Mastering the American Presidents: 5 Easy Steps for Middle Schoolers

Welcome to our latest blog post, where we aim to empower educators with effective techniques to teach the exciting world of American history. Today, we focus on helping your students master the art of memorizing all 46 American presidents. With these five dynamic strategies – chunking, associating presidents with events, creating a rhyming song, using flashcards, and making a timeline – you’ll not only enhance your students’ memory skills but also spark their curiosity about these influential leaders. So, buckle up and join us on this journey to transform your classroom into a presidential powerhouse!

1. Use Chunking:

Divide the American presidents into logical chunks, such as Founding Fathers, Antebellum and Civil War Era Presidents, and so on. This makes it easier to remember them in smaller groups. Below are some examples of some logical chunks which can be modified by the teacher or students.

Chunk 1: Founding Fathers

George Washington (1789-1797)
John Adams (1797-1801)
Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809)
James Madison (1809-1817)
James Monroe (1817-1825)
John Quincy Adams (1825-1829)
Andrew Jackson (1829-1837)
Martin Van Buren (1837-1841)

Chunk 2: Antebellum and Civil War Era Presidents

William Henry Harrison (1841)
John Tyler (1841-1845)
James K. Polk (1845-1849)
Zachary Taylor (1849-1850)
Millard Fillmore (1850-1853)
Franklin Pierce (1853-1857)
James Buchanan (1857-1861)
Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865)

Chunk 3: Reconstruction and Gilded Age Presidents

Andrew Johnson (1865-1869)
Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877)
Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881)
James A. Garfield (1881)
Chester A. Arthur (1881-1885)
Grover Cleveland (1885-1889)
Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893)
Grover Cleveland (1893-1897)
William McKinley (1897-1901)

Chunk 4: Progressive Era and World War I Presidents

Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909)
William Howard Taft (1909-1913)
Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921)

Chunk 5: Interwar and World War II Presidents

Warren G. Harding (1921-1923)
Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929)
Herbert Hoover (1929-1933)
Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945)
Harry S. Truman (1945-1953)

Chunk 6: Postwar and Civil Rights Era

Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961)
John F. Kennedy (1961-1963)
Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969)
Richard Nixon (1969-1974)
Gerald Ford (1974-1977)
Jimmy Carter (1977-1981)
Ronald Reagan (1981-1989)

Chunk 7: Modern Presidents

George H.W. Bush (1989-1993)
Bill Clinton (1993-2001)
George W. Bush (2001-2009)
Barack Obama (2009-2017)
Donald Trump (2017-2021)
Joe Biden (2021-present)

Mount Rushmore

2. Remember each AMERICAN president through associationism:

Associate something that happened during a president’s time in office to help remember the president. The event could be positive or negative; the purpose is only to help students remember. Here are some examples:

  1. George Washington: First president
  2. John Adams: Only Federalist president
  3. Thomas Jefferson: Louisiana Purchase
  4. James Madison: War of 1812
  5. James Monroe: Monroe Doctrine
  6. John Quincy Adams: First son of a president
  7. Andrew Jackson: Indian Removal Act
  8. Martin Van Buren: Panic of 1837
  9. William Henry Harrison: Shortest presidency
  10. John Tyler: Annexation of Texas
  11. James K. Polk: Mexican-American War
  12. Zachary Taylor: Mexican-American War hero
  13. Millard Fillmore: Compromise of 1850
  14. Franklin Pierce: Kansas-Nebraska Act
  15. James Buchanan: Dred Scott decision
  16. Abraham Lincoln: Civil War
  17. Andrew Johnson: First impeached president
  18. Ulysses S. Grant: Civil War hero
  19. Rutherford B. Hayes: End of Reconstruction
  20. James A. Garfield: Assassinated in first year of presidency
  21. Chester A. Arthur: Pendleton Act
  22. Grover Cleveland: Interstate Commerce Act
  23. Benjamin Harrison: Sherman Antitrust Act
  24. Grover Cleveland: Panic of 1893
  25. William McKinley: Spanish-American War
  26. Theodore Roosevelt: “Big Stick” policy
  27. William Howard Taft: Conflict with predecessor, Theodore Roosevelt
  28. Woodrow Wilson: World War I
  29. Warren G. Harding: Teapot Dome scandal
  30. Calvin Coolidge: Roaring Twenties
  31. Herbert Hoover: Great Depression
  32. Franklin D. Roosevelt: New Deal and World War II
  33. Harry S. Truman: Atomic bomb
  34. Dwight D. Eisenhower: World War II hero
  35. John F. Kennedy: Camelot
  36. Lyndon B. Johnson: Great Society
  37. Richard Nixon: Watergate
  38. Gerald Ford: Pardon of Nixon
  39. Jimmy Carter: Stagflation
  40. Ronald Reagan: Reagonomics
  41. George H.W. Bush: Gulf War
  42. Bill Clinton: Monica Lewinsky scandal
  43. George W. Bush: September 11
  44. Barack Obama: Obamacare
  45. Donald Trump: Impeached twice
  46. Joe Biden: COVID-19

