Teacher Notes

Independence Day!


Start the fireworks! Strike up the band! Throw a parade! Your class has voted to leave your school. That's right, your class is on its own! You and your classmates are tired of all the rules your Principal keeps making. So your class has decided to form a school all by itself. Your class has become Independent!

This is pretty exciting news! The only problem is nobody else knows. Everyone still thinks you are part of the same old school. You don't feel all that different either. It still seems like the same old class in the same old school. It's no fun being independent when no one else even knows, including the students themselves!

While this activity is just pretend, it was the same problem the original 13 colonies faced when they decided to separate from England way back in 1776 (That's over 200 years ago!). How did the colonies show everyone that they were no longer part of England? What did they do to make themselves feel American?

What the colonists created were symbols to represent America and freedom. Symbols are things like logos, songs, buildings, monuments, uniforms, or even pictures that have come to mean or represent something to people.

Symbols are used in advertising all the time. For example, "Golden Arches" remind people of MacDonalds hamburger restaurants. A picture of an often stands for school or education. Pretending to make an advertisement for your own "country" will help answer the questions about early America. Good luck and have fun!


The Task (what you have to do)

What your newly independent class needs to do is make up some symbols that will remind them they are independent and different from the rest of the classes who remain part of the school. Remember, symbols are things that are important to you and your class. Things that say, "This is who we are!"

First, complete the following steps. These steps will help you learn symbols. After you have finished the steps, you will make some symbols for your independent class.

The Process (How you do it)


Step 1 - Start a vocabulary list

To start your vocabulary list, look up all of the underlined words below:

Keep this list by your computer. You may have to look at it again.

Step 2 - Get Into Groups

Ask your teacher to assign you to one of these 4 groups

Step 3 - Group Brainstorm

Now, as a group, brainstorm all the things which you might think are symbols. Remember, symbols can be anything which remind you of a group. Any group who share an identity usually have their own symbols. Groups with their own symbols could be:

Remember, symbols can be places, songs, traditions, logos/pictures, or holidays. As you brainstorm think of these questions.

Now, click on your group to find your next directions.

Flag Group

Anthem (Song) Group

Holiday Group

Monument Group

Flag group

Many people say that General George Washington asked Betsy Ross to make a flag that would belong to the new United States of America. Answer the following questions:

Original American Flag

1. How many stars are on the original American flag? Why do you think she used that many? http://www.usflag.org/betsy.ross.flag.html

2. How many stripes are on the original American flag? http://www.usflag.org/the.50.star.flag.html


Current American Flag

3. How are the two flags different?

4. Why do you think the number of stars on the original flag is less than the number on the current flag?

The colonies broke away from England to form the United States of America. Take a look at this example of the "Union Jack" or British flag. http://www.enchantedlearning.com/europe/britain/flag.shtml

5. Did the colonies borrow anything from the British in designing the American flag?


Here's some other American and state flags. They might help you with your class flag.



Now it's your turn to be "Betsy Ross."

Talk over the answers to these questions in your group. Then each person may draw a flag. Share your drawings. Pick the best parts of each person's flag and draw a new one on 11 x 17 paper or cloth.

Go to Step 5

Anthem (Song) Group

Just like the American flag reminds us of America and being American, songs can do the same thing. Some of these songs officially represent a country because of a law. These songs are called anthems. Other patriotic songs are not official but still remind people of a country.

Anthems are also symbols. The words and sounds of the song have special meaning. Listen to a recording of America's national anthem and answer the following questions:

1. What is the name of our National Anthem?


2. Who wrote the song?


3. What does the song remind you of?

4. What story does the song tell?


5. Why do you think this song is special?

Your independent class will also need an anthem or official patriotic song. As a group, think of a story you might want your song to tell. Think about the words your song would have?

Don't forget music. What kinds of instruments can you use? So it is easy for everyone to learn, many national anthems use the tune for old folk songs that everyone already knows. Then they add new words.

As a group, think of a simple tune everyone knows. Write some new words for it as a class anthem. Of course, you may also write a new tune but keep it simple and easy to remember!


Go to Step 5


Holiday Group

Holidays are symbols too. Besides no school, which is great, holidays are important ways we remember something special. Usually the holiday marks something which happened on that very same day in history. Answer the following questions.

