Children and “The Star-Spangled Banner” – Including a Video

This is a repost, and I have included a video of me reading aloud this important book, singing the words, and talking about our
American flag and National Anthem.


Bringing our National Anthem to Life

Few books have the power to move young students and make a difference; this one does. Whenever I sing our National Anthem with children, I pull out my well-loved and very worn book, The Star Spangled Banner by Peter Spier.  Every page is a full color illustration of the words to the song.

img_1944This book makes my heart race!  Every single time I read or sing the book,  children are drawn in.  There is wonder, and there are more questions, and inevitably a crowd of children begin pushing in to see and hear, and to learn.

This is what I wrote on one such occasion. “It happened like this…”

“I want to tell you about early morning in the Big Room today.  It was one of the most exciting, intense, and passionate twenty minutes with children that a teacher can have.  Emergent Curriculum at it’s best.  As we say in the Aqua Room when a story is true, “It happened like this”:

Troy wanted to have a ‘show’, so he and Jill and Sam went to the top of the loft.  No, they did not want to sing Troy’s favorite song, “Proud To Be An American”.  They wanted to sing “The Star Spangled Banner”.  Of course it was wonderful, and we all clapped.  Then I said, “Do you want to know what the song looks like and what really happened?”  I ran back to the Aqua Room (yes, I ran down the hallway and back…) and returned with Peter Spier’s book, The Star Spangled Banner.  Before I opened the book I said, “The guy who wrote this song was on a British ship, and it was night time.  The only way he knew if we were winning was if he saw the American flag.”

By that time I had Troy, Jill, Sam, Jacob, Callie, Lily, Cooper, Lizzie, and Finn all around the book, captivated.  First I asked them what a star spangled banner was.  They knew!  Then we started to read the book.  The first page alone took forever, because we had to explain and talk about the funny hats and clothes, and the ship.  Children had been to Boston to see the Constitution.  Jill knew that ‘Old Ironsides’ meant that cannons and rockets didn’t penetrate the sides.  Once we looked at the first picture, we had to talk about how long ago this happened.  It was 1814.  Oh my, we just figured out that next year would be the two-hundreth anniversary of the song!  We planned an impromptu ceremony.

We were still on page one, and now a crowd of children came over to be there.  We started to read, but children wanted to ‘sing’ the book.  That was fun!  We found the flag on every page, through the battle.  Then, there were other things we found, like ramparts, and new vocabulary words, like ‘perilous’.  When the verse ended, the book went on.  Children were stunned to to know that there were more words.  Those verses led us to learn why a flag is sometimes halfway down on the mast, and to the Statue of Liberty, the Statue of Iwo Jima, the astronauts on the moon, and different Navy ships at sea.

Honestly, the turn of each page drew more questions, and the discussions to find the answers were both intense and inspirational for the children.  Nobody interrupted, because everything was important.  It was a perfect experience.”

Do you know what a towering steep is?  The children figured it out:

img_1946When I get to this page, I stop.  I tell children this is a sad page, yet a proud page.  We talk about flying the flag at half mast, and about soldiers who have died for their country.  Children understand:


Children can learn history, even at a young age.  This book proves that.  Thank you to Peter Spier who was born and educated in Amsterdam, and didn’t move to America until 1952 when he was an adult.  His book is a magic wand.


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 America, American flag, Book Review, children's books, Early Education, history, military, patriotism, picture books, reading aloud, Singing, Teaching young children and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

33 Responses to Children and “The Star-Spangled Banner” – Including a Video

  1. beth says:

    what a lovely way to share this with children and bring it to life for them

  2. Darlene says:

    What a great way to teach children history in a way they will remember it!

  3. beetleypete says:

    You manage that song so well, Jennie. It is so difficult to sing. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

    • Jennie says:

      It is a hard one to sing! That was the reason Irving Berlin wrote “God Bless America.” Thank you, Pete. I wish I had seen a book like this when I was a child. It brings the song to life. Before 1932, America sang “My Country ‘Tis of Thee”, which is very much like “God Save the Queen.”

  4. GP Cox says:

    What a fantastic post. You certainly know how to teach and ‘get through’ to the children!! I sure wish there were more teachers like yourself out there!

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, GP. Books like these can open the door for so much learning about America and history, and our flag. I always stop as I read, like telling the story of Francis Scott Key watching the battle, stopping to look at at the illustration of the cemetery in Normandy (did you recognize that it was Normandy?) and telling the children about half mast, showing the statue of Iwo Jima… on and on. I think all it takes is a great book in the hands of a good teacher.

  5. Ritu says:

    Love this, Jennnie 💜

  6. Definitely worth reposting, Jennie. I love seeing inside the book too. Hugs on the wing!

  7. K.L. Hale says:

    This brought tears to me eyes. The magic of books, kids, a great teacher, and music 🎶

  8. I watched your video, and now I’m all choked up!

  9. Magical! Talk about getting hooked on history… Love it and reliving memories with my students!

  10. petespringerauthor says:

    A wonderful history lesson, Jennie. You had me as soon as you went running down the halls to get your book. The kids probably got a kick out of that, too. I know some teachers don’t like to be interrupted when they’re reading a story, but to me, that is the best part. The kids are engaged and excited to share their knowledge with others. What could be better than that?

    • Jennie says:

      If I’m not interrupted, the book (or my reading) isn’t very good. It was a great ‘seize the moment’ day. There is so much history to teach in that book with all the photos. And running down the hall really set the stage. 😀

  11. I loved using this with my classes:)

  12. Thank you for mentioning the book, Jennie! Never before heared about this book, but its great. Thank you for the great vidclip. Have a beautiful weekend, stay well and save. Michael

  13. Tara Suter says:

    Zac and I just listened to this for 4th of July! He loves The Star Spangled Banner. He likes us to sing that at bedtime instead of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. He loved hearing the new verses and looking at all the pictures!

    • Jennie says:

      Oh my goodness. How wonderful! Thank you for telling me. The next time you’re up here, I can sing the book to him and we can stop and talk about all the pictures. Best to you and the family, Tara. 🙂

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