Teaching Patriotism and Singing Books, Part II

This repost is far too important, and the perfect Part II to the patriotic books I read and sing in my classroom.   Here is a close-up of  “the best of the best.”

Every year I make our country’s National Anthem ‘come alive’ for my preschoolers.  This is a hard song to sing, especially for children.  They know the tune, and thanks to baseball on television and sporting events, “The Star-Spangled Banner” is familiar.  Yet, there is so much more they need to know, never mind singing the song.  Way back when, I bought Peter Spier’s book, The Star-Spangled Banner.  This started my quest, and gave me the perfect tool to teach, inspire, and instill pride.

I remember the day I learned that America did not have an official National Anthem until the 1930’s.  What!  How could that be?  I called my Mother and she confirmed this upsetting news.

What did you sing when you were a little girl?

We sang “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee.”

Really?  While this didn’t bother my Mother, it fueled me.  It was the “GO” button, and I pushed it.

I had Peter Spier’s book, The Star-Spangled Banner.  Every page is a full color illustration of each sentence in the song.  When I would read the book to children, instead of reading the words I sang the words.  The words were the song itself, so singing them helped children link a familiar tune to what those words really meant.  Every page became a lesson in history, and a barrage of questions.

We stopped to talk about costumes, the sails of the ship, the rocket’s red glare.

We found the American flag on every page.  We learned that the rockets and bombs illuminated the flag.  This is where I always stop singing and tell the story of Francis Scott Key as he wrote the song.

“He was trapped on a ship in the middle of this battle.  He watched everything that happened.  The only way to know who was winning was to see the flag that was flying.  And at night, it was the rockets and bombs that gave the light to see which flag was flying.”

Oh, now they get it!  They understand.  The illustrations are crystal clear and make perfect sense.  More importantly, they understand the words to the song, our country’s National Anthem.  Children know far more about this song than I knew as a child.  I dearly wish I’d had a visual to help me understand.

Pictures bring words to life.  Like a ‘towering steep’.

The book gets better, and so do the opportunities for learning.  There is more than one verse!  I sing those words as loud and proud as I do the first verse.  Again, every illustration gives pause for talking and learning.  Sometimes it is sad, and that is important to talk about.  Oh, we talk about soldiers and dying, and freedom and liberty, and why.  It always feels warm and understanding.

The cemetery in Normandy, France.

A picture is worth a thousand words.  When that happens with our National Anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner”, the world of understanding opens and the song comes alive.

Every year my class is filled with new children, and every year it is the same- children embrace the pictures and the words.  They have so many questions.  We sing our hearts out.  Every year.


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
This entry was posted in American flag, Book Review, books, children's books, Early Education, history, military, patriotism, picture books, Singing, Teaching young children and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

55 Responses to Teaching Patriotism and Singing Books, Part II

  1. Jennie, I am so proud of you as I, too, am a patriot for Democracy in America. The kind that believe in true Democracy, the rule of law, and equality for all. I know there are others who say they are patriots, but how can that be when they are not standing up for all that our country, America, is suppose to stand for. It makes me very sad. Thank you for a truly uplifting and inspiring post. I am reblogging this post. Karen 🙂

  2. Reblogged this on K. D. Dowdall and commented:
    Democracy represents that all men (and women) are created equally under our constitution, articles, and amendments. We have three equal branches of government and none are greater than the other. That is one of the tenets of our Democracy with the Supreme Court as the highest court in our Democracy. Patriots are those that honor our constitution and all it stands for.

  3. This is my all-time favorite of your posts! Students more than ever need to know they live in a wonderful, free country that has been bravely fought for. I’m going to buy that book and use it in my classroom, too!

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you! I promise you it is the best book, and you won’t be disappointed. Your children will love it, as mine do every year. It’s been my best American history teaching tool. I would love to go into a high school and read this book!

