I begin the lesson with a short video showing the words to the song "America the Beautiful" with pictures of landmarks. I do this because I want students to begin to get the sense that our countries songs reflect the same beliefs that we find in our Constitution. I'm going to have them compare the similar ideals found in the wording of both songs but am giving them the background story for the "Star Spangled Banner" in text format. Introducing the song first lets them get a review of both songs before they are required to establish an opinion and write about their thoughts. The visuals in this video help my students to make connections to the meanings of some of the unfamiliar words in both songs and builds a conceptual understanding of the deeper meaning of the lyrics used.
The link for the you tube video is here - there are a lot of options but I liked the pictures used for this one the best because they were of landmarks we had studied in class which would help students to make connections to the meaning from past lessons.
When the song ends I first ask their opinions of it. I prompt with how did the song make you feel about America? What positive things did it share? How does this connect to our Constitution and what we have previously learned? I then ask if there are any other patriotic songs they remember? I did have to define "patriotic" as showing love or belief in our country before some made the connection to the "Star Spangled Banner".
I shared that our objective of today's lesson is to learn about the history behind the "Star Spangled Banner" and how it became our countries featured song. Then they will compare and contrast both songs to determine their similarities and how both demonstrate the American ideals that our Constitution was based on - life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
In this second section of the lesson I want students to practice the comparing, contrasting and justifying strategies we learned in some previous lessons. Although this isn't a text the two similar song lyrics and meanings address both standards RI 5.5 and RI 5.6 in that the themes and underlying ideals presented in the songs are being compared and discussed.
I hand out the lyrics to the "Star Spangled Banner" and share with students who wrote it and the circumstances behind how it was written. This would also make a good round robin read where students can each read a section of the passage out loud.
Next I give them a copy of the lyrics for "America the Beautiful" and also share who wrote it and why. In this section, I also share the controversy over which should be our national anthem to get them thinking about comparisons. I want them to begin making connections between the words and moods of the songs and the stories behind them.
I now give them the Compare and Contrast America's Songs worksheet. I tell students that different people had different perspectives on our country because of the situations they were involved in at the time. Someone in the army would have a different view of the war than someone who worked the fields. But everyone had similar beliefs of what ideals (or values) all citizens of our country held as being important. The three most famous were the protection of life - or the right to live in a way that makes all people feel safe, liberty - the freedom to have a say in what rules should be passed, and the pursuit of happiness - the freedom to choose to do things that bring happiness to you or your household.
In these worksheets that will be the focus of what you are comparing. I model completing the compare-contrast chart on from the first lines in both songs - both speak about the beauty of our land and country and the pride that we feel looking at it. In this exercise I do not prompt students with leading questions because I want them to think on their own so that I can get a better understanding of their capabilities. I do have them work with a partner if/when they need because the vocabulary at the time these were written makes it difficult for my struggling or ELL to decipher meaning without a peer discussion.
Students work on their compare and contrast charts and respond to the focus question for this section I monitor and check in with everyone. I check the higher students for deeper meanings identified and more entries on their worksheets. I prompt the lower performing students with question starters reminding them that the author was in a battle that they ended up winning at the time and helping them make connections with this to the lyrics.
The mood change between the two made it a little difficult for my lower students to compare the two songs because they were looking for similar words and stanzas and found the songs don't match up. I needed to remind them to look for the big ideas and the reference to life, liberty or happiness to identify the ideals. It helped when I wrote these on the board so that students kept their focus on the ideals in their charting.
When they were done we swapped papers with their opposite partners and reviewed each other's work. This is a good way to share and get student discourse when you don't have time for all to present.
Here are some sample worksheets that show examples of how to complete it
I called on students to help us complete our class chart with different information. Then I asked students to share their final response to the focus question How do these songs share the American ideals for our country?
Here's a video of some of our shared discussions and student responses
I want students to think beyond this to apply their learning to present day - so I ask them why do we play the "Star Spangled Banner" for baseball and softball games? I wanted them to get a connection to how important sports has been to our countries development and to share that baseball is the sport that represents "America". They got both - likely because both my daughters play softball for CSU Fresno.