We think of Labor Day as a signal that summer is over. We think of having the day off from school and work. So what’s behind Labor Day? Why is it a federal holiday? What do we teach our elementary students?
Questions to Ponder
Do your parents get weekends off from work? Do they have lunch breaks? What about paid vacation? Do they work for eight-hours? Do your grandparents have Social Security? Do you have to work at a job? You may not know the answers to any of these questions. Go home and ask.
If they say “yes” to any of those questions, you can thank labor unions and the U.S. labor movement for it. Years of hard work to make changes have resulted in many of the most basic benefits we enjoy at jobs today. Then, children do not have to work (besides going to school). On the first Monday in September, we take the day off to celebrate Labor Day and reflect on the American worker’s contributions to our country. How? Why?
Labor Day History
At the height of the Industrial Revolution in the United States, the average American worked seven days per week for 12-16 hours a day. They had to do this just to make a basic living. In spite of the fact that some states had restrictions about child labor, children as young as 5 or 6 had to work in mills, factories, and mines across the country. Furthermore, children did not earn nearly what the adults did, even if they did the same amount of work.
People everywhere faced very unsafe working conditions. Many did not have access to fresh air or clean facilities and were not given any breaks.
Information About Labor Day For Upper Elementary
Take a look at this resource to help your third through fifth graders understand why we celebrate Labor Day. The non-fiction informational book explains in their language what took place leading up to Labor Day being deemed a national holiday.
It is designed to provide basic information about how Labor Day came to be, what it stands for and why we celebrate. This resource is perfect for 4th and 5th graders but can be used with 3rd grade as well (it is a much higher level for 3rd.) A FUN, stress-free way to teach your students about Labor Day.
Language Arts skills are practiced while learning the history.
If you are distance learning or prefer a digital copy, check out the Google Slides version of this resource here!
Fun Quotes About Labor Day (I LOVE quotes!)
“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work and learning from failure.”
“My father taught me to work; he did not teach me to love it.”
“The problem is that those of us who are lucky enough to do work that we love are sometimes cursed with too damn much of it.”
“Don’t mistake activity with achievement.”
“Rest when you’re weary. Refresh and renew yourself, your body, your mind, your spirit. Then get back to work.”
“All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity.”
–Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.”
If you are looking for even more American history lessons, check out my American History Activities Series!
You’ll get 17 resources all about U.S. history, including the Labor Day resource! These activities will carry you throughout the entire year.
Included with this series you’ll get activities that cover:
- Labor Day
- Christopher Columbus
- The History of the Pledge of Allegiance
- Constitution Day
- American Symbols
- Veterans Day
- Thanksgiving – The Real Story
- Christmas Around the World, Holidays Around the World
- MLK Build-a Sentence
- Presidents’ Day
- St. Patrick’s Day in America
- Memorial Day
- Critical Period 1783-1789
- American Revolution
- Civil War Review
- Industrial Revolution
What are your favorite ways to teach about Labor Day? Let me know in the comments!