3. Make a Rhyming Song About american presidents:

Write a song or poem that rhymes and lists the American presidents in order. This can make memorizing fun and engaging, and the rhyming pattern can help students remember the names. Here is a poem you can use for the first 16 presidents.

“Sixteen Presidents in Rhyme: From Washington to Lincoln”

From Washington to Lincoln, here we go
The first 16 presidents, in order we know
George Washington, the father of our nation
John Adams followed, to lead our administration

Thomas Jefferson, Declaration’s author in full
James Madison, War of 1812, he did pull
James Monroe, Monroe Doctrine he did introduce
John Quincy Adams, treaties and diplomacy he did produce

Andrew Jackson, the common man’s president
Martin Van Buren, founder of Democratic sentiment
William Henry Harrison, shortest term, just 31 days
John Tyler, annexation of Texas in his ways

James K. Polk, Texas and Oregon he did gain
Zachary Taylor, in Mexican War he did train
Millard Fillmore, compromise of 1850 he did sign
Franklin Pierce, Kansas-Nebraska Act, tension did entwine

James Buchanan, Dred Scott case, his presidency fraught
Then came Abe Lincoln, Civil War he bravely fought


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4. Use Flashcards with Visuals of american presidents:

Using flashcards with visuals is a popular method for memorizing information. By associating an image or symbol with each president, it becomes easier to remember who they were and what they did during their time in office. To make it more fun and creative, students can make the cards themselves.

For example, a visual for George Washington could be an image of Mount Vernon, his estate, or the famous painting of him crossing the Delaware River. An image for Abraham Lincoln could be the Lincoln Memorial or his iconic top hat.

In addition to the visuals, including the president’s name, political party, and term on the flashcard can provide additional context for students. This can help them understand the political climate during each president’s term and how their actions impacted the country.

Overall, using flashcards with visuals can be an effective tool for memorizing the American presidents and their respective terms in office.

Flashcards of American presidents

5. Use a Timeline with Key Events under each american president:

A timeline can help you visualize the chronology of presidents and their historical significance. A timeline can be made by hand or with the help of an internet tool.

Make a list of all the presidents in chronological order to begin. Then, for each president, include significant events that occurred during their tenure. These events could include wars, economic downturns or booms, landmark legislation, or other noteworthy occurrences.

For example, one may include the American Revolution, the creation and ratification of the Constitution, and the formation of the first national bank during George Washington’s presidency. One may include the Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation, and Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.

Students can better understand each president’s impact on history by seeing them in the context of major events. They can also draw parallels between presidents who faced comparable circumstances or tackled similar topics throughout their tenure.

A timeline can be made more interesting by include visuals, such as images or icons representing each president or key event. This can assist pupils in associating each president with a distinct image, making them easier to recall.

Jed Holtzman Signature

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