Oh Say! What a Big Flag!


Starting with the Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine quarter, students will understand and demonstrate measurement skills. Students will analyze the national anthem.

Coin Type(s)

  • Quarter

Coin Program(s)

  • America the Beautiful Quarters


  • Students will understand and demonstrate measurement skills.
  • Students will analyze the national anthem.

Major Subject Area Connections

  • Math
  • Social Studies
  • Music


  • 4th
  • 5th
  • 6th

Class Time

  • Sessions: Two
  • Session Length: 45-60 minutes
  • Total Length: 91-120 minutes


  • Whole group
  • Pairs
  • Individual work


  • Worksheets:
    • "Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine Quarter"
    • "The Star-Spangled Banner"
    • "The Star-Spangled Banner, Key"
  • An age-appropriate text about the Star-Spangled Banner, such as:
    • The Flag Maker by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
    • By the Dawn's Early Light: The Story of the Star Spangled Banner by Stephen Kroll
    • The Story of the Star-Spangled Banner by Ryan Jacobson, Cynthia Martin and Terry Beatty
  • Age-appropriate, relevant Web sites, such as:



Worksheets and files (PDF)

Lesson Steps

  1. Display and examine the "Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine Quarter" page or use the zoom feature at www.usmint.gov/mint_programs/atb/?local==FortMcHenry.  Locate this site on a class map. Note its position in relation to your school's location. Tell the students that the front of a coin is called the "obverse" and the back is called the "reverse." As background information, explain to the students that the United States Mint began to issue the quarters in the America the Beautiful Quarters® Program in 2010. By the time the program ends in 2021, there will be a total of 56 designs. Each design will focus on a different national site—one from each state, territory and the District of Columbia.
  2. Read and discuss a text you select on the Star Spangled Banner (the flag).
  3. Display an image of the Star Spangled Banner as it appears today in the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. Ask the students to predict the size of the flag. Record their ideas. Distribute one "The Star Spangled Banner" worksheet to each student. Review the worksheet and its directions. Have the students label the flag on the worksheet using the dimensions of the original garrison flag (42 by 30 feet, with stars and stripes 2 feet wide).
  4. Take the students to a large open space. Give each student a pre-cut length of yarn that corresponds to the dimensions of the perimeter (two at 42 feet and two at 30 feet), the canton (one at 16 feet and one at 21 feet) and the width of one star and one stripe (2 feet each). Organize the students to create the outline, canton and stripes of the flag using their lengths of yarn. Have the students consider how large this area appears. Ask the students to compare and contrast this Star Spangled Banner replica with the size of your classroom flag, the school's flag or a typical school flag.
  5. Review the details of the battle from the text focusing on the battle conditions (smoke, noise, distance from fort, etc.). Ask the students to consider what Francis Scott Key was able to see during the battle and the next morning and why the flag played such an important role in helping him understand the outcome of the battle.
  6. Return to the classroom and provide the lyrics of "The Star Spangled Banner." Play the anthem for the students. Using a T-chart posted on the board or chart paper, show the lyrics line by line on the left side. On the right side of the chart, have students paraphrase each line to determine meaning.
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  • Take anecdotal notes about the students' participation in class discussions and activities.
  • Evaluate the students' worksheets for understanding of the lesson objectives.

Common Core Standards

Discipline: Math
Domain: 4.MD Measurement and Data
Grade(s): Grade 4
Cluster: Solve problems involving measurement and conversion of measurements from a larger unit to a smaller unit

  • 4.MD.1. Know relative sizes of measurement units within one system of units including km, m, cm, kg, g, lb, oz, l, ml, hr, min and sec. Within a single system of measurement, express measurements in a larger unit in terms of a smaller unit. Record measurement equivalents in a two column table.
    • For example, know that 1ft is 12 times as long as 1in. Express the length of a 4ft snake as 48in. Generate a conversion table for feet and inches listing the number pairs (1, 12), (2, 24), (3, 36), ...
  • 4.MD.2. Use the four operations to solve word problems involving distances, intervals of time, liquid volumes, masses of objects, and money, including problems involving simple fractions or decimals, and problems that require expressing measurements given in a larger unit in terms of a smaller unit. Represent measurement quantities using diagrams such as number line diagrams that feature a measurement scale.
  • 4.MD.3. Apply the area and perimeter formulas for rectangles in real world and mathematical problems. For example, find the width of a rectangular room given the area of the flooring and the length, by viewing the area formula as a multiplication equation with an unknown factor. 

