How Will you be Commemorating the 200th Anniversary of the Star Spangled Banner?

The 200th Anniversary of the writing of the Star Spangled Banner by Francis Scott Key is approaching! NAfME Members shared with us some fantastic ways they’re commemorating this historic landmark in their classrooms through Facebook, Twitter, & Pinterest – and we invite you to as well! How will you be commemorating this special anniversary in your music classrooms? Be sure to share your plans in the comments section at the bottom!

You can also find Lesson Plan Tips, Teaching Ideas, and resources that incorporate the new National Music Standards under the ‘My Classroom’ section on the NAfME Website! 

On September 14, 1814, U.S. soldiers at Baltimore’s Fort McHenry raised a huge American flag to celebrate a crucial victory over British forces during the War of 1812. The sight of those “broad stripes and bright stars” inspired Francis Scott Key to write a song that eventually became the United States national anthem. Key’s words gave new significance to a national symbol and started a tradition through which generations of Americans have invested the flag with their own meanings and memories.”

– The Smithsonian Institution



Tips for Singing the National Anthem

Help students understand the meaning of the words.

  • Define unknown words like “ramparts” and “perilous.”
  • Take students back to the War of 1812 and the battle at Fort McHenry that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem (see resources below).
  • Use fun activities to help students memorize words. NAfME member Rachel Veenker writes one- or two-word fragments of the song on strips of construction paper, and the class works together to put the pieces in order.

Help students sing the challenging melody.

  • The anthem requires moving from head voice to chest voice and good singing posture.
  • Singing in low and high registers may be beyond the reach of younger children, but they can still learn the words and work on singing the melody.
  • Many teachers find third or fourth graders can begin conquering the skills needed to sing the melody well.
  • NAfME member Ann Holland Hughes says her students wanted to learn the song and “were pleased with themselves for doing a good job, knowing that the public views it as a challenging song to sing.”

Please join NAfME and schools across the country in commemoration of our national anthem, share your own unique musical celebrations of this September 14th landmark.


  • You can listen to the anthem or sing along.
  • Sheet music is available in several voice arrangements and versions (including mariachi and steel drum).
  • Lesson plans are available for elementary through high school level.
  • There’s a list of recommended books, CDs, and Web sites.
  • There are suggestions for publicizing your event.

Lesson Plans:

Singing the “Star-Spangled Banner

Oh Say, It’s Our Anthem!

Tonic Chord in “The Star-Spangled Banner”

Musical Form of “The Star-Spangled Banner”


Rachel Veenker teaches at Cedar Island Elementary School in Maple Grove, Minnesota.

Ann Holland Hughes teaches at Brooks Museums Magnet Elementary School in Raleigh, North Carolina.

-Linda C. Brown, originally posted September 2, 2009, © National Association for Music Education (

This article was adapted from “O Say, They Can Sing! Teachers Share Their Tips for Teaching the National Anthem” in the October 2004 issue of Teaching Music.


Kristen Rencher, Social Media and Online Community Engagement Coordinator. © National Association for Music Education (