• South Beach, Staten Island

    Henry Schnakenberg, South Beach, Staten Island. Oil on canvas, 30 x 36 inches. Collection of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.

American Flag

English Language Arts


4: America: Symbols and Celebrations

3-4 30-minute lessons

text elements

How will asking questions help us learn more about celebrations and holidays?

I can identify the U.S. flag.
I can write a letter to an American soldier.

Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University


Listen to and sing The Star-Spangled Banner.

Read the book The-Star Spangled Banner, illustrated by Peter Spier.

Show Marines singing The Star-Spangled Banner on You Tube: http://youtu.be/JbQkKGtxkRg


Use VTS to discuss painting South Beach, Staten Island, 1919 by Henry Schnakenburg:

  • What’s going on in this picture?
  • What do you see that makes you say that?
  • What more can we find?

As this discussion is occurring, paraphrase comments neutrally. Point to (but don’t touch) the area being discussed. Link contrasting and complementary comments.

Pay special attention to the flag in the Schnakenburg painting.

  • What connection do the U.S. flag and an American soldier have?
  • Why do you think this?


Discuss how to write a letter and what it should look like. Have a large copy of the letter format written on chart paper to reference.

Brainstorm what you could write to the soldiers. Keep it positive!

Students will write to a U.S. soldier. Have a letter format (see attached) for them to use to make it easier. If you go to www.anysoldier.com you can register to get a name of a soldier to write to. This person is the coordinator for his/her group/platoon, etc. If you decide to send a care package along with your letters the post office has special boxes (that are made especially to go to APO addresses and are one price no matter what you put in the box). This website will ask you for a donation but you do not have to give one.

Mentor Texts

  • Sweet Land of Liberty by Callista Gingrich
  • Hats off for the Fourth of July by Harriet Ziefert

Extension/Center Activities

Flags and Symbols

Read The Flag We Love, by Pam Muñoz Ryan.

  • Find the author, illustrator, back of the book, front of the book, title.
  • What do you think the book will be about?

Hold up the classroom flag. Go over the flag and what everything on it means:

  • 13 horizontal stripes (7 red, 6 white)
  • 13 stripes for the original 13 colonies
  • 50 stars are for 50 states of the Union.

Before looking at what the colors mean discuss what they think they mean. The colors are also symbolic:

  • Red is for hardiness and valor
  • White is for purity and innocence
  • Blue is for vigilance, perseverance, and justice.

We do have a day set aside to celebrate the flag, Flag Day, June 14. (http://www.usa-flag-site.org/kids-resources.shtml)

Other Ideas

  • Incorporate other national symbols: the bald eagle, White House, Liberty Bell, Washington Monument, etc.
  • Review the Pledge of Allegiance and use it as a poem for the poetry center.
  • In math, connect with patterns/counting.
  • Students can design their own flag.

Differentiation and Modifications:

Beyond Grade Level: Students write 6 or more thoughts in their letters with details.

At Grade Level: Students write at least 3 thoughts in their letters.

Below Grade Level: Students draw and label a picture instead of writing a letter.

Modification: Incorporate other national symbols: Bald Eagle, White House, Liberty Bell, Washington Monument, etc.

Review the Pledge of Allegiance -- Use as poem for poetry center.

In math connect with patterns/counting.

Students can design their own flag.


Minute-by-minute assessment: As reading their letters make note of skills kids are struggling with and/or have mastered a skill.

Materials Needed


horizontal, colony, symbolic

Artwork in this Lesson

  • Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University
    • Henry Schnakenberg | South Beach, Staten Island