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Let the Music Play!

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Students will identify George Washington as the first President of the United States. Students will understand what a symbol is and will recognize symbols of America.

Coin Type(s)

  • Quarter

Coin Program(s)

  • 50 State Quarters
  • Bicentennial coins


  • Students will identify George Washington as the first President of the United States.
  • Students will understand what a symbol is and will recognize symbols of America.

Major Subject Area Connections

  • Language Arts
  • Music
  • Social Studies


  • Kindergarten
  • First grade

Class Time

Sessions: Two
Session Length: 20-30 minutes
Total Length: 46-90 minutes


  • Whole group
  • Individual work

Background Knowledge

Students should have a basic knowledge of:

  • Coins
  • Musical instruments

Terms and Concepts

  • Obverse (front)
  • Reverse (back)
  • Past
  • Present
  • Symbol
  • President
  • Patriotic


  • 1 overhead projector
  • 1 overhead transparency of the following pages:
    • “Bicentennial Quarter Obverse”
    • “Bicentennial Quarter Reverse”
    • “United States Outline Map”
  • “About George” worksheet
  • Copy of a text about George Washington, such as:
    • A Picture Book of George Washington by David A. Adler
    • The Story of George Washington by Patricia Pingry
    • George Washington: Farmer, Soldier, President by Pamela Hill Nettleton
    • When Washington Crossed the Delaware by Lynne Cheney
  • Chart paper
  • Markers
  • Copy of a text about patriotic symbols and music lyrics, such as:
    • Yankee Doodle by Marsha Qualey
    • America the Beautiful by Katherine Lee Bates
    • Hurray for the Fourth of July by Wendy Watson
    • My Country ‘Tis of Thee by Samuel Francis Smith
    • Star-Spangled Banner by Francis Scott Key
    • America: A Patriotic Primer by Lynne Cheney
  • Crayons
  • Musical recording of “Yankee Doodle” and CD or tape player or a musical instrument
  • Student drums and sticks (optional)


  • Make copies of the “About George” worksheet (1 per student).
  • Locate a text about George Washington (see examples under “Materials”).
  • Locate a text about patriotic symbols and songs (see examples under “Materials”).
  • Make an overhead transparency of each of the following:
    • “Bicentennial Quarter Obverse” page
    • “Bicentennial Quarter Reverse” page
    • “United States Outline Map”
  • Write the lyrics to “Yankee Doodle” on chart paper.

Worksheets and Files

Lesson plan, worksheet(s), and rubric (if any) at

Session 1

  1. Display the “Bicentennial Quarter Obverse” overhead transparency. Ask the students what they know about the image. Make sure that the students understand that the image is the obverse (front) of a quarter, and the man on the quarter is George Washington. Tell the students he lived a long time ago, in the past, and was the first President of the United States.
  2. Write the current date on a piece of chart paper. Ask the students to name the current President of the United States. Write the name under the date. Remind the students that George Washington was the President of the United States in the past, and the current person is the President today, in the present.
  3. Discuss with the students what they already know about George Washington.
  4. Introduce the students to the selected text about George Washington. As a group, preview the text and illustrations to generate observations about what is occurring at different points in the text. Read the text to the class and attend to any unfamiliar vocabulary.
  5. After reading the text, ask the students what it was about. Using picture cues, describe the text’s major events. Record the responses on the chart paper.
  6. On a new piece of chart paper, have the class use the ideas from the text and class discussions to sequence the major events of Washington’s life.
  7. Ask the students to tell you what a symbol is. If necessary, tell the students that a symbol is an object that stands for something else. Use an example from the classroom or neighborhood such as the symbol for bathroom or children crossing a street.
  8. Review the events on the chart paper and discuss what symbols could be created to represent the events. Add some of these symbols to the list of events.
  9. Distribute the “About George” worksheet. Review the worksheet with the students. Have the students complete the worksheet individually.
  10. Have the students share their “About George” worksheets in small groups. Collect the worksheets and display them in the classroom.

