The Fourth of July is coming up! It’s the perfect chance to tell your students one (or more) interesting stories about the founding of the United States.
Last week, I told the legend of Betsy Ross and the making of the first American flag to one of my classes, and I’m planning on doing it again with another class when we get a little closer to the holiday. I’ve found that most of my students know very little about people and events in U.S. history and are eager to learn.
I chose to tell the story to my students orally using Stephen Krashen and Beniko Mason’s Story Listening Toolkit. The Toolkit recommends ways that teachers can make a story more comprehensible to students, such as drawing pictures on the board, using gestures, and using synonyms that students already know when introducing new words. In this case, I decided not to draw pictures but instead used pictures I found online (like paintings of Betsy Ross) to make the meaning more clear for students and to pique their interest. After listening to the story, I gave students a handout with several sentences from the story. Each sentence contained a factual mistake. Students needed to work with a partner to correct the mistakes. Afterwards, I gave them the written text so they could read it and check their answers to the activity. Of course, if you want to follow Beniko Mason’s Story Listening method more closely, there is no need to do extra activities after the story. It’s beneficial and enjoyable for students to simply listen to a good story.
If you’d like to use the materials I used, I uploaded them to TeachersPayTeachers (for $1.00). I included the reading passage at three different levels so you can choose which one is best for your students.
Another idea for higher-level students is to read a little bit from the “Who Was Betsy Ross?” book and encourage them to continue reading it on their own during FVR (Free Voluntary Reading) time if they’re interested.
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Educators of older children can benefit from recent information on the origin of the American flag and share this material with their pupils. See: (1) “Our Flag,” Joint Committee on Printing, United States Congress, H. Doc. 100-247, Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1989, which is available for free from one’s Congressman or Congresswoman; (2) the Wikipedia article on Betsy Ross; (3) the Wikipedia article on the Betsy Ross Flag; and (4) the Wikipedia article on Francis Hopkinson. Earl P. Williams, Jr., U.S. flag historian (paleovexillologist)