Happy Birthday America!

Happy Birthday America!

by Judie Haynes

Your new English language learners are eager to participate in the holidays celebrated in the United States. This lessons includes activities about the United States flag, the Pledge of Allegiance, and other July 4th activities.

Teaching about the American Flag

Fourth of July is an excellent opportunity to teach your English language learners (ELLs) about this important American holiday. Newcomers and their families often feel left out when everyone is celebrating a holiday that they don't understand. Inform your students and their parents about 4th of July activities in your town including parades, picnics and fireworks.

1. Teach the vocabulary of the flag. Download the The U.S. Flag Fact Sheet. Teach vocabulary such as stars, stripes, field, colonies, states. After students have practiced the vocabulary have them fill in the blanks. Have students download a small flag which can be placed on a dowel at NIEHSwebsite.

2. For a great direction following activity, teach students to cut a five-pointed star using paper folding and scissors.

3. Tell students how Betsy Ross is credited with sewing the first flag but no one is sure who designed it. Have students take a virtual tour of the Betsy Ross House.

4. Ask children to name the colors of the American flag. Explain that we say the colors in a certain order: "Red, white and blue." Tell how each color has a special meaning. In the American flag, for instance, the blue stands for justice, the white stands for purity, and the red stands for courage. Put these terms into words the students can understand using examples. For example, justice means fairness; purity is clean; and courage means not afraid.

5. Explain how the symbols on the flag are also important.The American flag has fifty stars, one for each state in the United States. The thirteen stripes stand for the first thirteen colonies.

6. Visit this site about the American flag and check out the links. Go to AmericanFLag.com.

6. Have a parade with the flags. Help students design a 4th of July paper hat using a simple newspaper fold from The Parent Site. Students can also make instruments for their parade from recycled materials.

7. Show students how to use the U.S. flag correctly. See U.S. Flag Regulations.

8. Explain that the Bald Eagle is the symbol of America. Have students make a picture of the bald eagle.

9. Collect books on topics that talk about Independance Day in America. Go to Kid's Domain.

10.Tell the story of Paul Revere that your students can understand. Visit Paul Revere's house. You can also find a map of Revere's ride.

11. Organize a 4th of July picnic. Feature some popular American picnic food: Fried chicken, hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad, and watermelon.

The Pledge of Allegiance

1. Review with children the Pledge of Allegiance:

"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands. One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

2. Tell students what the appropriate behavior is during the flag salute. Explain that they may stand respectfully during the Pledge but are not required to say the words.

3. Exlpain that Americans pledge allegiance to the flag to show their loyalty to their country. Tell them what the words of the Pledge of Allegiance mean. Use the download Pledge of Allegiance activity. Have students cover up each definition with the correct word from the pledge. Cut out the word from the right hand side of the activity. Fold on the dotted line so that you have a window that opens. Cut out the entire square with the Pledge and the definitions on it and glue it to blue and red paper.

4. Explain that the word "pledge" is a synonym for the words "promise". Brainstorm with your students a list of times that they have made a promise. Work in small groups to draft an ESL class pledge, then vote on pledges and adopt one.

Patriotic Music

1. Have students listen to patriotic songs about the flag on the internet at Star Spangled Banner. Explain to students that they must stand at attention when the national anthem is played. The words are difficult but playing the music will help students recognize it and this provides a good opportunity to have students practice standing at attention. Words and music can also be found at Ben's Guide to the U.S. Government for Kids.

2. Teach students the words to"Yankee Doodle Dandy." Help students recognize this patriotic song and learn about parades as a way of celebrating.


Activity Downloads

Note: To view the classroom activities, you must have Acrobat Reader intalled. Acrobat is a free application available from Adobe Systems.

PDF fileU.S. Flag (19k .PDF)

PDF filePledge of Allegiance (60k .PDF)

Related Links

Salute to the Flag
Flag Day is on June 14th. Celebrate it in your classroom with activities for English language learners of all ages. Your students will enjoy this unit on the American flag.

Activities for Summer School ESL
Teaching summer school is often a challenge because the range of English language ability and grade levels in a single class can be very broad. You may find yourself with a mix of students who are not literate in native language with those who are. Second graders may be placed with 5th graders; non-English speakers with intermediate English language learners.

Teaching about America
Feelings of patriotism are very strong in the United States at this time in our history. It is very important to teach your English language learners about the songs and symbols of America so that they show respect at appropriate times.

Resource Picks

Ben's Guide to U.S. Government for Kids
This informative site has a wide range of useful information for teaching students in Grades K-12. Listen to Yankee Doodle Dandy and learn the background to this famous American song which dates from before the Revolutionary War. A community map with a post office, police station, and hospital is an excellent teaching resource for students in K-1. Access quick facts about Washington D.C. for students in grades 2-4. Try the games and puzzles about U.S. presidents for grades 5-8.

Kids Domain
Kids Domain has a great number of wonderful resource2s for teachers of children from pre-K to 12. Many are sponsored by a commercial enterprise but they are worth looking at. I really like some of the free government booklets for kids such as the Bicycle Helmet safety book put out by the NJ Dept of Ed. There are also some great games for kids.

Symbols of U.S. Government
This compelling site is part of the Ben's Guide to U.S. Government for Kids. It contains a picture and text about seven symbols of the United States as well as pictures and a short text about numerous monuments. There are also recordings of eight patriotic songs.