Personalizing our National Anthem

Written by Francis Scott Key, the Star Spangled Banner is the national anthem of the United States of America.

The story behind the Star Spangled Banner is as moving as the anthem itself. During the War of 1812, Key was called upon to negotiate the release Dr. William Beane who was a prisoner on the British naval ship, Tonnant.

The Tonnant was anchored near Baltimore and Fort McHenry.  Key traveled there and  secured Beane’s release but since the British navy had begun attacking Baltimore, he had to wait at sea to return home.

The British navy soon abandoned Baltimore and turned their full attention on Fort McHenry on September 13, 1814. As the 190 pound shells began to shake the fort,  mother nature brought a storm of her own. Thunder, lightening and rain pelted the shore along with the bombs and shells.

At sea, Key watched the bombs bursting in air over the water and steadily pummeling Fort McHenry. It was surely a sight to behold. For 25 hours the star shaped fort manned by approximately 1,000 American soldiers endured over 1,500 cannon shots.

In the early morning of September 14th, the British were defeated. Major George Armistead ordered the oversized American flag raised in all its glory over Fort McHenry.

As Key awaited at sea for dawn to break and smoke to clear, imagine the inspiring sight in the silence of the morning to see his country’s flag fully unfurled against the breaking of the day and the fort standing strong.

Key was so moved by the experience he immediately began penning the lyrics to what is now our national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner”.


Sing the Star Spangled Banner.  Support students in their understanding of the words and meaning of the anthem using Knovation’s Texthelp feature.  With icurio, I used a resource called Our National Anthem: The Star-Spangled Banner with the words from the song.  After turning on Texthelp in the upper right-hand corner of the page, I can:

  • select a passage to have read out loud in English so students know how to pronounce certain phrases like”O’er the ramparts we watched”
  • select a single word to get a definition, for example, what exactly is a “rampart”?
  • select a single word to get a picture definition, so that “by the dawn’s early light” becomes clear showing that “dawn’s” is the rising of the sun
  • select a passage and have it translated, for example, to Spanish – now my ELL students can understand more clearly the passage “and the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night, that our flag was still there”
  • have that passage then read aloud in Spanish to hear the anthem spoken in a familiar language to enhance the comprehension and connection to the words

National Anthem with Texthelp

It ‘s a very powerful song, let’s help all of our students understand it and be able to sing it proudly.  Oh, Say Can You See all the classrooms in schools all over the country celebrating our national anthem and being moved by the words just like when they were first heard in 1814?

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