Lesson plan

Standing Up for Symbols

Students will show off their patriotism as they put their research and oral advocacy skills to the test in this history lesson.
Grade Subject View aligned standards

Students will be able to describe the history and significance of many United States symbols as well as the ideals these symbols represent.

(10 minutes)
  • Call students together to have them stand up, face the U.S. flag, and say the Pledge of Allegiance.
  • Have students sit down. Ask if anyone knows the story behind the U.S. flag.
  • Once students have contributed what they believe they know about the history of the flag, read Our Flag by Carl Memling.
(5 minutes)
  • Explain to students that the United States flag is just one symbol of, or item that represents, the United States.
  • Encourage your students to list some other U.S. symbols. Great responses include: the bald eagle, the White House, the Constitution, the Statue of Liberty, etc. List your students' responses on the whiteboard.
  • Ask your class to think about what sort of American values these symbols represent. Write answers that students suggest on the board. Great responses include: power, strength, independence, etc.
  • Tell students that today they will each take one symbol and research its history and symbolism. Then, they will write a short speech/presentation convincing the class about why this symbol and its history is representative of the United States.
  • Explain to students that that they should start the speech by stating their opinion. (i.e. That their symbol is a good representation of the United States.) Then, they should provide historical and factual reasons why it is a good symbol. Finally, they should conclude by reminding the audience of their main point: that their symbol is a good representation of the United States.
  • Acknowledge that students may need to do some research on their symbol, so that they understand its history and meanings. Explain any classroom rules and expectations around this. Show students where any resources are located. Great resources include: books in the library, access to computers with Internet, etc.
(10 minutes)
  • Tell students that you will give the first speech as an example, but you would like their help to write it.
  • If time allows, do some additional research on the symbolism behind the American flag as a class. One website to view is: State Symbols USA
  • Ask students to think about what they just heard/know about the American flag. As a group, list some of important facts about the flag. These can include: The flag has 13 stripes for the Original Colonies. The flag has 50 stars for the 50 states.
  • Once students have listed some facts, encourage students to think about American values and ideals. Are any of these exemplified by the flag?
  • After gathering this information, remind students to begin this speech by telling the audience that they believe the United States flag is a great symbol for America.
  • Prompt a class discussion to organize the list of facts and values in a way that makes sense. One way to do this is to first describe how all of the different parts of the flag are symbolic of America and then describe how the flag as a whole is symbolic of the ideals America stands for.
  • Remind students that they should conclude the speech by reiterating the belief that the United States flag is a great symbol for America.
  • Once the speech has been organized and written out, demonstrate to students how to read it with appropriate eye contact, pacing, clarity, and volume. Explain the importance of these elements when presenting.
  • Before sending students off to work on their speeches, ask if there are any final questions and make sure that everyone has a symbol in mind.
(20 minutes)
  • As students are researching and preparing their presentations, circulate the classroom to provide suggestions and answer questions.
  • If it's useful, specify sections of the classroom for students who want to practice their speeches aloud. Providing a table or podium to stand behind can help students to relax as they practice.
  • Enrichment: Challenge advanced students to come up with new symbols for the United States that stand for the same values and ideals. Alternatively, instruct students to write arguments both for and against their symbol to practice persuasive writing skills.
  • Support: Provide students who need more support with research materials that are appropriate for their reading levels. Consider providing these students with a list of guiding questions, to help them focus their research and come up with facts for their presentation. For example: When in history was this symbol recognized? Why? What does this symbol stand for? Who is the person or people who helped make this symbol significant in American history?

Students can use the Internet to do some of the research on their symbol. Additionally, students may wish to create a power point or other media display for their presentation.

(5 minutes)
  • Assess your students' speeches by noting whether or not they are able to write about the history and significance of a United States symbol. Evaluate each student's writing to see if the facts about a symbol and its history are used to persuade others to feel a certain way.
  • Students can be further assessed on their oral speaking skills. Students should be able to demonstrate proper eye contact while giving a speech and the ability to maintain a calm, clear, and appropriately loud speaking voice.
(25 minutes)
  • Call students together. Have each student or group of students give their presentation. Before students begin, remind the presenter(s) to make eye contact with members of the audience, and to speak in a slow, clear tone.
  • As the presentations are going, make sure to praise students for outstanding research and presentation styles. Encourage students to be good audience members.
  • After every student has gone, ask students to discuss some of the main points of each presentation. Great questions include: Did you learn anything new about this symbol that surprised you? Do you feel more supportive of any of the symbols? Do any of the symbols make you proud to be an American?
  • Remind students that the goal of persuasive speaking and writing is to convince others to think similarly. Ask questions like: Do you think you were effective in accomplishing this? If not, what could you have changed? If so, why?

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