preferably ones with multiple sales or advertising circulars. Have students scour the advertisements for Presidents/President’s/Presidents Day sales, events, or other references. You may also want to have students search the internet – for example, an image search for “Presidents Day Sale” – or have them look for spelling examples in their own community, like window advertisements or billboards. Have students record these examples, keeping a tally of the use of Presidents, President‘s, or Presidents’. Have students aggregate their observations to see what form is most common in the examples they found.
Next, have students create a graphic organizer as they learn more about Presidents’ Day. Ask students to write Presidents’ Day (their choice of spelling) at the bottom of the page, then write “Preferred Spelling” at the top. After they watch each video segment suggested below, have students write down any facts that they recall. When students have watched all the video segments, ask them to draw connections between the holiday name, fact, and preferred spelling, as described in SOS: Connect the Dots.
- Facts About Presidents’ Day
- Celebrating Presidents’ Day
- PBS NewsHour: Washington’s Birthday: Despite What You Think, Presidents’ Day Doesn’t Include Lincoln
- Plural Nouns
- Possessive Nouns
Label three corners of the room with Presidents, President‘s, or Presidents’ Day. Have students go to the corner with the spelling that they believe is the best. Have students work in small teams within their groups to discuss why they believe it is the best spelling, the refine their arguments with the most compelling ideas. Finally, have students write a persuasive letter to a company whose advertisement used a spelling which which they didn’t agree.
Mix it up and host a debate with individuals taking a stance on spelling, perhaps in the Lincoln-Douglas style, or have students create advocacy flyers, public service announcements, or posters, and distribute them throughout the school.