by Tim Bailey

Unit Objective

This unit is part of Gilder Lehrman’s series of Common Core State Standards–based teaching resources. These units were developed to enable students to understand, summarize, and analyze original texts of historical significance. Through a step-by-step process, students will acquire the skills to analyze any primary or secondary source material.

Overview

Students will understand the history and significance of several of America’s most iconic songs: “The Star-Spangled Banner,” “Yankee Doodle,” “America the Beautiful,” and “America (My Country ’Tis of Thee).” The students will demonstrate their understanding during class discussions and through written assessment activities as directed in each lesson.

Lesson 1

Introduction

In this lesson the students will closely examine the national anthem of the United States, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” They will read and analyze the lyrics as well as a concise history of the events that surrounded the writing of the song. After this close reading the students will employ critical thinking skills to demonstrate their understanding of the relationship between the song and its historical context.

Materials

Procedures

First, a caution: do not reveal too much to the students about the documents. The point is to let the students reach an understanding through careful reading of the text and discussion with their classmates, and then use the text to construct their understanding.

  1. Divide the class into critical thinking groups of three to five students each. Students will work with their group for the next several days.
  2. Pass out “The War of 1812 and ‘The Star-Spangled Banner.’”
  3. If the class is able to read this text level, then ask the students to read the text individually; if not, the teacher should “share read” the document with the students. This is done by having the students follow along silently while the teacher begins reading aloud. The teacher models prosody, inflection, and punctuation. The teacher then asks the class to join in with the reading after a few sentences while the teacher continues to read along with the students, still serving as the model for the class. This technique will support struggling readers as well as English language learners (ELL).
  4. Pass out the Critical Thinking Questions: The War of 1812 and “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The teacher now asks the students the first critical thinking question. Demonstrate to the students how to back up their answer with evidence taken directly from the words of “The War of 1812 and ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’” text.
  5. The students should work together in their groups to develop an evidentiary answer to each question.
  6. Pass out “The Star-Spangled Banner” lyrics and either watch a video performance of the song or listen to an audio performance of the song. It would also be useful to have the students sing the song with you.
  7. Pass out the Document Analyzer: “The Star-Spangled Banner”
  8. Students will closely analyze the text of the first verse of “The Star-Spangled Banner” one couplet at a time in order to restate it in their own words. Some of the vocabulary will be unfamiliar, but encourage the students to use what they have learned of the Battle of Baltimore as well as other context clues to decipher their meaning. For instance, the first couplet could be restated as, “Can you still see this morning what made us so proud when sun was setting last night?”
  9. Wrap-up: Use the short answer at the bottom of the page to evaluate the students’ understanding of both the song and the events it describes.

Extension:

Students can restate the relatively unknown last three verses of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Lesson 2

Introduction

In this lesson the students will closely examine the most famous song associated with the American Revolution, “Yankee Doodle.” They will read and analyze a concise history of the origins of the song as well as restate the text of the song into their own words.

Materials

Procedures

First, a caution: do not reveal too much to the students about the documents. The point is to let them reach an understanding through careful reading of the text and discussion with their classmates, and then using the text to construct their understanding.

  1. The students should return to their critical thinking groups from the previous lesson.
  2. Pass out “The Origins of Yankee Doodle.”
  3. If the class is able to read this text level, then ask the students to read the text individually; if not, then “share read” the document with the students.
  4. Pass out the Critical Thinking Questions: The Origins of “Yankee Doodle.” The teacher now asks the students the first critical thinking question. Remind the students to back up their answer with evidence taken directly from the words of The Origins of “Yankee Doodle” text.
  5. The students should work together in their groups to develop an evidentiary answer for each question.
  6. Pass out the lyrics to “Yankee Doodle” and either listen to a performance of the song or have the students sing the song with you.
  7. Pass out the Document Analyzer: “Yankee Doodle”
  8. Student will closely analyze the text of  “Yankee Doodle,” one verse at a time, in order to restate it in their own words. Some of the words are archaic and will take some interpretation to come up with the meaning. For instance, the last verse could be translated as “Captain Davis grabbed his gun and attached a bayonet.”
  9. Wrap-up: An open-discussion question or short written question to pose is, “How did the colonists turn around an insulting song and make it into a patriotic one?”