National Standards

Discipline: Visual Arts and Music
Domain: 5-8 Music
Cluster: Standard 6: Listening to, analyzing, and describing music
Grade(s): Grades 5–8

  • Students describe specific music events (e.g., entry of oboe, change of meter, return of refrain) in a given aural example, using appropriate terminology
  • Students analyze the uses of elements of music in aural examples representing diverse genres and cultures
  • Students demonstrate knowledge of the basic principles of meter, rhythm, tonality, intervals, chords, and harmonic progressions in their analyses of music

Discipline: Mathematics
Domain: 3-5 Measurement
Cluster: Apply appropriate techniques, tools, and formulas to determine measurements.
Grade(s): Grades 5–8

In grades 3–5 all students should

  • develop strategies for estimating the perimeters, areas, and volumes of irregular shapes;
  • select and apply appropriate standard units and tools to measure length, area, volume, weight, time, temperature, and the size of angles;
  • select and use benchmarks to estimate measurements;
  • develop, understand, and use formulas to find the area of rectangles and related triangles and parallelograms; and
  • develop strategies to determine the surface areas and volumes of rectangular solids.

Discipline: Mathematics
Domain: 3-5 Measurement
Cluster: Understand measurable attributes of objects and the units, systems, and processes of measurement.
Grade(s): Grades 5–8

In grades 3–5 all students should

  • understand such attributes as length, area, weight, volume, and size of angle and select the appropriate type of unit for measuring each attribute;
  • understand the need for measuring with standard units and become familiar with standard units in the customary and metric systems;
  • carry out simple unit conversions, such as from centimeters to meters, within a system of measurement;
  • understand that measurements are approximations and how differences in units affect precision; and
  • explore what happens to measurements of a two-dimensional shape such as its perimeter and area when the shape is changed in some way.

Discipline: Mathematics
Domain: 6-8 Measurement
Cluster: Apply appropriate techniques, tools, and formulas to determine measurements.
Grade(s): Grades 5–8

In grades 6–8 all students should

  • use common benchmarks to select appropriate methods for estimating measurements;
  • select and apply techniques and tools to accurately find length, area, volume, and angle measures to appropriate levels of precision;
  • develop and use formulas to determine the circumference of circles and the area of triangles, parallelograms, trapezoids, and circles and develop strategies to find the area of more-complex shapes;
  • develop strategies to determine the surface area and volume of selected prisms, pyramids, and cylinders;
  • solve problems involving scale factors, using ratio and proportion; and
  • solve simple problems involving rates and derived measurements for such attributes as velocity and density.

Discipline: Visual Arts and Music
Domain: 5-8 Music
Cluster: Standard 8: Understanding relationships between music, the other arts, and disciplines outside the arts
Grade(s): Grades 5–8

  • Students compare in two or more arts how the characteristic materials of each art (that is, sound in music, visual stimuli in visual arts, movement in dance, human interrelationships in theatre) can be used to transform similar events, scenes, emotions, or ideas into works of art
  • Students describe ways in which the principles and subject matter of other disciplines taught in the school are interrelated with those of music (e.g., language arts: issues to be considered in setting texts to music; mathematics: frequency ratios of intervals; sciences: the human hearing process and hazards to hearing; social studies: historical and social events and movements chronicled in or influenced by musical works

Discipline: Visual Arts and Music
Domain: 5-8 Music
Cluster: Standard 9: Understanding music in relation to history and culture
Grade(s): Grades 5–8

  • Students describe distinguishing characteristics of representative music genres and styles from a variety of cultures
  • Students classify by genre and style (and, if applicable, by historical period, composer, and title) a varied body of exemplary (that is, high-quality and characteristic) musical works and explain the characteristics that cause each work to be considered exemplary
  • Students compare, in several cultures of the world, functions music serves, roles of musicians (e.g., lead guitarist in a rock band, composer of jingles for commercials, singer in Peking opera), and conditions under which music is typically performed