1. Can you think of a day which is important only to you? (Sort of your very own


2. What day do we celebrate America's birthday?


3. Can you name another American holiday?

4. Why is that holiday important to America?

5. What are some things we do to celebrate holidays?

Since your independent class is new, it will probably only have one holiday.

What day might that be? After you pick your day, name the holiday and think of some ways to celebrate it. Will you have a parade, a picnic, or something else? What kinds of things will people do to celebrate? What should everyone wear? Maybe you can make hats for everyone? How about some buttons? Be creative!

Go to Step 5

Monuments Group

Have you ever seen a statue and thought to yourself, who was this person? Why did someone make a statue? Have your parents or teacher taken you to see a famous building, place, or maybe a wall with lots of names on it. Did you ask why did someone build these? Why are they important?

Well those are symbols too. We call them monuments.

Look at the following monuments and answer the questions:

1. Who was the person they named this monument after?

2. What event did they name this monument after? The Vietnam Memorial

3. Who are the people on this monument?

4. Who did they name this monument after?

5. Who is the person in this statue?

6. What does this statue represent?

Your independent class will need a monument too. As a group, think about what you want your monument to be. You can either build something or draw a picture. You may use clay, playdough, popsicle sticks, or anything else you can think of? You might each make an example of a monument and then pick the best one or each of you may design and make one part of the monument.

Go to Step 5

Step 5

Now that you know what symbols are, it's time to make some for your independent class.

To complete your group activity, you can use any of the following:

* art supplies
* colored paper
* crayons
* pens
* felt
* scraps
* cloth
* styrofoam
* cardboard scraps
* egg cartons (no eggs)
* milk cartons (no milk)
* computers
* tape recorders
* video recorders
* chalk board
* white board
* anything you can imagine!

Learning Advice (Help)



Now it's time for your class Independence Day ceremony!! (It does not have to be on the same day as your class holiday.) Each group should do the following:

1. Present your group's project to the class by....


2. Invite your principal and parents to the ceremony or make a display for them to see later.

Evaluation (what you will be graded on)

Each student will be graded on the following...

Teacher Notes


Grade Level/Unit

H/SS Framework Grade Three: Continuity and Change

National Holidays, Songs and Symbols


Draft H/SS Standards

Grade One: Students describe the national symbols and traditions of ...the U.S. that provide continuity and a sense of community across time including the flag, holidays...and the Statue of Liberty.

Language Arts

Listening and Speaking Skills - Students listen and respond critically to oral communication. They speak in a manner that guides and informs the listener's understanding of key ideas, using appropriate phrasing, pitch, and modulation. Students deliver brief ....presentations about familiar experiences or interests that are organized around a coherent thesis statement.

Written and Oral English Language - Students write and speak with a command of standard English conventions.

Lesson Purpose:

The purpose of this lesson is to provide children with the meaning of our nation's symbols that provide continuity and a sense of community across time.

History/Social Science Literacy Goals:

* Understand the meaning of time and chronology

* Understand the reasons for continuity and change

* Recognize history as a common memory

* Understand the rich, complex nature of a given culture

* Understand the American creed as an ideology extolling equality and freedom

* Recognize the status of minorities and women in different times

* Realize that true patriotism celebrates the moral force of the American idea as a nation that unites as one people the descendants of many cultures, races, religions, and ethnic groups

Participation Skills

* Develop group interaction skills

* Develop social and political skills

Information Literacy Skills

* Identifies, organizes and sequences tasks to complete an information based project

* Relates historical events, people and eras

* Shows similarities and differences

* Compares and contrasts

* Relates past to present

* Uses social, political, economic concepts to understand the context in which information was created or used

* Uses multiple perspectives

* Analyses messages from various sources for their design, form, structure and sequence

* Integrates new information to existing knowledge

* Uses writing, speaking, drama and layout as needed to make effective presentation

Length of Lesson:

Approximately 15 hours of classroom time (without the extensions). However, with any computer based learning activity, extra time may be needed.

Resources or materials needed:

Access to WWW. If Web access is not feasible, traditional resources can be substituted such as:

Art supplies (see list in student section)

Audio recorder (Video recorder would be ideal)



Resource books

Other Teaching Tips:

Author: Joe Williamson
Colusa Community School, Colusa County Office of Education
colusa@yolo.k12.ca.us or joew@c-zone.net
SCORE-CH/SSP Technology Academy 1997
Reviewed for accuracy by Dr.Stephanie McCurry, University of California San Diego


 Last Revised: 06/13/06