  4. After you mentioned this book in another post several months back I added it to my library! I just have to get on it and start singing it to #1 Grandson! Thanks for the reminder. It is a beautiful book!

  5. I notice the poppies at the forefront of the drawing of the cemetery in Normandy. Interesting connection.
    Kids exhibit the sweetest and most sincere form of pride in family, doing good and making others feel happy…pride in place and country is a natural when guided by teachers such as yourself.

  6. Luanne says:

    So beautiful, Jennie!

  7. Ritu says:

    What a fantastic way to really teach the meaning of those words Jennie!

  8. vietnamtravelandculture says:

    Reblogged this on Vietnam Travel & Trade Portal .

  9. beetleypete says:

    That’s a great book, and I can understand why it inspires both you and the kids.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  10. Annika Perry says:

    Wow! What a wonderful book and a terrific passionate post, Jennie! I’ve learned so much. Gripping history lesson of your national anthem and beautiful dramatic illustrations from the book. The students are very lucky to have you as a teacher. As an aside I am now interested in researching the National anthems of other countries … I see a post in the making!

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Annika. It really is history and music all rolled together. The illustrator is not American. Wow! Yes, it would be fascinating to research other anthems. I hope you do!

  11. GP Cox says:

    Just telling a pre-schooler something, I think rarely sticks in their minds, but you bring it to life, something they actually experience and can feel. Outstanding!

  12. What a super experience for these children. Well done, Jennie.

  13. Darlene says:

    A great way for the children to learn the National Anthem. It is a very good one and brings tears to my eyes even though I am not an American.

  14. Dan Antion says:

    These are such important lessons, Jennie. I remember these song from that same time in my life.

  15. What a great book, Jennie. I always remember the American National Anthem because of Hayley Mill’s rendition of it in the film of Pollyanna. She was so marvelous.

  16. Coming from the UK I knew little about the history of the Singing of your Anthem. Reading your excellent post I am now enlightened to its origins.. Thank you Jennie… You are the most excellent Teacher my friend.. 🙂

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Sue. The history of anthems is fascinating. I should learn the history of “God Save the Queen.” Best to you, my friend. 🙂

      • LOL.. Maybe ‘I’ should learn the History of God Save the Queen too,, LOL.. We often all just SING and forget how it came into Being.. ❤

      • Jennie says:

        I think you’re definitely on to something. People really do just sing the words without knowing what they mean. 🙂

  17. In these days of demanded patriotic conformity, I find this refreshing. Patriotism is not about “proving” your loyalty…it is about WANTING to…exactly why we cover our hearts with our hands when we sing the anthem or say the pledge!

  18. So many great stories can be pulled from this book (as you’ve shown). Another great lesson for your lucky students each year.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Marcia. I need to write a post on Peter Spier. I love and read to children many of his books. Today we had a Memorial Day Remembrance at school, and I started to read this book to our Army Sergeant guest. A child hollered, “Jennie, sing the book.” I did. We talked about rockets, towering steeps, the cemetery at Normandy… a long list, thanks to Peter Spier. I can’t say enough about this book.

  19. dgkaye says:

    Such a wonderful book Jennie. I think every American child should have this book to learn about America, the way it’s supposed to be. 🙂

    • Jennie says:

      I agree, Debby. Can you imagine the same book on “Oh Canada?” That would be awesome, and make a huge impact on Canadian children. I wish I were an illustrator. But, I’ll happily settle for reading/singing this book and stopping along the way for a gazillion questions. Thanks, Debby! 🙂

      • dgkaye says:

        Now you got me curious, maybe there is such book. If not, maybe I should write one? 🙂

      • Jennie says:

        Yes, yes! See, this is where an illustrator can do a world of good. I wonder if there is such a book on “God Save the Queen?” You go, girl!! 🙂

  20. reocochran says:

    I am a big fan of this book, too. Peter Spiers’ version of “The Star Spangled Banner” is really a classic! 🌠⭐ 🇺🇸⭐🌠

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