The War of 1812 is often overlooked. It seems it accomplished very little. (Both Britain and America considered themselves winners.) The biggest battle occurred after the peace treaty was signed. But, because of the War, America was finally recognized as it’s own nation. The flag became a symbol of patriotism, and we received the national anthem.
Learning about James Madison and the War of 1812
Lesson Objective: Since Britain never officially recognized the new U.S.A. after the Revolutionary War, American ships faced trouble on the seas, Britain refused to allow American trade ships, and Britain set up forts in the American frontier. The U.S. declared war on Britain when “war hawks” convinced the majority in congress that the only way to stop the issues with Britain was to fight it. The War of 1812 did not have official winners or loser. But in the end Britain recognized the United States, and the United States survived this first major international issue. (Copywork sentence: The U.S.A. fought Britain in the War of 1812.)
The most fascinating facts to me were the ways in which sailors were those of “impressment” (when American sailors were essentially kidnapped by British ships and put into the army without their permission). Dolley Madison’s heroic rescue of George Washington’s portrait is delightful, despite the fact that Washington, D.C., and the White House burned down! I also loved the fact that there were everyday people who became heroes. Some great picture books share their stories.
- Set up a simulation the War of 1812 to learn about impressment.
- Dolley Madison Saves George Washington by Don Brown. After you read, throw a Dolley Madison party (she loved entertaining). Discuss what you would save after reading Dolley Madison’s letter about her experience (lesson plan can be adapted for younger children).
- Washington is Burning by Marty Rhodes Figly.* The story of Dolley Madison’s escape from Washington, D.C., from the perspective of her slave, Paul Jennings. A higher-level early reader book.
- Sisters of Scituate Light by Stephen Krensky. The story of two lighthouse keepers who pretend to be an army band (drum and fife) to scare away a British ship coming to burn the harbor. Make a fife and drum and learn to play roll call.
- The Town the Fooled the British by Lisa Papp. The story of how the town put lanterns high in the trees to convince the British the town was in a different place than it really was, thus saving the harbor and town from destruction.
- See a timeline of the War of 1812 on PBS and act it out with toy soldiers
- Learn about important people of the War of 1812 and/or make a War of 1812 clothespin soldier
- Discuss what was the meaning of the War of 1812 to the different groups: America, Britain, Native Americans.
- Get more teaching ideas and online activities from A Sailor’s Life for me!
The Star-Spangled Banner
Lesson Objective: During the war of 1812, many wondered if the infant U.S. could survive. If Fort McHenry at Baltimore fell, the survival of the nation was in danger. Francis Scott Key watched the flag flying the early morning hours after a long battle, confident that it meant the nation would last. We got the National Anthem out of this story. (Copywork sentence: Francis Scott Key wrote The Star-Spangled Banner.)
I love this patriotic story. Although in the history of America the event is not hugely significant, learning about the origins of our national anthem seems appropriate for the early elementary crowd. Learn about the huge flag, do flag crafts, and learn the verses of the song. Here are the activities and books to check out.
- Francis Scott Key’s Star-Spangled Banner by Monica Kulling. Learn about Fort McHenry.
- The Star-Spangled Banner by Francis Scott Key, illustrated by Todd Ouren. An illustrated version of our National Anthem. Learn the song and learn about other patriotic music.
- The Flag Maker by Susan Campbell Bartoletti. Tells the story of the creation of the gigantic flag at Fort McHenry. Can you make a star 2 feet wide?
- The Star-Spangled Banner (Smithsonian) by Nancy Lambert. Tells about the original flag now at the Smithsonian. Check out the Smithsonian teaching ideas as well!
- Learn about honoring the flag and read more books about the American flag
This was the last day of the Early American History Series! I hope you have enjoyed it. See the 10 Days of Early American History for Elementary to find the other lessons!