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Online Lesson Plan
Patriotic Music: Three Cheers for the Red, White & Blue

  Melissa Berke  

Lesson Plan by , Coordinator of Music Education at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Dr. Berke received both her Bachelor of Music Education and Master of Music Education degrees from Drake University, and her PhD from The University of Arizona. She taught elementary and middle school vocal/general music in Iowa, Arizona, and Nebraska. In addition to teaching in public schools, she has been teaching music at the preschool level for six years in various settings. She has been a clinician at numerous national and regional conferences. Her current research interests include early childhood music education, music education for students with special needs, the Orff-Schulwerk approach to music education, and the integration of music and the arts within the general curriculum.

Subject Area:
Music & Social Studies
Suggested Grade Level:
Grades 6-8
Learning Modality:
Auditory & Kinesthetic
Multiple Intelligence:
Bloom's Taxonomy:
What are these educational concepts? What are these educational concepts?



In this lesson, students will:

  • identify events that contributed to the surge in patriotism in the 1940s;
  • compare lyrics of contemporary patriotic songs with patriotic songs of past;
  • identify the characteristics that make a piece of music "patriotic."


Begin the lesson with these questions:

  • Can you name a patriotic song?
  • How do you know that it's patriotic?
  • Today we're going to be listening to some music to determine what makes music patriotic.

The Resources

Links from within the Wessels Living History Farm site. [Note that clicking on these links will open a new browser window. Just close it and you'll be back to this page.] Direct the students to these pages.

Count Basie Have students read the Enlistments & the Draft story, http://www.livinghistoryfarm.org/farminginthe40s/life_02.html. Then have them listen to the song and read the lyrics to "Draftin' Blues" by Count Basie (right). Count Basie
Neil Diamond Have students listen to Neil Diamond's anthem "America," read the lyrics and read the biography of the composer. Neil Diamond
Lee Greenwood Have students listen to Lee Greenwood's song "God Bless the USA," read the lyrics and read the biography of the composer. Lee Greenwood
John Philip Sousa Have students listen to John Philip Sousa's song "The Stars & Stripes Forever," read the lyrics and read the biography of the composer. John Philip Sousa

Resources from outside Wessels. Have students research the lyrics to other patriotic songs – both traditional and contemporary – such as "God Bless America," "The Star Spangled Banner," etc.

The Process

  1. Today we're going to begin with a song that was popular written in the 1940's. It's called the "Draftin' Blues".
    1. What is the style of this music? [Jazz.]
    2. What makes this song patriotic?
    3. What would inspire Count Basie compose this patriotic song?
  2. Now we're going to listen to another song which is from a movie called "The Jazz Singer". It is performed by Neil Diamond.
    1. What is the style of this music? [Rock/Pop.]
    2. Is this song patriotic? Why or why not?
    3. How does it compare to the Draftin' Blues?
  3. Now we're going to listen to another song entitled "God Bless the USA." It is performed by Lee Greenwood.
    1. What is the style of this music? [Country.]
    2. Is this song patriotic? Why or why not?
    3. How does it compare to the "Draftin' Blues" and "America?"
  4. The last three songs have lyrics, so a lot of what you have been able to tell me about the patriotism has to do with the words. Now we're going to listen to a piece by John Philip Sousa called "Stars and Stripes Forever" that's usually played as an instrumental without the lyrics.
    1. What is the style of this music? [Instrumental/Band, although some students might even say Classical.]
    2. Is this song patriotic? Why or why not?
    3. Besides the title, what in the music makes this song patriotic? [Major key portrays happiness and loud dynamics symbolizes confidence and pride in our country. The piccolo solo even reminds me of revolutionary war fife which was popular at the beginning of this country.]
  5. Now, let's listen to the other songs again. Can you identify other musical elements help symbolize patriotism?
  6. Count Basie was inspired by the events of his time. What events of today might inspire composers? Do you know any songs that have been composed recently that are patriotic? How does the composer represent patriotism in that music?

Learning Advice

Any combination of patriotic tunes will work. There are some great websites that have the anthems for the different branches of the armed services which would also work well for this lesson.

As a supplement, I would recommend the book, The Flag I Love, by Pam Munoz Ryan, Charlesbridge Publishing (July, 2000) ISBN: 0881068446. This is a lovely book that would work well with upper elementary students and middle school students. It combines poetry about the flag with facts about how the flag has been used throughout US history.

Conclusion of the Lesson

Patriotism is an abstract concept. Today we discovered that musicians can use words and sounds to symbolize pride in our country. We also discovered that this can happen with any musical style – rock, jazz, country; songs as well as instrumental music.

Assessment Activity

Have students bring examples of current patriotic songs.

Use a Venn diagram to compare and contrast other patriotic songs.

General Notes

This is a great link to other patriotic tunes! http://usinfo.state.gov/usa/infousa/facts/symbols.htm

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Next – I've Got the Blues!

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