Who am I? Who are We? Defining Our American Identity

american-identity_designWho am I? Who are We? Defining our American Identity?
Social Studies, U.S. History
Grade Levels (5-8)
Monica Crenshaw, T.L. Marsalis E.S.

This digital project is designed to help young students explore the concepts behind how American Identity is formed and how students can use history to define their own unique identities.

Goals and Objectives

Driving Question: Who/What determines what it means to be American?

  1. What is An American? Students will explore the concept of identity, culture.

  2. What are the features of American Symbols? Students will  explore the history and concepts behind symbols & patriotism.

  3. What are examples of “good” Americans? Students will explore notable American figures and determine whether or not they are “good” Americans?

  4. What significant events are considered important to Americans?  Students will study timelines of specific eras in U.S. history to determine their impact on forming American identity.

  5. Can anyone change what it means to be American? Students will explore examples of people & culture that may differ from their construct of what it means to be American.

  6. In your opinion, what does being American mean to you? Students will make a creative project that expresses  their unique view of what it means to be American through art, music, literature, and digital media.

Many young students struggle with finding, understanding, and  defining how they fit in to the American story. This project is designed to engage students in Project Based Learning utilizing computers in a Blended Learning Classroom.  Students will explore the concepts of identity, culture, symbols, and how anthems lend themselves to forming a sense of identity. Students will explore the process of how early American identity was formed and compare it to how Americans defined their identities at pivotal points in American History.  This project is projected to last throughout the first semester. It contains many small activities that can be integrated in to the classroom.  Students will complete activities using Microsoft OneNote and makes use of the vast resources that can be found on the web. This project includes interactive timelines, reflective writing, digital research, music, art and opportunities for students to show what they’ve learned through creating authentic work. The final project will challenge students to apply their learning and decide for themselves what it means to be an American. Students will be given different options in which they can express their new-found understanding of American Identity. These lessons are designed to be used with Microsoft OneNote, however a teacher guide will be available with instructions.
Materials Needed

  • Access to computers or computer lab with Microsoft OneNote & PowerPoint
  • (Activities can still be modified to be used if no computers are available)
  • Colored pencils
  • Markers
  •  construction paper
  • Pencils
  • Paper

Activities (Activities are detailed in the Teacher Guide)

  • Bell Ringer
  • Vocabulary
  • Geography
  • Research
  • Timelines
  • Projects

For a detailed listing and overview of each activity please click here.

Teacher Guide
Here you will find full activities for this project with and without  teacher notes.

Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills –(Adapted for the 5th Grade Social Studies Standards)
5.17 The student understands important symbols, customs, celebrations, and landmarks that represent American beliefs and principles and contribute to our national identity. The student is expected to:

  • 5.17A explain various patriotic symbols, including Uncle Sam, and political symbols such as the
  • donkey and elephant;
  • 5.17B sing or recite “The Star-Spangled Banner” and explain its history
  • 5.17E explain the significance of important landmarks, including the White House, the Statue of Liberty, and Mount Rushmore.

5.21 The student understands the relationship between the arts and the times during which they were created. The student is expected to:

  • 5.21A identify significant examples of art, music, and literature from various periods in U.S. history
  • such as the painting American Progress, “Yankee Doodle,” and “Paul Revere’s Ride”; and
  • 5.21B explain how examples of art, music, and literature reflect the times during which they were created.
  • 5.22  The student understands the contributions of people of various racial, ethnic, and religious groups to the United States. The student is expected to:
  • 5.22C summarize the contributions of people of various racial, ethnic, and religious groups to our national identity.

5.24 The student applies critical-thinking skills to organize and use information acquired from a variety of valid sources, including electronic technology. The student is expected to:

  • 5.24A  differentiate between, locate, and use valid primary and secondary sources such as computer software; interviews; biographies; oral, print, and visual material; documents; and artifacts to acquire information about the United States;
  • 5.24B  analyze information by sequencing, categorizing, identifying cause-and-effect relationships, comparing, contrasting, finding the main idea, summarizing, making generalizations and predictions, and drawing inferences and conclusions;
  • 5.24C  organize and interpret information in outlines, reports, databases, and visuals, including graphs, charts, timelines, and maps;
  • 5.24D  identify different points of view about an issue, topic, or current event; and
  • 5.24E  identify the historical context of an event.

5.25  The student communicates in written, oral, and visual forms. The student is expected to:

  • 5.25A  use social studies terminology correctly;
  • 5.25B  incorporate main and supporting ideas in verbal and written communication;
  • 5.25C express ideas orally based on research and experiences;
  • 5.25D create written and visual material such as journal entries, reports, graphic organizers, outlines, and bibliographies; and
  • 5.25E  use standard grammar, spelling, sentence structure, and punctuation.
Monica Crenshaw
Monica Crenshaw

About the Author
Monica Crenshaw
5th Grade teacher of  Social Studies at T.L. Marsalis Elementary School in Dallas, TX.
About Banner Moments
Made available as part of the 2014 Banner Moments K-12 Institute—a project of the American Music Institute of the University of Michigan and the Star Spangled Music Foundation, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities