The National Anthem

The beginning of the year is a good time for us to review the National Anthem with our students.  It’s a hard song and it can be confusing for the little ones and also for students who are new to our Country.  I will never forget one of my students who wondered who wondered what a dawnzerly light was.

I find it’s very helpful to share some background information about the anthem and then to tell a story using a “translated” version of the lyrics (see below). This helps the students understand the text without needing to digest the melody too.  When they can actually comprehend the text, it makes singing it so much easier.

Smithsonian's Star Spangled Banner Project site.  Lots of great info on the song, and all of the historical significance

Here is a great site from the Smithsonian that tells all about the war of 1812 and the story of the song:

The site even has a link to an authentic recording of a 19th century version.  This might be a good place to compare and contrast the Anthem from then and now!

I have a discussion with my younger students that sounds a little like this:

Francis Scott Key was watching a battle.  He was hiding behind a rampart (an embankment where he was safe from the fighting).  He was watching the broad stripes and bright stars of our flag streaming gallantly through the night in the air. That meant that we were winning the battle. They were very proud, that’s why they used the word “hail’ed” (meaning to salute). The first line of the song is asking a question, “do you see, in the morning light of dawn, the same thing we saw last night?”  He then talks about how they could see the flag because of the lights from the rockets and the bombs. He is proud that the flap is waving in the morning because that meant we won the battle and we were free. 

What do you do to teach the students the National Anthem? Do you have any tricks that can help us all? Please share!

3 responses to “The National Anthem

  1. Barb Schlottfeldt

    I use various games for K-2 students…
    1. Half of the students hide behind risers (ramparts), they peek over and sing “o’er the ramparts we watched” the other half of the students are the flags who sing “were so gallantly streaming”. Once they can sing the hardest part of the song… I sing from the beginning and on the word “fight” they enact the battle…when the battle stops they sing the hard part they learned.

    2. Arms up for “dawn” Arms down for “twilight” is another days lesson.

    3. Once they can sing the beginning of the song, we work on the rockets and bombs with beanbags sitting in a circle. Steady beat on knees for the A section and throw the beanbags up on the words “rockets”, “bursting”, steady beat until “free” and finally on the word “brave” the beanbags are thrown into a bucket in the middle of the circle.

    By third grade, at least 90% of my students know all the words and the melody. If any are still shaky or new, I send them home with a copy of the words.

  2. Barbara, that’s a great idea! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Barb Schlottfeldt

    BE SURE TO FOLLOW ALL NATIONAL ANTHEM WAR ACTIVITIES WITH A PEACE SONG!!!! Are you all celebrating Pinwheels for Peace Sept 21st?

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