Your Children and the Star Spangled Banner

“Whose bright stripes and stars so gallantly streaming…… oops!”

By Jackie Saulmon Ramirez | February 21, 2013

The National Anthem for the United States is the “Star Spangled Banner” by Francis Scott Key but any time the anthem is mentioned, the last memories to pop up are the goofs or screw-ups for athletic events. You can google “Star Spangled Banner mistakes” and there are page after page of results which can be disappointing, especially if you are flag-waving patriot.

Engraving of Francis Scott Key, author of Star Spangled Banner.

Teaching the anthem to children can be fun and informative. The four stanzas were written in 1814 and originally titled the “Defense of Fort McHenry.” “The Star Spangled Banner” didn’t become the official anthem for 117 years, when Congress issued the proclamation in 1931. While many kids may think Key stood on a ship and composed the song in the heat of battle, it was not until the next day he penned the words and finished the poem in a hotel room— not very glamorous. The music that we know now actually began as a type of love song called The Anacreontic Song.” [ Google “The Anacreontic Song” to listen to it on YouTube. ] The music was changed a little, giving it a bit more oomph, and it became the stage for the inspiring poem that we know today.

Your spell checker may go bonkers but the complete words are below along with a couple of ideas to stir children’s interest in learning more:

The Star Spangled Banner

Oh, say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro’ the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watch’d, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof thro’ the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen thro’ the mists of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected, now shines on the stream:
‘Tis the star-spangled banner: O, long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O, thus be it ever when freemen shall stand,
Between their lov’d homes and the war’s desolation;
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the heav’n-rescued land
Praise the Pow’r that hath made and preserv’d us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

The actual flag as it flew above Fort McHenry in the 1814 Battle of Baltimore.

  • Take note of unfamiliar words and contractions children may not recognize. Have kids look up the definitions. ( Examples: hail’d, spangled, o’er, repose, vauntingly, banner, blest, motto )
  • Have children memorize the stanzas and give prizes for each stanza memorized correctly. Prizes do not have to cost an arm and a leg. You can award the choice of favorite meal one night, choice of seat in the car, half hour later bedtime, etc.
  • How would the traditional song’s words be changed if current lingo and speech were to be substituted? Have kids do a re-write to see what they come up with.
  • Get kids to collect pictures cut from old magazines that would fit in with the overall theme and paste them onto poster board.
  • Have children draw pictures they see in their imagination after reading the anthem.
  • Have kids sing the anthem to rap-style music, banjo picking, etc.
  • Visit your local public library with children to learn more about Frances Scott Key and that period in time in United States history.

Note: It is my intention to help parents familiarize their children with the words and history of our country’s anthem. I’m not an Old Glory nut but I do think more could be done so that children would have a deeper appreciation and respect for our national anthem. My intention is not to change the words or music in any way.

What do you think? Do you think singing the anthem rap-style will help kids learn the words? Do you know all the words of the “Star Spangled Banner?” Send me a message and tell me your thoughts and ideas.

For your information:
The large Star Spangled Banner Flag that inspired the lyrics of the US national anthem when it flew above Fort McHenry in the 1814 Battle of Baltimore. Shown here on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of History and Technology, around 1964. Many pieces were cut off the flag and given away as souvenirs early during its history. A linen backing, attached in 1914, shows the original extent of the flag.

Images of Francis Scott Key and the actual Star Spangled Banner flag from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Copyright © 2014 Jackie Saulmon Ramirez. All Rights Reserved.

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About Jackie Saulmon Ramirez

Jackie has volunteered for more than twenty years for children and family issues. Currently she writes for parents in the "Reminder" and "Parent Rap" Facebook page. If you are interested in receiving the "Reminder," send her a message.
This entry was posted in How-To, Parenting, Poetry and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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