Singing the national anthem is something every person should be able to do. It’s a life-long, functional use of music education. But what else can we do to learn about national anthems? Here are three mini-units that go a little further into thinking about national anthems – one of which also gets students playing and/or singing. Each one also reinforces the CC standard of writing an argumentative essay (I know, I know, but if we have to do it we might as well make it musical!)
The first mini-unit is built around the ongoing controversy of what song should be the U.S. national anthem. (Didn’t know it was a controversy? Google “Should the national anthem be changed” and start reading. You’ll also find some great opening reads to get the discussion going in your class.) This series of lessons not only gets students performing two more traditional American songs, it gets them doing some analysis that they then use to help form their opinion.
The second could be a one day lesson or stretched over more time. If you do music journals with your students, it makes a good ongoing journal theme (after an initial introduction.) The lesson looks at national anthems from around the world and their musical influence. I’ve suggested a few, but you can use any country – especially those that reflect the population of your students. If the timing works, this is great to do during the Olympics or near World Cup Soccer (when we’re hearing a variety of national anthems.)
Finally, another lesson that fits into an ongoing journal theme – comparing national anthem performances. Look for a wide variety of performances to show your students. I almost always use Whitney Houston’s Super Bowl performance (listen for the musical change – it’s in 4 instead of the traditional 3!) and just because I enjoy listening to the kids’ reactions I like to use Christina Aguilera’s flubbed performance. I also use an instrumental version by a service band and sometimes even a Spanish version. Not long ago, some students asked if men ever sing it and I realized I didn’t have any male examples. So now I find those, too, along with an occasional vocal ensemble. It’s really up to you – just try to find a wide variety. I’m always surprised to read my student’s opinions – they are much more discriminating and thoughtful than I expect!
You’ll find the complete mini-units and materials for download at the end of the post. As always, share your experiences and ideas!
National Anthem Mini-Units
I can create and apply criteria to evaluate the effectiveness and quality of a performance. 8.1RE
I can use the elements to compare/contrast music selections. 8.2RE
I can describe how performances and setting affect audience response. 8.4RE
I can apply the elements to support my personal preferences. 8.5RE
I can read the notes and rhythms to perform specific pieces of music. 8.2 PR, 8.5 PR
ELA CC – Argumentative essay
Usually one song per day
- Star Spangled Banner (I wasn’t able to upload the Finale versions I use of these songs. If you don’t have notated versions of the melodies, there are many available to print online.)
- History of the SSB, including the ongoing controversy as to whether or not it should be our National Anthem (i.e., difficult to sing, violent subject matter).
- Play – use keyboards, tone chimes, boomwhackers, sing, uke/guitar note playing
- Using the Song Matrix, analyze – range, meter, length, melodic repetition, rhythmic repetition, topic (Teacher led to teach how to determine each characteristic)
- What determines the difficulty of music? Range, meter, length, amount of repetition
- America The Beautiful
- Analyze (Teacher assisted)
- God Bless America
- Analyze (Individual by student)
- Assessment – National Anthem Argumentative Essay
- Which song do you think would make the best national anthem and why?
Explore national anthems from around the world.
This could be done all in one day or stretched over several days, examining one anthem per day. It makes a good ongoing journal theme.
- Do they reflect the culture? If not, what culture do they reflect? (eastern, western, other?)
- This creates an opportunity to discuss Eastern, Western, African, and mixed cultural influences
- As a social studies integration, discussion can take place as to why a national anthem may reflect another culture (Colonization)
- World National Anthem Analysis
- Assessment- World Anthem Essay
- Should a country’s national anthem be a reflection of its culture?
Evaluate National Anthem performances
This can also be used as an ongoing journal theme. Each day’s journal evaluates a different performance, concluding with the argumentative essay comes as an extended journal.
- What constitutes a quality performance?
- Listen to various performances – tone quality, technique, expressiveness, appropriateness, overall effect