"The Star-Decorated Flag"—by F.S. Key with a Little Help from Incline Village Elementary

Incline Elementary Third Grade with Music Teacher Rita Whitaker-Haun
The Amazing and Talented Incline Elementary Third Grade with Music Teacher Rita Whitaker-Haun

Orchestral conductor and Star Spangled Music Foundation board member Laura Jackson introduced the youth concert version of Michael Gandolfi’s Chesapeake this past week and in the audience were the third graders of Incline Elementary School of Incline Village, Nevada. Music teacher Rita Whitaker-Haun (who performed in the cello section of the orchestra) brought her students backstage to sing there version of Key’s anthem to maestro Jackson. The result showcases the potential of teaching “The Star Spangled Banner” in Elementary-level English-language acquisition, so we made arrangement to visit Incline Elementary to share the students’ translation of Key’s archaic text as well as their wonderful performance.

“The Star-Decorated Flag” Lyrics by Incline Village Elementary
O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we cheered at the sunset to nightfall’s last beam of light?
Whose wide stripes and bright stars, through the dangerous fight,
Over the guards we watched were so magnificently flowing?
And the rockets’ red dazzling light, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave evidence through the night that our flag was still there.
O say does that star-decorated flag yet wave,
Over the land of the free and the home of the brave?

Word pairs that the students created with Key’s originals on the left and their substitutions for understanding on the right.

Ms. Whitaker-Haun’s Star-Decorated Language Unit began with having all of her elementary music classes recite the words, while they were projected on a screen for the students. She then had pairs of kids discuss any words they did not understand and write them on a sticky note. These were collected from all grade levels during music class and she compiled a master list. Then the students researched these confusing words in a dictionary and online to come up with definitions and offer alternatives. The original word was then paired with an alternative and the students studied these in a word game. Then the students were given a copy of Francis Scott Key’s first verse lyric with blanks for the uncertain words and they wrote in their substitutes. Then they rehearsed the new translated lyric and performed it!
We’re so grateful to Ms. Whitaker-Haun and the students, parents, and administration of Incline Elementary for their creativity, artistry, and — especially — for allowing us to share their accomplishment with the whole nation!

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