Elementary School Curricular Resources

Biographical Resources

PC8. Kennedy family portrait, Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, 1931

Picture Book Biographies of John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline B. Kennedy
Simplified text, large images with captions and questions, a glossary, and activities make these booklets accessible to elementary readers.

Biography of John F. Kennedy
Biography of Jacqueline B. Kennedy

Written for upper elementary to adult readers, these narratives summarize the life and legacy of the 35th president of the United States and his wife.

Lesson Plan: Picture It: JFK in High School
Students examine a photograph from JFK's high school years and write a caption that reflects their knowledge gained through observation, research, and interpretation.

Lesson Plan: Young Jack’s Plea for a Raise
Students learn how young John F. Kennedy tried to convince his father to raise his allowance and then try their hand at persuasive letter-writing.

Lesson Plan: Solve the JFK History Mystery: What is this Object?
Students use primary and secondary sources to research a mystery artifact -- a coconut husk with a message carved on it -- and determine the object’s historical significance.

Resource Packet: Rose Kennedy: Her Life and Legacy
These resources guide elementary students to become biography detectives as they investigate Rose Kennedy’s life. Three classroom activities feature documents, photographs, and a giant timeline.

Campaign, Election and Inauguration

MO 96.247.4. "Kennedy for President" Campaign Button, ca. 1960

Activity: Road to the White House
Students make the “trip” with JFK from the Democratic National Convention to the November 8, 1960 election, answering questions with information gleaned from the primary sources located in the Campaign Office in The President’s Desk.

Lesson Plan: Televised Debates: Candidates Take a Stand
Use primary source material to explore what voters can learn from political debates. Students then create a guide book to help voters select a candidate.

Lesson Plan: Red States, Blue States: Mapping the Presidential Election
Use electoral maps to analyze the results of the 1960 election, and collect and analyze data for a recent presidential election.

Lesson Plan: Managing a Presidential Campaign: The 1960 Election
Students use materials related to the 1960 presidential election to explore the elements of a successful political campaign.

Lesson Plan: "Ask not what your country can do for you"
John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address inspired children and adults to see the importance of civic action and public service. The letter included in this activity, written by a third-grade student, is one of thousands housed at the Kennedy Presidential Library. 

Lesson Plan: Ask What You Can Do
Kennedy challenged every American to contribute in some way to the public good. After analyzing the "ask what you can do" quote, students draw and write about their own contributions to their families and communities.

Lesson Plan: The President's Pledge
Provided for in the US Constitution, the oath of office is a key component of a presidential inauguration and symbolizes a peaceful transition of power. This lesson, which introduces students to the president’s official pledge, begins with examining an artifact, the top hat Kennedy wore on January 20, 1961.

In the White House

The President's Desk: A Resource Guide for Teachers, Grades 4-12
Invite your students to take a seat at The President's Desk and discover what it means to hold the highest office in the land. This online interactive exhibit features JFK's treasured mementos and important presidential records. Primary sources ranging from recordings of meetings in the Oval Office to family photographs populate the site and provide an engaging and fascinating look into John F. Kennedy's life and presidency. The President's Desk Resource Guide provides an overview of the Desk and suggested curriculum-relevant lesson plans and activities.

1963: The Struggle for Civil Rights
Bring the pivotal events of the civil rights movement in 1963 to life for your students through more than 230 primary sources ranging from film footage of the March on Washington and letters from youth advising the president to JFK’s landmark address to the American people and secret recordings of behind-the-scenes negotiations on civil rights legislation. To foster your students' understanding of this era, lesson plans on each of the seven topics are available in the "For Educators" section of the website.

Activity: The President's Seal
Students discover the meaning of the symbols in the Seal of the President of the United States, and create a seal of their own design.

Lesson Plan: Race to the Moon
Students use a letter of advice from a young student to President Kennedy to learn about the "Space Race.”

Lesson Plan: Investigating the March on Washington
Students learn about the speakers at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. They reenact the March and recite excerpts from the speeches delivered that day.

Lesson Plan: Investigating Kennedy's Address on Civil Rights
Students read, listen to, and summarize excerpts of President Kennedy's June 11, 1963 speech on civil rights. They reflect on its resonance today and create images of a better future. 

Lesson Plan: They Had a Dream
After investigating primary source material on the March on Washington, students put themselves in the role of a civil rights leader and write a letter to President Kennedy.

Lesson Plan: Fighting for Equality: Esther Peterson Leads the Way on Equal Pay
Students conduct historical research on individual and collective efforts to achieve gender equality in the United States by listening to and discussing a nonfiction picture book, they analyze an historical photograph and research the gender pay gap today, and take action to address that issue.

Lesson Plan: A President’s Day
If you are elected to the nation's highest office, what are you actually expected to do? Spend a day at the White House with John F. Kennedy to learn about some of the president's most important roles and responsibilities.

Lesson Plan: Making Your Voice Heard
Students investigate historical letters to public officials, including several to President Kennedy, and then write their own letters of concern.

Lesson Plan: Jacqueline Kennedy's White House Restoration
Students will learn about ancient symbols and ornamental and architectural elements to identify some symbols of American democracy in the White House as an introduction to the origins of common symbolic representations of the United States and its values.

Picture Book: A Night to Remember The Kennedys Honor the Governor of Puerto Rico with an Historic Concert
This interactive picture book about cellist Pablo Casals's historic performance portrays the importance of the arts in the Kennedy White House, and the power of music to strengthen commitments to peace and freedom. 

Historical Resources

Historical Literature Resources for Elementary and Middle Grades
Annotated bibliographies of biographies and other history-related literature. Includes guidelines for critically analyzing biographies and history-based literature.

JFK in History
This section of the website contains topic guides on the significant events that occurred during President Kennedy's years in office. These essays are intended to give an overview of challenges and issues that defined Kennedy's administration, and include relevant primary source material.