Lesson Plan

What was Francis Scott Key writing about?

Copy of the original broadside - Defence of Fort McHenry

Maryland Historical Society

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Grade Level:
Fourth Grade-Fifth Grade
War of 1812
45 minutes
Group Size:
Up to 36
National/State Standards:
Describe Maryland’s role in the war of 1812, periodically summarize or paraphrase important ideas while reading, determine and explain the author’s purpose and construct a sound historical interpretation


This lesson should be taught after the introduction to the attack on Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. Students should have been introduced to some of the history behind the writing of “The Star-Spangled Banner”. The students will use this lesson to dissect the lyrics to “The Star- Spangled Banner” and gain a better understanding of the song. They will also discuss the song’s relevance to the country’s present state of the union and discuss whether the lyrics are still applicable today.


Focus Question for the Lesson: What was Francis Scott Key writing about?

Historical Thinking Skill Targeted:
> Historical Comprehension: Reconstruct the literal meaning of a historical passage
> Historical Analysis: Hypothesize the influence of the past

VSC Content Objectives:
> 5.C.2.a Describe Maryland's role in the war of 1812

VSC Skills and Processes Objectives:
> 6.A.3.f Periodically summarize or paraphrase important ideas while reading
> 6.A.4.c Determine and explain the author's purpose
> 6.G.2.c Construct a sound historical interpretation

At the end of this lesson, students will be able to:
• Explain the meaning of the lyrics of the National Anthem,
• Reflect on the events of the bombardment of Ft. McHenry,
• Form an argument on whether the "Star-Spangled Banner" is an acceptable National 
Anthem in today's society.


To assist students with IEPs and 504s, the small groups could be heterogeneous grouped to ensure that stronger readers are grouped with weaker readers. Weaker readers may also be assigned the optional book "America in words and song..."(See secondary sources) This book is kid-friendly and contains the actual words as depicted in the primary resources distributed throughout the lesson. They may also receive extended time on the assessment.


• Chart Paper
• Student copies of "The Star Spangled Banner"
• Instrumental version of "The Star Spangled Banner"
• Sentence Strips
• Markers
• Pencils and paper
• Worksheet, "National Anthem Lyrics"
• Worksheet, "What's the National Anthem about?"
• Worksheet, "National Anthem"



Students will complete the worksheet entitled "What is the national anthem about?" For differentiation students may either write or illustrate their response. Have students reflect on whether or not Key accurately depicted the bombardment of Ft. McHenry based on what they have learned in previous lessons.


1. Have students divide into two (or three) debate teams and hold a debate over whether "The Star-Spangled Banner" should be our National Anthem. Students can be given primary sources dealing with the original debates. Others may investigate other options for our National Anthem. Students should be able to give reasons why "The Star- Spangled Banner" or another patriotic song should be our National Anthem. (The third debate team could argue for a new National Anthem to be written to reflect the past, present, and future of America.)
2. Have students discuss whether the U.S. is "... the land of the free and the home of the brave." The students can research what other events were going on in the United States during the War of 1812. Analyze whether or not we were "free and brave" then, and if we are "free and brave" now.

Additional Resources

Francis Scott Key. The Star- Spangled Banner [1812]. Sheet music and lyrics. Fort McHenry.

"Bombardment of Fort McHenry" John D. Troy. Printer, Corner of St. Paul's Lane and Market Street. 1812. Fort McHenry.

(Optional)- May be used with students with IEP's and 504 plans

Sonneborn, Liz (2004) America in Words and Song "The Star-Spangled Banner": The story behind our national anthem. Chelsea Clubhouse Publishers. Philadelphia


broad- wide
dawn- the beginning of a new day
gallantly- honorably
hail- to praise
o’er- over
perilous- very dangerous
ramparts- a hill used as a fort