Extension

Students can research other songs used to build soldiers’ morale, such as “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” “Dixie,” or “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” or another similar song of their choosing.

Lesson 3

Introduction

In this lesson the students will closely examine “America the Beautiful” andMy Country ’Tis of Thee (America),” two songs that illustrate the beauty, majesty, pride, and ideals of America. They will read and analyze concise histories about the writing of the songs, compare and contrast the two songs, and analyze the imagery created by the words of these songs.

Materials

Procedures

  1. The students should return to their critical thinking groups from the previous lessons.
  2. Pass out “The History behind ‘America the Beautiful’” and “The History behind ‘America (My Country ’Tis of Thee).’”
  3. If the class is able to read these texts individually then let them do so. If not, “share read” the documents with the students.
  4. Pass out the Document Analyzer: The History behind the Songs. As the students work on the documents, remind them to back up their answers with evidence taken directly from the words of the two texts.
  5. Pass out the lyrics to “America the Beautiful” and “America (My Country ’Tis of Thee)” and either watch video performances of the songs or listen to performances of the songs. It would also be useful to have the students sing the song with you.
  6. Pass out the Compare and Contrast worksheet
  7. Students will closely analyze the text of the two songs. They are to list words and ideas that they find repeated in both songs and put those in the “same” column while distinct differences are listed in the opposite column. After this analysis students must determine the central theme shared by both songs.
  8. Pass out the Document Analyzer: Imagery
  9. Students will carefully read a verse of one of the songs and use the words to create a picture in their minds. They will describe what they see in their mind’s eye and which words helped create that image. They may struggle with some of the vocabulary. Let them try to reason out the meanings, but words such as “alabaster” may have to be explained.
  10. Wrap-up: Discuss the students’ different interpretations of the songs’ imagery.

Extension

Students can illustrate the images that these songs inspired.

Make Gilder Lehrman your Home for History


Already have an account?

Please click here to login and access this page.

How to subscribe

Click here to get a free subscription if you are a K-12 educator or student, and here for more information on the Affiliate School Program, which provides even more benefits.

Otherwise, click here for information on a paid subscription for those who are not K-12 educators or students.

Make Gilder Lehrman your Home for History


Become an Affiliate School to have free access to the Gilder Lehrman site and all its features.

Click here to start your Affiliate School application today! You will have free access while your application is being processed.

Individual K-12 educators and students can also get a free subscription to the site by making a site account with a school-affiliated email address. Click here to do so now!

Make Gilder Lehrman your Home for History


Why Gilder Lehrman?

Your subscription grants you access to archives of rare historical documents, lectures by top historians, and a wealth of original historical material, while also helping to support history education in schools nationwide. Click here to see the kinds of historical resources to which you'll have access and here to read more about the Institute's educational programs.

Individual subscription: $25

Click here to sign up for an individual subscription to the Gilder Lehrman site.

Make Gilder Lehrman your Home for History


Upgrade your Account

We're sorry, but it looks as though you do not have access to the full Gilder Lehrman site.

All K-12 educators receive free subscriptions to the Gilder Lehrman site, and our Affiliate School members gain even more benefits!

How to Subscribe

K-12 educator or student? Click here to edit your profile and indicate this, giving you free access, and here for more information on the Affiliate School Program.

Not a educator or student? Click here for more information on purchasing a subscription to the Gilder Lehrman site.

Discussion

every morning I have been teaching my 5th graders patriotic songs, I just love that when I actually teach them the lessons they will know the song and now the history. Thank you


Thank you so much! We are happy you are using this unit in your classroom.


Add comment

Login or register to post comments