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Sunday, July 8, 2012

USA Symbols: Books & Materials

I'm writing this post because I often had trouble explaining United States symbols to my kinders.  I couldn't find many age-appropriate materials related to this topic.  After much research I did find some wonderful resources, but I had to dig.  I really hope that these books, songs and materials help you in your units about United States symbols.

F is for Flag is a fantastic book for kindergarten because it describes what our flag looks like now and what it looked like long ago.  It discusses nicknames for our flag, the holidays related to the flag, and what the flag means to people who live in America.  I found some wonderful songs that really get to the heart of the United States symbols lessons: "America", "Yankee Doodle" and "You're A Grand Old Flag" sung by Cedarmont Kids.  These songs all bring tears to my eyes.  It's easy to forget how powerful music can be when we're singing about our country.

L is for Liberty is an excellent book to read during any unit on symbols of America, because it really focuses on definitions of liberty and freedom, explaining it in a kid-friendly manner.  This book has about 22 pages and just a few sentences on each page, making it very appropriate for any K or 1st grade classroom.

Red, White, and Blue: The Story of the American Flag concentrates on the story of Betsy Ross, how the flag has developed and changed over the years, and some of the meaning behind the design of the flag.  It also talks about the poem that Francis Scott Key wrote, and how it became the song "The Star-Spangled Banner".  I purchased a version of this song by Cedarmont Kids to teach my children after reading this book.  It was very surprising to me, but none of my students had ever heard "The Star-Spangled Banner".

America Is... has colorful, full-page illustrations that include a wide diversity of people.  I especially like the line "America is... teachers and their students in schools in every state, and miners and factory workers, artists and musicians, bakers and bankers.  And millions of other people who work at many different kinds of jobs at every hour of the day and night."  This book also covers United States symbols and various land forms in the country, as well as holidays and why we have them.  It's just right to read in a kindergarten classroom.

Of course, the book America the Beautiful is based on the song of the same name, and it has gorgeous illustrations.  Ray Charles sings a version of this song that is very popular on iTunes.  Blake Shelton also sings a country version of it, and Barbra Streisand does a lovely rendition as well.  It just depends on what your own taste and style of music will lead you to.  There are many versions!

A fabulous toy that I purchased for my classroom is an age-appropriate Talking USA Puzzle.  When you correctly place a state where it belongs, the puzzle speaks the name of the state, its nickname, and its capital city.  My children were enchanted with this toy, and it's such a wonderful way to teach map skills and geography - there are not many toys that do this!  It costs about $25, and to me it's well worth the investment.

The Time for Kids web site has lots of useful resources and downloads such as a USA Landmarks activity and maps of the United States that are simple enough for kindergartners and first-graders to understand.  I've also made a couple of resources of my own that might help you.  Feel free to download these:
USA Symbols Graphic Organizer

I Love The USA

What resources have you found for a United States symbols unit?  I would love to know!  Please leave a comment below.

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