You’re a Grand Old Group

By Andrew Doyle, August 26, 2009

Grade Level

  • PreK-1


  • City of Neighborhoods

Subject Area

  • Social Studies

Lesson Time

150 minutes for classroom activities


After studying the origins and history of the American flag, students will break into work groups of four or five to design a group flag.  They will be told that their flag has to be designed to relay the following information to the teacher:  the number of students in the group; the number of boys/girls in the group; at least two colors that represent them in some way.  Using the design process they will bring together their prior knowledge of symbols and colors, formulate possible elements to relay information, and create samples to vote on.  They will then present their ideas to the teacher before the final flag is made.

National Standards

Standard 4. Level I. Understands how democratic values came to be, and how they have been exemplified by people, events, and symbols
8. Knows the history of American symbols (e.g., the eagle, the Liberty Bell, George Washington as the "father of our country," the national flag)
Knowledge/Skill Statements: 4. Knows that the National Flag is an American symbol because it represents the thirteen original American colonies and the fifty states


Students will be able to:
  • understand that the symbols on the American flag all have a meaning
  • understand that flags relay information about their countries and their countries’ histories


I Pledge Allegiance by Bill Martin, Jr. and Michael Sampson; ISBN 0763625272

I Read Symbols, by Tana Hoban; ISBN 0688023320

Red, White, Blue, and Uncle Who? The Stories Behind Some of America’s Patriotic Symbols by Teresa Bateman; ISBN 0823417840

This Land is Your Land by Woody Guthrie; ISBN 0316392154

Hailstones and Halibut Bones by Mary O’Neill; ISBN 0385410786

 “American History for Children: United States Flag”, Schlessinger Video Productions, ISBN 157225064X

American Flag Pictures -

Flag of the United States -

Fast Flag Facts for Teachers:
  • A Continental Congress resolution established a flag with thirteen stripes, alternating red and white and thirteen white stars on a blue field.
  • As the number of states grew, the flag was becoming too large. Congress voted in 1818 to keep just thirteen stripes in recognition of the original thirteen colonies and add a new star for each new state.
  • Original versions of the colonial flag included the British Union Jack, which became obsolete with the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
  • During the Civil War, President Lincoln insisted that no stars be removed for the seceded states. The Union troops fought under the flag containing all of its stars.
  • Symbols on the flag include: stars representing a new constellation; stripes for each original state/colony; number of stars representing the number of states in the US; the triangular folded flag represents the tri-corner hats worn during the American Revolution.
  • Historians disagree about the meaning of the three colors, but some suggestions are: Red – courage, sacrifice, blood shed in wars; White – purity, peace, hope; Blue – loyalty, freedom, justice.
  • During flag ceremonies, the flag is raised swiftly, but lowered slowly.
Important dates:
  • July 4, 1776 – Declaration of Independence is signed. A new flag is designed.
  • June 14, 1777 – Continental Congress makes the Stars and Stripes America’s official flag.
  • September 13, 1814 – Francis Scott Key wrote “The Star Spangled Banner.”
  • 1916 - Flag Day is unofficially designated as June 14 by President Woodrow Wilson.


  • 9” x 12” construction paper
  • scissors
  • glue
  • string
  • drawing paper
  • crayons


First Session:
1. With the class in a whole group, ask the students what a symbol is and generate a list of answers.  Then ask them to brainstorm a list of any symbols they might have seen.  You may want to talk about places they may see symbols i.e. roads, buildings, stores, etc.  Discuss how symbols are signs that convey information and cross language barriers.
2. Read the book I Read Symbols by Tana Hoban.  Afterward, go back to the original brainstorm list and compare with the symbols in the book.
3. If the class did not mention the American flag as a symbol, ask them if they think it is one.  Also ask where they may have seen it, and what it means to them when they do see it.  When they all agree that it is a symbol of the United States, tell them that it is a symbol MADE OF symbols!
4. Read the US flag section of Red, White, Blue, and Uncle Who? The Stories Behind Some of America’s Patriotic Symbols by Teresa Bateman.  After you complete it, have the class generate a list of the flag’s symbols as listed in the book.  This should include the stripes, colors, stars, etc.

Second Session:
1. With the class in whole group, revisit the previous session’s work on symbols.  Briefly go over the meaning of symbols, where they are found, and list a few examples.  Then narrow in on the flag and the symbols found in it.  Show them the American flag while you do this.  During this discussion focus on the facts learned:
  • The number of stripes represents the thirteen original colonies.
  • The number of stars represents the fifty states.
  • The color Red is for courage, Blue for freedom, and White for justice.

2. Now, show them a picture of the original US Flag, with only thirteen stars.  Ask them what is different about this flag from the one they are used to seeing.  When they notice the stars look different, count them and ask what they think that means.  Explain to them that there were not always fifty states.  From the Wikipedia page, show them the progression of flags and how as states joined the Union, the flag had to be updated.  Stress that no matter what, if people knew what the symbols represented, they would be able to understand the flag. 
3. Now it is time to present the design project.  Tell them that each group is going to be making a flag to go over their table.  (If you don’t have specific groups or tables you may want to make them ahead of time.)  Let them know that their flag, just like the US flag, will be used to relay information to someone not familiar with that group.  Their group will have to make a flag that shows the following three things:
a) How many people are in the group.
b) How many are boys, and how many are girls.
c) At least two different colors that mean something to everyone in the group.  (This objective might need further explanation.  During meetings with each group, refresh their memories about the symbolic colors in the flag and what many historians believe they mean.)

Even though they will be creating their flag in small groups, it might be a good idea to begin the brainstorming all together.  Ask “What are some ways to show the amount of group members?”  Generating a list of ideas now will give you something to refer them to should their group draw blanks.  Think of several ways to show how many kids in the group are boys or girls.  Perhaps they color code the symbols, or create a different system to address that.  Coming up with attributes associated with different colors will also help them focus on the design later.  (The book Hailstones and Halibut Bones by Mary O’Neill is a great source of color inspiration!)  Once you have several options for each requirement, you should let the groups meet to share ideas. 
4. If this is early in the year, you may want to spend some time prior to breaking into groups talking about teamwork.  Stress that everyone has an opinion that counts.  And that during the brainstorming phase of any project, everyone should share as many ideas as possible so that it is the best they can all do.

(Note: It is important during this first part of the design to get around to each group to make sure they are on the right track.  Having blank paper and crayons at each table is a good way for the students to try out different designs.  Encourage them to do so.  Let them know that once they have each come up with an idea to incorporate into the design, they should all do the rough draft.  That way each student is involved with the final version from draft to finish.) 

5. Use the attached rubric to gauge the success of each group when viewing the rough draft.  Ask the students the same questions you did at the beginning.  Does it show how many are in the group?  Does it differentiate between boys and girls?  Then, ask them to explain what their color choices say about them as a group.

Third Session:
1. For the final draft of the flag, provide scissors, glue, and colored construction paper for each group.  They should have their approved rough draft as a guide and all work together to complete one to present to the class.
2. Once they have all finished, invite each group to share their flag one at a time.  Ask the audience to “read” the flag to you.  They should be able to answer every question on the rubric—and knowing kindergarteners—even more!!


When viewing each groups’ completed flag, use a simple rubric as a checklist for each required component.  Have the group explain the flag to you and make sure they’ve included each element.  They should also be able to explain how their flag is similar to the American flag.

Enrichment Extension Activities

Have each student use their new knowledge of symbols and flags to create a family flag.  Much like the group flag, this flag should represent the number of people in the family, the gender makeup of the members, and something the family likes to do together.

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