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February 19, 2017

How to Teach Patriotic Music to Touch Hearts

It always brings the audience to tears. It strikes the heart in all of us, especially those who have family members who serve or who have served in the Armed Forces, and hopefully it makes us humble. I'd like to think that it  makes us think about the great gift we have of living here in America, in this time, in this Free place. What is it? Patriotic music. Yes, Patriotic music touches the hearts of everyone. When sung by the innocent sweet voices of children, Patriotic music typically evokes strong emotional reactions. I love it and I love to teach it because it can really touch hearts.  
Having lived overseas for a few years, I gained a greater appreciation for things "American". Yes, the food, the modern conveniences, the beauty, but more importantly, the freedoms. You really can be all you can be here. There's nothing to stop you. You can choose to embrace that freedom and fly with it or you can see the faults and the human mistakes that sometimes permeate the good intentions of the laws.
So how do we teach children to touch hearts when they sing?
My patriotism stems from my personal experience but also from the historical experiences in my family. My great, great, great, grandfather served in the Civil War and survived, my grandfather served in WWI and my father served during a non-combat time. We really aren't a military family, but we are patriotic. I have cousins who have served, a brother-in-law who served and works in Public service. We all share something in common--it's our patriotism. 
Some children experience patriotism through tragedy and grief. Feelings like theirs can not be shared unless equally felt through similar losses.

It's been proven to me that singing patriotic songs and showing patriotism in our attitude and dress puts a spark of gratitude and love in the hearts of those who have experienced this kind of loss.
It seems like every patriotic program I put together the Veteran's of the Vietnam war share their tears with me and thank me for recognizing them-they served during a time when America was torn about patriotism. This is why I choose to perform Patriotic Music Programs every year. I want my students to feel deeply about what it means to be a Patriot.
Patriotism isn't something you can taste-
it's something that the heart needs to feel.
 I teach the students the lyrics to the song and help them express their feelings in their voices using a variety of activities.




These three things become part of our class room practices.

The students I teach have similar backgrounds. So they can relate to patriotism pretty easily. So when I sing patriotic songs with them I feel like I am helping them to express their feelings and the feelings of their family members. I believe that by teaching patriotic music we are teaching and giving children the opportunity to touch hearts.
 I believe you can teach your students how to touch hearts and help people change through MUSIC!
At my school we invite the Veteran's who are relatives of the school children to our music performance. We have a special place up front for them to sit and we recognize each of them individually, stating their name, where they served and in which branch of the military they served.
I have my fourth graders perform this program. I have them practice for about 10-12 weeks (1 time a week classes) for this program. It is our biggest music "deal" because it involves the community. We also invite a local scout troop who's members attend our school to do the flag ceremony.
It has been such a success, that I thought I'd share some of the resources and ideas I use for this program in a FREEBIE in my TpT store.
Patriotic Music Program with Script or Readers Theater and

I ask all of the audience and the children to wear RED-WHITE- and BLUE. I ask them NOT to wear any sports shirts and to keep the logos and pictures to a minimum. I encourage them to wear long pants or skirts. One of the 4th grade teachers is from England. Her father sends over paper poppies for the children to wear to remind them of the great sacrifices that others have made for their freedom. The poem "In Flander's Fields" by John Mc Crae is where we get the reference for the poppies.  You can read about it here: "The Legends and Traditions of the great war"
Over the years we've done many different types of activities with the children to help them remember why we have this special music program. We invite a guest speaker to talk to the whole school. We've had a variety of of people come speak to us-all Veteran's! Some have been training to be doctors, or served in the Marines, or are even on active duty-they all share their feelings of unity, patriotism and courage. Sometimes I have asked them to come to my classroom and show pictures of their experiences. 
Most of all, I tell the students that it's their job to make me cry during the program. Well, actually, what I'm trying to get them to do is to sing from their hearts. It's not something you can just tell them to "do". I talk about the words, I share stories, I sing to them from "my" heart, but I think the thing that works the best is that I ask them to sing the song in their own way. I don't want them to imitate the singing voices, or my voice, or their neighbors voice. I ask them to sing with their own voice. 
There have been times when I've had students who can't, or won't sing during rehearsals, and then the music touches their hearts and they "get it"-they start to sing! Now  I call them my "rock star"! 
I encourage team work along with holding still, bending the knees, breathing, singing soft, loud, following the director--all the things we music teachers do with our choirs. 
 I relate the choir experience to being on a sports team.  I ask my students questions like, "if you are not paying attention and you are playing around doesn't the coach bench you?"  Now I have their attention. "What happens if you sit down during the middle of the game? Do you get to keep playing?" ( I have students who will sit down because they don't want to "focus"). 
I also talk to them about "focus" like when you're ready to kick the ball into the goal- it's like singing a high need to know where it's going and then let it go with confidence. Or, standing in choir is kind of like getting ready for the ball to be pitched--you're waiting-you're watching-and you are ready!
I have found that "sports" talk really helps communicate what I expect from my students. And I apologize to those of you who aren't sorry--I was a baseball, basketball and badminton player all through my upper elementary and high school years. 
My point though is that I try to find a way to relate to "my" students-who are very sports minded kids.
I felt prompted to compose some patriotic songs for my students and students every where to sing. 
I hope I've captured the spirit of patriotism in these lyrics. You can find all of them in my TpT store. I thought I'd share some of the lyrics and the preview videos with you. 
"America is You and Me"
I have friends from everywhere, and every day at school,
We show respect as we pledge to the red, white and blue.

America is home to every color. It's the place I want to be.

America is you and me together keeping America free.

There's patriots and heroes who deserve our gratitude.
To show respect, you can pledge to the red, white and blue.

Song #2

You Are a Hero
You give your life to make the world safe.
With bravery and honor, you follow your faith.
Your sacrifice matters more than you know.
Oh, You are a hero! You are a hero!
A hero does his best
Overcomes all when put to the test.
Climbs mountains, though tired, runs faster though weak.
Oh, You are a hero. I want to thank you. You are a hero.
You show your commitment to what you believe.
With kindness and courage, you keep us free.
Your sacrifice matters more than you know.
Oh! You are a hero! You are a hero!
(lyrics copyrighted! Sandra Hendrickson)
You can also find "Red, White and Blue".

"I Love America"

If you like these songs, you can find them here:
I have scripts, music programs and songs at my TPT store for music and classroom teachers to use to make Patriotic Holidays meaningful. 
Patriotic Script or Readers Theater with Song Sheets for P  Patriotic Script Familiar Songs and Music Matching Game K-6  Patriotic Music Program or Readers Theater with Script, So  Patriotic Music Printables *Dynamics *Notes *Expression *S  Patriotic Song "Red, White and Blue" Unison Video Sing-a-l  Patriotic Song “I Love America” Unison Video Sing-a-long  Patriotic Song "You Are A Hero" Unison Video Sing-a-long &   Patriotic Song "America is You and Me" Unison Video Sing-a   ORFF & RECORDER Math and Music Song "Who is on the Coin?"

I've also added a FREEBIE Patriotic Movement, Rhythm and Scarf Resources to be companions to your patriotic music lessons.
Creative Movement Patriotic Themed Activities
Patriotic Music Class Rhythm Activities: Notation, Body Pe
Patriotic Scarf and Ribbon Activities K-6


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