Tag Archives: National Anthem

Music Journal Prompts – Evaluating Performances


19981676-vintage-silver-microphone-isolated-on-white-backgroundMore journal prompts!  (For a little bit about how I use journals in my classroom, click here.)

These prompts evaluate performances of the Star Spangled Banner.  They are similar to a mini-unit on National Anthems, but you could do this with any musical performances – even those from your own school!

Topic: Creating and applying criteria to evaluate music and musical performances

Monday: Think of your favorite song, piece of music, or performer. Make a list of the things that make it/them your favorite.

Tuesday: When someone says a musician performed well, what types of things do you think they heard? What didn’t they hear?

Wednesday: Listen to/watch the following performance. What does the performer do well? What could the performer do better? How would you rate the overall performance?

(Watch Christina Aguilera perform The Star Spangled Banner at the 2011 Super Bowl- http://youtu.be/hj5NPNe3jNU or a similar performance)

Thursday: Listen to/watch the following performance. What does the performer do well? What could the performer do better? How would you rate the overall performance? (Listen to/watch Whitney Houston perform The Star Spangled Banner at the 1991 Super Bowl – http://youtu.be/eS4v431Mlak or a similar performance)

Friday: Write a paragraph recommending one person to perform the Star Spangled Banner at an event. Be sure to include three musical reasons for your recommendation. You may also include suggestions to improve the performance.

Music Journal and Rubric

National Anthem Mini-Units



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

Student Objectives

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

Ohio Music Standards

Mini-Unit 1

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
    • History
    • Play
    • Analyze (Teacher assisted)
  • God Bless America
    • History
    • Play
    • Analyze (Individual by student)

Mini-Unit 2

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?

Mini-Unit 3

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.

National Anthem Unit Outline

Song Matrix

National Anthem Argumentative Essay

World National Anthem Analysis

World Anthem Essay

National Anthem Performance Essay