Symbols and Sounds of Freedom

TITLE: Symbols and Sounds of Freedom
Primary Subject: Social Studies
Secondary Subject: Reading/Language Arts
Grade Levels (4–6)
Homer L. Thomas, Prince George’s County, MD
Short Description: Symbols and sounds convey meaning and often evoke an emotional connection or response. This lesson is designed to help students examine the concepts of freedom and patriotism and discover how symbols and sounds are used to transmit these concepts.
Essential Questions: What is the purpose of symbols? How are symbols and sounds used to promote common bonds among communities & nations? What are the most popular symbols of freedom and patriotism in the United States?
Goals and Objectives: As a result of this lesson and learning activities, students will be able to:

  1. Recite and paraphrase the lyrics of the Star Spangled Banner in their own words
  2. Compare, contrast, and critique three patriotic songs and decide which is more appropriate for a national anthem.
  3. Write a poem or other brief constructed response in which they describe the meaning of the concepts “Freedom” and/or “Patriotism”

Description: Small children recognize the theme song and the characters from Sesame Street. Teenagers know the Nike symbol and most adults in our country recognize the donkey and the elephant as symbols of the Democratic and Republican political parties respectively.  Symbols are ubiquitous and surround us every day. Some symbols conjure vivid images and help connect our feelings to objects or events. Certain sounds and songs have a similar effect.  Every country has symbols that give its citizens a sense of national pride. Among these symbols is a flag. Such symbols help form common bonds of patriotism. Commonly recognized sounds and symbols of American freedom and patriotism include: the Liberty Bell; the Statue of Liberty; Old Glory; and The Star Spangled Banner.
Materials Needed: (1) Lyrics to the Star Spangled Banner; (2) Video clip of the Battle of Baltimore (; (3) Video clips of patriotic songs accessed via the following links:
(America the Beautiful)
Battle Hymn of the Republic)
The Star Spangled Banner)
Graphic organizers (Lotus Diagram and Sensory Web); and
(5) selected readings on the Battle of Baltimore
Activities: Ask students to think about symbols of freedom.  Pose the question: What words and/or symbols come to mind when you think of the word freedom?

  • Have students work in small groups to discuss their responses.  Use a sticky note to record the words that come to mind regarding freedom.  Make sure there is one word per sticky note on separate notes.  Have students post the notes on the word wall, whiteboard, etc. (or students can create a word cloud using Wordle).  Repeat this activity using the word patriotism.
  • Encourage a few students to share their responses and the teacher can post their descriptive words on a Lotus Diagram (see attached link).
  • Teacher should look for commonalities and work with students to group similar words together. Students may keep a list of these words in a reading journal or electronic file for use in other activities.
  • Watch video clips of the Battle of Baltimore to further introduce and provide visual images of a struggle for freedom and illustrate the concept of patriotism.
  • Respond to students’ questions regarding the video clips
  • Next, ask students to construct a sensory web in which they describe how freedom sounds, feels, etc.  (see attached link). The sensory web can be used as a reference when students are writing their compositions about what freedom means.
  • Explain to students that their ideas about the qualities of freedom might change.
  • DAY 2
  • Use a photo of a scene from the War of 1812 to activate prior learning and engage students in a brief review and discussion of the previous lesson activities.
  • In small cooperative groups, conduct a short, guided interactive read aloud using the assigned readings from General Armistead (see attached link) and his report on the Battle of Baltimore and the British attack on Fort McHenry.
  • Explain how the Battle of Baltimore led to Francis Scott Key’s poem.
  • Review vocabulary terms:  Spangled, ramparts, gallantly, etc. (as appropriate).
  • Provide the students with a copy of the lyrics to the Star Spangled Banner and guide them through the translation activity.
  • DAY 3
  • Review previous lesson/activities.  Use a photo of a scene from a recent protest rally and engage students in a brief discussion about protests and patriotism.  Are protesters necessarily unpatriotic?  Refer to the Lotus diagram and review as appropriate.
  • Provide students with the triple Venn Diagram and show the video clips of three patriotic songs.
  • Discuss – which song(s) and symbols best represent freedom?  Why?  What did you see in the video clips that supports your thinking?  Which song might best serve as our national anthem?  Why?
  • Using text evidence and relying on recently acquired information, ask students to construct either a poem or brief narrative response that describes “What freedom and/or patriotism means to me”.

Assessment(s): Star Spangled Banner Lyrics Assessment (students should be able to write the lyrics to the national anthem).  The following links can also be used for reference:; Use the Triple Venn Diagram to compare and contrast the patriotic songs music selections.

  • RI.4.1 Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
  • SL.4.1 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher led) with diverse partners on grade 4 topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.
  • SL.4.3 Identify the reasons and evidence a speaker provides to support particular points.

About the Author: Homer L. Thomas works as a Special Education Resource Teacher and Department Chair at Doswell E. Brooks Elementary School in Prince George’s County, Maryland.  Mr. Thomas has more than 20 years  experience in teaching, curriculum development, and international education.