Tips for Teaching Students 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.”
- 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.
Additional Lesson Plans:
The Smithsonian Institution offers a variety of resources on its Star-Spangled Banner Web site.
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.
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Kristen Rencher. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)