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 Patriotic music makes us think about the great gift we have of living here in America, in this time, in this free place. 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 Patriotic music. Here’s how I teacher Patriotic music to 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.
I believe 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 and is a wonderful way to say “thank you”.
After each of my Veteran’s Day Music programs everyone is very grateful that the children have sung and that we have paid respect to Veteran’s. It’s evident that patriotic music touches hearts. Last year the Veteran’s of the Vietnam war shared their tears with me and thanked 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 and to know what it feels like to touch hearts through music. But, patriotism isn’t something you can taste-
it’s something that the heart needs to feel. And my goal is to help students feel and then share those feelings so that they can touch hearts. Adding in a little history lesson about the song or what it means, can help students understand and then feel what it means to be patriotic. As I teach the students the lyrics to the song I use a variety of activities to help them express their feelings in their voices. Here’s two ideas on how to teach Patriotic Music to touch hearts.
SING IT LIKE YOU MEAN IT
Funnily, I’ve been working on a song with the word “democracy” in it and my students don’t know what “democracy” means. I tell them it’s “government for the people, by the people”. Then I share examples of how we have a voice in the government and some of the free choices they have that other children don’t. Students can’t sing it like they mean it if they don’t understand the words they are singing. I made a video for my students with the history of The Star Spangled Banner that has the story of Francis Scott Key and how he came to write the lyrics. The video is a good starting point for a discussion about the Flag and the history of the song.
SING IT WITH EXPRESSION
Some ways that students can sing it like they mean it is through body posture, facial expression and musical expression. All year long I work on skills like vocal posture. I use this poem to remind students how to stand and I compliment the ones who are demonstrating it correctly.
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SING IT AS A PERFORMER
Another way I try to help them to “show” the song is to talk about the difference between being the “performer” and in the audience. “Have you ever heard Darth Vader ask from a burger and fries during a Star Wars movie?” Some examples like this help them to “get” the idea that they are performers now-“professional” performers who are going to share something with the audience that’s special and memorable. “And our goal is to bring tears to their eyes when we sing”. The students I teach have a lot of family members who are in the armed forces. 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 because the parents love to watch their children sing, and their heart’s are touched by the patriotic music.
Looking for a quick and easy music program? This is a Free Resource with a script and familiar song choices.
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 also talk to them about “focus” like when you’re ready to kick the ball into the goal- it’s like singing a high note…you 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’ll 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?” If you want to read more about using “BALLS IN THE MUSIC ROOM”
You can read it HERE.
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 athletes…so 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. A few years ago, 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.
PATRIOTIC THEMED RHYTHMS AND CREATIVE MOVEMENT ACTIVITIES
How do you teach patriotic music to touch hearts? Share your successes and tips here!
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