I grew up in a military family and have always loved celebrating the Fourth of July. When I was growing up on military bases, there were always big parties with lots of food, friends, and fireworks. Now, as an educator, I love finding ways to celebrate this important American holiday in the classroom.
If you find yourself teaching in July, you may be looking for Independence Day activities for kids. This blog post has got you covered with lots of activities to teach upper elementary students about Independence Day history as they review important reading comprehension, social studies, and science skills! These activities are sure to keep kids engaged even though they are in the classroom during the hot summer months.
If you’re looking for even more Independence Day for kids ideas, be sure to check out this video. It features even more Fourth of July activities to try out with your students and provides demonstrations.
Independence Day Read Comprehension Passage
When thinking about Independence Day for kids, I think it is always important that we teach them why this is such a significant American holiday. One of my favorite ways to teach students Independence Day history and why we have certain traditions is by having them read this passage I created. Students read the passage with a partner. Then, we discuss what was read as a class. After they have finished reading, students complete a variety of center activities to help them review and learn more about the topic of the passage.
My Independence Day Reading Comprehension Passage comes with a PDF version and a digital version of the passage and the worksheets.
Independence Day Center Activities
I set up three stations around my classroom with Independence Day reading comprehension activities that go with the passage. Students rotate through each station, completing the activities. It is best to leave a copy of the passage at the stations or have students carry the passage with them. This will give students something to reference while they work.
The first station is a cause and effect chart. Students complete the graphic organizer by citing examples of cause and effect from the passage. They can also create their own examples on the back of the worksheet.
Next, students create an Independence Day book. Rather than having the students respond to comprehension questions on a worksheet, students respond to comprehension questions that are part of this foldable book. Students can also color the pictures. When they are finished, the book provides something fun they can take home and share with their families.
The third station has a word search activity. Now, I know what you may be thinking… word searches are not educational. I’ve heard this statement many times and it is only true if you choose not to make the word search educational. For my Fourth of July word search, students look for key terms from the passage. After finding each term, they must write a sentence about each term on a worksheet. Then, they must use at least five of the words to write a one-paragraph Independence Day story.
Independence Day Game
With my Independence Day passage and activities, I have also included a fun Fourth of July game. For this game, students cut out each letter from the word “Independence.” Then, they rearrange the letters to create as many words as possible in a given amount of time. The longer the words they create, the more points they earn.
Declaration of Independence Activities
Independence Day for kids should include lots of information about the Declaration of Independence. I show my students YouTube videos and we read books about the Declaration of Independence. Then, I have students create this fun foldable to review what they learned and make connections to the Fourth of July.
As part of my American Revolution unit, I always require my students to memorize the preamble to the Declaration of Independence. To help them with this task, I have created a Preamble Expert activity. Students recite the preamble to as many people as possible outside of school before reciting it to the class. I have found that Preamble Expert activity also makes a fun summer school challenge and I give students incentives for memorizing the preamble.
Fourth of July Books for Kids
Speaking of books about the Declaration of Independence, there are lots of great books you can use as read alouds with your upper elementary students around the Fourth of July. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Give Me Liberty!: The Story of the Declaration of Independence by Russell Freedmen: This story tells about the events leading to the signing of the Declaration of Independence and why the Declaration remains one of America’s most important documents.
- The Journey of the One and Only Declaration of Independence by Judith St.: Many students know about the signing of the Declaration of Independence, but few know what happened after it was signed. The Declaration of Independence has been in many places and many hands before it found its final resting place at the National Archives. This book tells the history of the Declaration of Independence after it was signed.
- George vs. George: The American Revolution as Seen from Both Sides by Rosalyn Schanzer: This is one of my favorite books for teaching the American Revolution because it tells the story of American independence from two perspectives, allowing students to compare and contrast.
- Worst of Friends: Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and the True Story of an American Feud by Suzanne Tripp Jurmain: After the Declaration of Independence was signed, the Founding Fathers had a lot of work to do in forming the United States’ government. This fun story reveals some of the disagreements that took place between two of the most famous Founding Fathers.
- John, Paul, George, and Ben by Lane Smith: Lane Smith has a way of putting a fun spin on classic stories such as The True Story of the Three Little Pigs. Although most of his books retell fictional stories, in this book he puts a fun spin on non-fiction stories by retelling the history of the Founding Fathers.
Fourth of July Fireworks Experiment
I have always used a lot of ELA and social studies activities to celebrate Independence Day in the classroom. Recently, I thought it would be fun to integrate a science activity with my Fourth of July lesson plans. I found this fireworks in a jar experiment, and it has been a huge hit. For the activity, you will need:
- food coloring (1-4 colors)
- oil (vegetable, olive, avocado, etc.)
- clear jar or glass
- small bowl
To perform the Independence Day for kids experiment:
- Fill the clear jar or glass three-fourths of the way full with water.
- In the small bowl, pour four tablespoons of oil.
- Then, add 6-10 drops of food coloring. Make sure to space the drops out so that they do not all mix together.
- Using a fork, carefully pull at each drop so that it breaks into several smaller droplets.
- Slowly, pour the oil and food coloring into the jar with the water.
- Watch what happens! (It may take several minutes for a reaction to occur.)
Fourth of July is a holiday many students know and love. So, this is a great opportunity to catch their attention, especially if you are teaching during the summer. If you are short on time for getting your Independence Day teaching materials ready, be sure to check out my Independence Day Passage and Questions. It already has everything you need to provide fun and meaningful work for your students around the holiday. Whether you choose to use some of the activities listed in this post or your own activities, I hope you have fun celebrating Independence Day at school!
Do you know of any other great Independence Day for kids activities? Be sure to leave a comment below and share what you are doing in your classroom!