Singing and music are powerful and universal. Is there a part of “The Star Spangled Banner” that gives you a lump in your throat? When I sing, “…gave proof through the night”, that does it for me. We all hold dear parts of songs that empower us. Patriotic songs seem to do that ten-fold, and for a good reason.
Patriotic songs are about appreciating our land, freedom, peace, and hard-fought battles. I teach these songs to children in a multitude of ways. Of course, I use books such as The Star Spangled Banner by Peter Spier to give a powerful visual to the words. I also tell stories about our country and use a big map of the United States to illustrate words such as purple mountain’s majesty, and mountains and prairies and oceans.
We often sing “This Land is Your Land”, and we sing all six versus of the song (did you know there are six?). Typically we hold up the book by Kathy Jakobsen that illustrates the song, and the children want to stand up, much like holding the American flag. When the children’s interest signals to me that something is popular, it means I need to do more. A few years ago I created an ‘I Spy’ of many of the items illustrated in the book. It’s a popular take-home for the children.
In my previous post on teaching patriotism, I described the opening ceremony of the Shriners Circus. That event became my ‘wake-up call’ to teach patriotism to young children. We learned about the American flag, and the events in the battle that became our National Anthem. We fell in love with “God Bless America”, to the point that it is a mainstay in the classroom. Soldiers came to hear us sing. We made a “God Bless America” book and then we designed a quilt from all the words in the song. Milly the master quilter worked with the children to make a quilt that is so remarkable, it hangs in the Massachusetts Fisher House. But first, it traveled to the Intrepid Museum in New York city. What an honor.
Think about what children learn with these many different ways I teach songs about our great country and patriotism. I don’t wait until Memorial Day to sing patriotic songs. Then, when Memorial Day rolls around it feels prideful to belt out these songs. We have a Memorial Day Remembrance at school every year, with my class holding the flag and leading the school in songs. Often we have a guest soldier speak to the children.
My two most memorable events of that day were planting flags in our Memory Garden for Greg and Travis, soldiers who had died. A child visited those flags the following day and asked if we could sing “The Star Song”. I knew he meant “The Star Spangled Banner”. We sang the song together, and other children joined in. One child told us his Uncle Jack had died in the war and asked if we could sing for him. We did. Then another child told us that his neighbor old Mr. Wyatt had died, and could we sing for him. We did. By the time we finished we had sung five times and had drawn in most of the children from the playground. That was a wonderful day.
The second memorable Memorial Day event happened when the kindergarteners were singing, “Proud to Be an American”. Troy was singing his heart out. Soldier Paul, our guest at the Remembrance, was so moved that he knelt beside Troy and finished singing the song with him. When the song was over he presented Troy with a Command Coin. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
Sing, and sing often.