Session 2

  1. Display and review the charts from the previous session with the students. Explain that long ago there was a war (Revolutionary) and George Washington was the leader of the soldiers in the war.
  2. Display the “United States Outline Map” overhead transparency. Explain to the students that our country didn’t always have 50 states. It had only 13 areas, and they weren’t even states; they were called “colonies.” Tell the students that, after the Revolutionary War, 13 states were created from the thirteen colonies and that the states decided to come together as one single country called the United States of America. Highlight the location of the 13 colonies on the map. Tell the students that more states were added to the United States over time and now there are 50 states. Highlight the location of your state on the map.
  3. Display the “Bicentennial Quarter Reverse” overhead transparency. Tell the students that, in 1976, the United States Mint made quarters with a special design on the reverse (back) to remind everyone of all the people who fought in the Revolutionary War and to celebrate our independence (which was declared in 1776).
  4. Point out the circle of stars in the quarter image. Explain to the students that the 13 stars are symbols—symbols of the 13 colonies. Discuss the details of the image with the students. Point out the man (soldier) and the clothing and hat the soldier is wearing. Ask the students to identify the instrument the soldier is playing and explain that the drum was used to help the other soldiers march together and as a way to communicate with them during battle.
  5. Introduce the students to the selected text about patriotic symbols and music lyrics. As a group, preview the text. Read the text aloud to the students. Attend to unfamiliar vocabulary and concepts.
  6. Ask the students to think of songs and symbols of our country. Record their responses on chart paper.
  7. Tell the students that they may know a song that many of the Revolutionary War soldiers sang in 1776. Tell the students that “Yankee Doodle” is a song that was sung during the Revolutionary War and many Revolutionary War soldiers marched to the song and sang “Yankee Doodle” proudly.
  8. Ask the students if they know the words to the song “Yankee Doodle.” Display the lyrics to “Yankee Doodle.” Play the song and point to the words as they are sung. Have the students sing along. After the students have learned the song, have them march around the room singing the song. Provide a toy drum for one student to keep the beat for the other “soldiers.”

Differentiated Learning Options

  • Allow the students to work in pairs when completing the activities.
  • Provide books for the library area of the classroom, both as text and on tape.


  • Gather copies of the selected text and add it to the class library.
  • Have students learn other patriotic songs to sing as a class.
  • Have students create a Tricorn hat out of construction paper to wear while marching to “Yankee Doodle.”

Use the students’ classroom participation and their responses on the worksheet to evaluate the extent to which the students meet the lesson objectives.

There are no related resources for this lesson plan.

This lesson plan is not associated with any Common Core Standards.

Discipline: Visual Arts and Music
Domain: K-4 Music
Cluster: Standard 1: Singing, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music
Grade(s): Grades K–4

  • Students sing independently, on pitch and in rhythm, with appropriate timbre, diction, and posture, and maintain a steady tempo
  • Students sing expressively, with appropriate dynamics, phrasing, and interpretation
  • Students sing from memory a varied repertoire of songs representing genres and styles from diverse cultures
  • Students sing ostinatos, partner songs, and rounds
  • Students sing in groups, blending vocal timbres, matching dynamic levels, and responding to the cues of a conductor

Discipline: Language Arts
Domain: All Language Arts Standards
Cluster: Literature
Grade(s): Grades K–4

  • Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience. 

Discipline: Visual Arts and Music
Domain: K-4 Music
Cluster: Standard 2: Performing on instruments, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music
Grade(s): Grades K–4

  • Students perform on pitch, in rhythm, with appropriate dynamics and timbre, and maintain a steady tempo
  • Students perform easy rhythmic, melodic, and chordal patterns accurately and independently on rhythmic, melodic, and harmonic classroom instruments
  • Students perform expressively a varied repertoire of music representing diverse genres and styles
  • Students echo short rhythms and melodic patterns
  • Students perform in groups, blending instrumental timbres, matching dynamic levels, and responding to the cues of a conductor
  • Students perform independent instrumental parts (e.g., simple rhythmic or melodic ostinatos, constrasting rhythmic lines, harmonic progressions, and chords) while other students sing or play contrasting parts

Discipline: Visual Arts and Music
Domain: K-4 Music
Cluster: Standard 9: Understanding music in relation to history and culture
Grade(s): Grades K–4

  • Students identify by genre or style aural examples of music from various historical periods and cultures
  • Students describe in simple terms how elements of music are used in music examples from various cultures of the world
  • Students identify various uses of music in their daily experiences and describe characteristics that make certain music suitable for each use
  • Students identify and describe roles of musicians (e.g., orchestra conductor, folksinger, church organist) in various music settings and cultures
  • Students demonstrate audience behavior appropriate for the context and style of music performed

Discipline: Social Studies
Domain: All Thematic Standards
Cluster: Power, Authority, and Governance
Grade(s): Grades K–4

Teachers should:

  • enable learners to examine the rights and responsibilities of the individual in relation to their families, their social groups, their community, and their nation; help students to understand the purpose of government and how its powers are acquired, used, and justified
  • provide opportunities for learners to examine issues involving the rights, roles, and status of individuals in relation to the general welfare
  • enable learners to describe the ways nations and organizations respond to forces of unity and diversity affecting order and security
  • have learners explain conditions, actions, and motivations that contribute to conflict and cooperation within and among nations
  • help learners to analyze and explain governmental mechanisms to meet the needs and wants of citizens, regulate territory, manage conflict, and establish order and security
  • have learners identify and describe the basic features of the American political system, and identify representative leaders from various levels and branches of government
  • challenge learners to apply concepts such as power, role, status, justice, democratic values, and influence to the examination of persistent issues and social problems guide learners to explain and evaluate how governments attempt to achieve their stated ideals at home and abroad