ARTSEDGE Lessons for Elementary School

Oh, Say Can You See…

Discover the history behind “The Star-Spangled Banner”


Key Staff

Classroom teacher with opportunities for collaboration with the music and art teachers.

Key Skills

Making Art: Composing and Planning
Global Connections: Connecting to History and Culture
Creative Thinking: Communication and Collaboration


Students will learn about the history behind the writing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Students will develop an understanding of the significance of America’s national anthem through interactive online activities, writing blended poetry, and scripting a skit.

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Learn “The Star-Spangled Banner”
  • Understand the history that influenced the song’s lyrics
  • Learn about the individuals involved in writing “The Star-Spangled Banner” and the flag that inspired it
  • Become familiar with the timeline of events leading up to the writing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and with the related events since then

Teaching Approach

Arts Inclusion

Teaching Methods

  • Cooperative Learning
  • Group or Individual Instruction
  • Reflection
  • Multimedia Instruction
  • Brainstorming

Assessment Type

Performance Assessment


What You'll Need

Required Technology
  • 1 Computer per Small Group
  • Speakers
  • Projector
  • Video Camera
Lesson Setup

Teacher Background

The teacher should:

  • Have a thorough knowledge of the lyrics and tune of “The Star-Spangled Banner”
  • Be familiar with the War of 1812
  • Know about Francis Scott Key and what inspired him to pen “The Star-Spangled Banner”

More information can be found at:

Prior Student Knowledge

Students should know that most countries have a national anthem and that America’s is “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Physical Space

  • Classroom
  • Computer Lab
  • Media Center or Library


  • Individualized Instruction
  • Small Group Instruction


Test internet connection. Photocopy handouts for students, including "Star-Spangled Banner and the War of 1812." Procure necessary art supplies.

Accessibility Notes

ELL students should be encouraged to research the history of their native countries’ national anthems. Hearing impaired students should be taught how to sign “The Star-Spangled Banner.”


Resources in Reach

Here are the resources you'll need for each activity, in order of instruction.

Build Knowledge


1. Ask the class whether they know what a national anthem is and why America has one. Record their ideas on the board.

2. Tell students that they are going to sing the first verse of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Tell students that there are four verses but that the first verse is the one that is traditionally sung. Display The Star-Spangled Banner lyrics in the Engage tab above and play the melody below.

3. Review with students the vocabulary in “The Star-Spangled Banner” and be sure to define any words with which the class may be unfamiliar. The full lyrics are available in the Resource Carousel Engage tab above.

4. Ask students to describe how singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” makes them feel. List students’ thoughts on the board and discuss their ideas.

5. Ask students to describe the melody of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Have students list adjectives to describe it (e.g.: fast, slow, loud, strong, etc.). Ask students to brainstorm occasions when “The Star-Spangled Banner” is usually sung and how it makes them feel when they hear it.

6. Explain to students that when “The Star-Spangled Banner” was adopted as the national anthem, the tune was already well-known in America and was originally popular in Britain. Play the original song, "To Anacreon in Heaven" below.


Build Knowledge

1. Explain to students that as a class, you will acquire and test their knowledge of the events leading up to and the history of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” With the computer hooked up to an LCD projector, visit the Smithsonian's 'War of 1812' as a class. In this interactive online activity, students will work together read about the history of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and answer quiz questions in order to collect stars to complete the flag.

2. Explain to students that they will be focusing on the events that inspired Francis Scott Key to write “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Print “Star Spangled Banner and the War of 1812,” an article from the Smithsonian and distribute a copy to each student. Read the handout aloud and discuss with the class. After reading the handout, ask the class to list what they think most influenced Francis Scott Key to pen “The Star-Spangled Banner.” List their responses on the board.

3. Have students work in small groups to write brief skits in which they describe the events leading up to Key writing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Divide students into eight small groups. Distribute the War of 1812 and “The Star-Spangled Banner” Skit Chronology handout located within the Resource Carousel to guide students as they create their skits. Assign one of the skit chronology events to each group.

Students should work with their groups to research their events further (if necessary) and create a skit illustrating their event. Encourage students to use props, visuals, and dialogue to portray and communicate setting, time, people involved, context of the event, and how the event is related to the writing of the national anthem.

4. Have each group perform their portion of the chronology for the rest of the class.


1. Explain to the class that they are going to write blended poems. Blended poems are a mixture of original phrases and phrases from a pre-existing source which, when put together, create an original poem.

2. Using their The "Star-Spangled Banner" Song Lyrics printout found within the Resource Carousel Apply tab, have students underline or highlight their five favorite phrases or lines from “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Have students copy these lines onto the Blended Poetry worksheet.

3. Explain to students that they are now going to write five phrases having to do with what they’ve learned about “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

4. Once students have generated their phrases, instruct them to merge their original phrases with the five phrases they selected from “The Star-Spangled Banner” on the Blended Poetry Worksheet printout, also located above. Have students illustrate their blended poems on a separate piece of paper.

5. Assemble blended poems and illustrations into a Star-Spangled Scrapbook which can be displayed in the classroom.


1. Stage a closing performance in which students sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” and read their blended poems. You might consider doing this in conjunction with any local Veterans’ Day or Memorial Day observances. Otherwise, you may choose to videotape the performance or invite parents.

2. Have a closing discussion about what students have learned. Ask the class whether they will feel differently about hearing or singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” now that they know more about it.


Throughout the nation, standards of learning are being revised, published and adopted. During this time of transition, ARTSEDGE will continually add connections to the Common Core, Next Generation Science standards and other standards to our existing lessons, in addition to the previous versions of the National Standards across the subject areas.

The Arts Standards used in ARTSEDGE Lessons are the 1994 voluntary national arts standards. The Arts learning standards were revised in 2014; please visit the National Core Arts Standards (http://nationalartsstandards.org) for more. The Kennedy Center is working on developing new lessons to connect to these standards, while maintaining the existing lesson library aligned to the Common Core, other state standards, and the 1994 National Standards for Arts Education.

ArtsEdge Lessons connect to the National Standards for Arts Education, the Common Core Standards, and a range of other subject area standards.

Common Core/State Standards

Select state and grade(s) below, then click "Find" to display Common Core and state standards.

National Standards For Arts Education
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Daniella Garran
Original Writer

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