The flag is one of the United States’ most important symbols and the central character of the country’s national anthem. This project introduces students to the key historical events that led to the creation of this patriotic song, helping them to learn the lyrics to The Star Spangled Banner and expand their overall understanding of U.S. history and their personal connections to this country.
To complete this project, students will . . .
- learn about key historical events that led to the creation of our national anthem.
- learn about different types of primary sources.
- learn the lyrics to The Star Spangled Banner.
- reinforce their understanding of the U.S. flag and national anthem.
Upon completing this project, students will be able to . . .
- describe key historical events that led to the creation of our national anthem.
- sing the words to The Star Spangled Banner.
- demonstrate their understanding of the U.S. national anthem and the meaning the song and the flag have for them personally.
This project meets the following Common Core English Language Arts Standards for grades K-2.
Reading Standards for Literature: 1, 3, 4, 7
Speaking and Listening Standards: 1, 2, 3, 4
Prepare materials for implementation: You will need a computer with an internet connection and a projector capable of showing an .mp4 video file and playing an .mp3 audio file; Microsoft PowerPoint® software or the free PowerPoint Viewer; Adobe Reader® software; all associated student materials.
Allow for sufficient time to implement: Students will need approximately three 40-minute class sessions to complete the main project components; plan appropriately for any extension activities you wish to complete.
Be flexible with implementation: Keep in mind that some students may need extra time to complete the activities scheduled for each of the sessions. Consider implementing various extension activities to reinforce student learning.
U.S. map (.jpg image)
Plan of Baltimore (.jpg image)
Fort McHenry (.jpg image)
The Star Spangled Banner: The Story & the Song (.mp4 video)
The Star Spangled Banner: The Story & the Song (.ppt slide presentation; open to play after automatic download)
The Star Spangled Banner: The Lyrics (.mp4 video)
Session 1: Introduction to Our National Anthem
- Explain to students that this project will help them to learn about some important historical events that led to the creation of The Star Spangled Banner and to learn to sing the national anthem. Additionally, inform students that will they will demonstrate their understanding of the song’s lyrics as well as what the song and the flag mean to them personally through a fun arts-based activity that includes learning about different types of primary sources.
- Ask students to share stories of times they have heard The Star Spangled Banner being played or sung (e.g., at the start of sporting events). Tell students that The Star Spangled Banner has been recorded by many bands and been sung by many people over the years. Then tell them that the Library of Congress has several recordings of our national anthem on its website, some of which are more than 100 years old! Play either the Chalmers baritone and chorus recording (1914) or the Case soprano and chorus recording (1917).
- Lead a class discussion about The Star Spangled Banner to encourage students to share what they know about our national anthem. Questions to spark the discussion might include the following:
- You just heard the Star Spangled Banner. This song is the national anthem of the United States of America. Why do you think our country has a national anthem?
- (Display a U.S. map.) Our national anthem is about events that took place near the city of Baltimore, which is located in the state of Maryland on the east coast of the United States. Let’s find Baltimore, Maryland on the map.
- Baltimore is a port city. (Show Plan of Baltimore.) A port is a place on the water where ships sail in and out. Can you spot the ships on this map?
- (Show aerial image of Fort McHenry.) This is Fort McHenry. What shape is Fort McHenry?
- (Show Plan of Baltimore, again.) Can you spot Fort McHenry on this map?
- What is a fort?
- A famous battle was fought at Fort McHenry a long time ago. A man named Francis Scott Key watched the battle and wrote a poem about what he saw. What is a poem?
- Soon after Francis Scott Key wrote his poem, the poem was put to music. Later, the first verse of this song became the United States national anthem.
- Hand each student a Star Spangled Banner Illustrated Lyrics Sheet. Explain that the illustrations can help them remember the lyrics to our national anthem. (Make sure students save this sheet for use in Session 3.)
- Play the Star Spangled Banner again, using the Chalmers recording or the Case recording or another of your choosing, and direct students to use the illustrated lyrics sheet to help them follow along as the song is sung.
Session 2: The Story of Our National Anthem
- Show students The Star Spangled Banner: The Story & the Song video (.mp4 file).
- Tell students that the movie was made using various types of primary sources, including paintings, illustrations, photos, sheet music covers, song sheets, maps, and texts. Explain that primary sources provide information about people and events from the past and help us to understand what people were thinking about, feeling, and talking about at the time they were created.
- Now show the The Star Spangled Banner: The Story & the Song slide presentation (.ppt file) and ask students to comment on what they find interesting about the various primary sources in the presentation. NOTE: This presentation does not contain narration or timings, so you will need to hit Enter/Return to advance through the slides.
- If time allows, show The Star Spangled Banner: The Lyrics video several times, encouraging students to sing along as they view it.
Session 3: Our Flag and Our National Anthem
- Facilitate a class discussion in which students relate what they have learned about the story of The Star Spangled Banner.
- Show The Star Spangled Banner: The Lyrics video again, encouraging students to sing along as they view it. (If time allows, you may choose to show them The Star Spangled Banner: The Story & the Song video again.)
- Hand each student a copy of Our Flag (1795-1814) and Our Flag Today coloring sheet, then divide them into groups. Tell the groups to discuss the differences between the flags for a few minutes, then have them share their findings in a class discussion. Ask students if they know what the stars and the stripes stand for. If no one knows, tell them that each star stands for a state and that the 13 stripes represent the original 13 colonies that declared independence from Great Britain in 1776.
- Direct the students to color the illustrations with the appropriate colors. Then, on the borders of the Our Flag Today illustration, tell students to write (or dictate) a sentence or some words describing what the U.S. flag means to them personally.
- Now have students color their copies of the Star Spangled Banner Illustrated Lyrics Sheet. (Be sure to have a few extra on hand in case any students are unable to locate their sheets.) Then, on the back of the sheet, tell students to to write (or dictate) a sentence or some words describing how they feel when the hear/sing the national anthem.
- Hang students’ flag sheets around the classroom. Encourage students to take home their illustrated lyrics sheets and to continue practice singing the song at home; they might even teach the song to someone in their family.
Review the suggested project rubric.
Word Scramble Competition
- Divide the class into several groups.
- Give each group a baggie with the first verse of The Star Spangled Banner cut into strips by lines (see Word Scramble Competition Extension Activity Pack).
- Direct the groups to compete against the other groups to be the first team to arrange the strips in the correct order.
Measure Out the Fort McHenry Flag
- Go outside, or to a very large space such as the school gymnasium, and measure out the dimensions of the Fort McHenry flag (30 feet wide and 42 feet long), marking each corner.
- Have students stand around the perimeter so that they get a sense of how big the flag really is.
- If possible, have someone take a picture of the students from a vantage above, then post the picture on a classroom or school wall.
Make the Fort McHenry Flag
Make a quarter-size 1812 Fort McHenry flag out of construction paper. (Beware, this activity requires A LOT of paper.)
- Measure and cut out eight red and seven white stripes that are .5 foot wide and 10.5 feet long, taping or stapling them together.
- Measure and cut out a blue square, 4 feet by 4 feet. Place the square on top of the stripes, securing it in the top left corner. Measure and cut out 15 white stars, each .5 foot from point to point, and tape or staple them to the blue square in the top left hand corner.
- If possible, take a picture of the students with the flag and place on the classroom wall.
Make a Flag Collage
- As a class or individually, make a list of places where the American flag is flown.
- Have students take photographs or draw pictures of various places that the flag flies in your community.
- Use the photos or drawings to make a flag collage.
- Hang the flag collage in a school hallway or present it to the school board, the town mayor, or the local American Legion. The presentation ceremony could feature students singing the national anthem.