Which former president's home would you like to tour? Why?
What kind of home do you think would tell you the most about one of our former presidents-a home where the president spent his childhood or one he purchased as an adult? Why?
According to the article, former president Dwight D. Eisenhower said he liked to bring people to his home because the informal equations he had there allowed him "to get the other man's equation." What do you think he meant by this? Why do you think being in his own home made him feel this way?
Why do you think people are so interested in learning about the private lives of former presidents? Do you think becoming president should give people the right to know all about that person's life-both in and out of office?
- In groups, pairs or on their own, have students pick one U.S. president. Review student's selections to ensure there are no repeats.
- Instruct students to conduct research to identify a home where their president once lived. Point out that this can be a boyhood home or somewhere the president lived as an adult. It does not have to be a permanent residence, but may, as in the case of Harry S. Truman's "Little White House," be a home where the president stayed for extended periods of time while in office. If students struggle to find information, suggest that they investigate one of the presidential home sites preserved by the National Park Service.
- Give students time to conduct research to learn all about this home. Instruct them to identify where the home is located, when it was built, what it looked like and when the president stayed there. If the home is still standing, encourage them to find out if it is registered as a historic site.
- Have students download at least one image of their president's home and write a brief informational essay about the residence. Encourage them to compile their information into a one-page fact sheet. As a class, combine the fact sheets to create a classroom scrapbook or digital presentation on presidential homes.
Invite students to share their fact sheets with the class. After each presentation, encourage classmates to share what they learned about the president after hearing about his home. Challenge students to identify ways in which the president's home life could have impacted his priorities or performance while serving as president.
CUSTOMIZE THE LESSON:
Have students complete the activity in small groups. Instruct groups to find one good photo of their president's home. Have them also pinpoint the home's location on a U.S. map.
Have students complete the activity in small groups. Instruct groups to find both exterior and interior photos of their president's home. Tell them to write a caption for each photo. Challenge groups to include details that link to each photo as they write their essays.
Have students complete the activity in pairs. Instruct partners to find both exterior and interior photos of their president's home. Tell them to write a caption for each photo and to include details that link to each photo in their essays. Encourage them to also include details that explain why this home was special to that president.
Have students complete the activity in pairs. Instruct partners to find both exterior and interior photos of their president's home. Tell them to write a caption for each photo and to include details that link to each photo in their essays. If the president used this home while in office, challenge students to give examples of how the home was used. Was it an unofficial White House or simply a place the president could go to rest? If the house was a boyhood home, challenge students to provide details that explain how living in that home helped shape the president's life.
Use this downloadable activity page from the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access to test your students’ knowledge of the many jobs of the U.S. president. Students can also test their presidential knowledge with the quiz, “Who Was President When?”
In this lesson from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, students use a combination of artwork, everyday objects and primary resources to learn about George Washington’s life and leadership during and after the American Revolution.
This online exhibit from the National Museum of American History covers each major period in Abraham Lincoln’s private and public life, especially his years in Washington when he made the crucial decisions that ended slavery and preserved the nation. Digital versions of many of the objects in the Smithsonian’s Lincoln collection are included in the exhibit.
This online exhibition from the National Portrait Gallery uses photographs and artwork to illustrate the evolution of Ronald Reagan’s life and beliefs as he rose from sportscaster to U.S. president.
In this lesson plan from the National Portrait Gallery, students analyze portraits to learn of events surrounding the death of William Henry Harrison and John Tyler’s succession to the presidency. They apply their historical knowledge and analysis by writing newspaper articles that reflect their understanding of these events.
This online exhibition from the National Portrait Gallery takes a multimedia look at the fourteen vice presidents who went on to become president, whether by happenstance or by election in their own right. The site includes an interactive timeline and video interviews with former veeps Walter Mondale, George H.W. Bush, Dan Quayle and Dick Cheney.