Free History Studies: The Star-Spangled Banner

Free History Studies: The Star-Spangled Banner
Free History Studies: The Star-Spangled Banner

Francis Scott Key wrote the words to the Star-Spangled Banner as a poem of thanksgiving upon seeing the Stars and Stripes continuing to fly over Fort McHenry after a night of shelling by the British.

Read the current chapter online: “The Star-Spangled Banner”

  • Map the following (you’ll find mapping resources below):
    • Maryland
    • Washington, D.C.
    • Ft. McHenry
  • Flags of Truce or white flags are often used in battle as a request to suspend fire for various reasons. Read more about Flags of Truce.
  • View the flag that Francis Scott Key saw flying over Fort McHenry.  This flag was donated to the Smithsonian museum in 1912 and has since been restored.
  • View the original manuscript of “The Star-Spangled Banner” penned by Francis Scott Key.
  • Listen to the “Star-Spangled Banner” performed by the Marine Band.
  • Narrate the story of how “The Star-Spangled Banner” was written.
  • Copy the first stanza of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
  • More about Francis Scott Key and “The Star-Spangled Banner” from the Book of Knowledge:

Nearly everyone knows the story of Francis Scott Key (1780-1843) of Baltimore and the writing of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” during the War of 1812.

In September, 1814, Key had gone under a flag of truce to the British gunboat Surprise, to request the return of a doctor who had been captured.  The British released the doctor but the Americans’ boat was held under guard all night in Baltimore Harbor, while the British shelled Fort McHenry.  Dawn showed the Stars and Stripes still flying over the fort; and Key wrote his poem of thanksgiving on the back of an old envelope.

“Song-Writers of the United States,” The Book of Knowledge
Further Investigation

“The Star-Spangled Banner”
The words to our national anthem at the National Park Service.

“The Star-Spangled Banner”
The entire history — from the War of 1812 to becoming our national anthem.  From the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.

The Star-Spangled Banner and the War of 1812
Wonderful background information from the Smithsonian.  Also see the image collection at the bottom.

“Defence of Fort M’Henry”
As published in 1814.

Francis Scott Key
Biography from the National Park Service.

Historical Overview of the War of 1812
From Maryland Public Television.

A Map of Fort McHenry in 1814
From the National Park Service.


Maryland Map/Quiz Printout

Interactive Map Maker {Free}
Make your own maps.

Handwriting Worksheet Creator {Free}
Helpful tool for creating your own copywork pages of the song.

War of 1812 Map Timeline Presentation
A look at the chronology of the War of 1812.  Great for creating your own timeline.

The War of 1812 in Pictures
Analyze the war through pictures in this interactive from Maryland Public Television.

Interactive Flag
Explore the very flag that inspired the song at the Smithsonian.

Hold the Fort
An interactive game from the National Park Service where “The fate of Baltimore — and perhaps the United States — Hinges on Your Actions!”

Cast Your Vote
May 1812 and America is on the brink of war.  “Is it to be war or peace?” Explore the various perspectives, and cast your vote.  Also from the National Park Service.

The Star-Spangled Banner

The Star-Spangled Banner illustrated by Peter Spier
We love Peter Spier books.  In this title, the words of our national anthem are beautifully illustrated with scenes from the War of 1812.  Also contains background history and map, the original text penned by Key, and the words and lyrics to our national anthem.  Highly recommended!

“Our Capital Taken by the English”
Chapter from American History Stories by Mara Louise Pratt.

“Madison — War With Great Britain”
Greatly detailed chapter from This Country of Ours by H.E. Marshall.

Our Flag {Free Download}
Beautiful 52-page color download from the Joint Committee on Printing.

Unit Studies & Lesson Plans

A History of the War of 1812 and The Star-Spangled Banner
Lesson plan from the National Museum of American History in which students create a timeline of events.  Excellent background information! (Scroll down to Grades 3–8.)

Oh Say, Can You Sing
Core Knowledge five-lesson plan for younger students with interesting activities and helpful printables.

Second Graders Create Their Own Social Studies Book
Extensive Core Knowledge lesson plan covering the events that led to the War of 1812, the war itself and those involved, and “The Star-Spangled Banner.”  Activities culminate in the student creating his own book about the subject — notebooking, anyone?  Maps, coloring pages, timeline templates, and other printables included.  Probably goes without saying, but highly adaptable to a wide range of ages.

Math and Measuring the Star-Spangled Banner
The flag that Francis Scott Key saw was 30 feet by 42 feet.  Find out just how large that is at the Smithsonian.

What Caused the War of 1812?
Lesson plan aimed at grades 4–8 where students use primary sources to determine the causes of the war.

The Rocket’s Red Glare
Five activities from the National Park Service for summarizing what has been learned about the War of 1812 and “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Flag Day {Free Unit Study}

Flag Day: A Unit Study
Learn more about the flag!

Maryland: A Unit Study
Take a rabbit trail through Maryland via our free state unit study!

Printables & Notebooking Pages

United States Map
At for locating Maryland.

Maryland State Map
Map for locating the District of Columbia, Washington, D.C., and Fort McHenry.

The National Anthem Packet
Set of printables from the studio of Christy Lovenduski that include putting the lines of the song in order, coloring the flag, and illustrating the lines of the song, among other activities.

“The Star-Spangled Banner” Notebooking Pages
Simple pages for copywork, narrations, or wrapping up.

Enjoy the complete series: