How to help your students understand what they're saying with the Pledge of Allegiance

 I was talking to a teacher friend recently, and she told me a funny story about listening to a first grader lead his class in the Pledge of Allegiance years ago.  "I lead the pigeons to the flag...."

The flag of the USA and the words, "I pledge allegiance to the flag"

We laughed about it and she told me I could use it for the reading comprehension passage I was writing.  (Thanks, Lynda!)  It wasn't the anecdote that got me thinking about the Pledge, though.  It was years of watching my students mindlessly repeat words that were so familiar they didn't give them any thought.

I mean, how many sixth-graders know what allegiance means?  Or what it means to pledge it?  

A bridge and groom holding hands and walking away from the camera

I believe that you shouldn't say anything, much less pledge it, unless you understand what you're getting yourself into.  Marriages have fallen apart because folks didn't figure out what they were committing to.  So, it's important for students to think critically about what a pledge to their country means.

Where did the Pledge come from?  Lots of people think it was a product of the post-World War II era.  

Actually, no.  The first version of the Pledge was created 12 years after the Civil War. A Union veteran and employee of the New York Board of Education felt American students needed more national pride.  

We give our heads and hearts to God and our country; one country, one language, one flag!”

Can you imagine how that would blow up on social media today?

That's why I wrote a passage for upper elementary and middle school students, differentiated into two levels to meet your students' needs.

You can use it at the beginning of the school year, or at any point, really, in a number of different ways:

  • Have your students read the passage and discuss it as a whole class, so students can get to know each other, and how to discuss a topic
  • Have your students read it in small groups and discuss it there, then present their thoughts to the class
  • Have your students read it independently and answer the questions on the quiz
  • Have your students read it independently or with a partner, answer the first 9 questions on the quiz and then work together or in small groups to create a classroom pledge


Click here to take a closer look at this reading passage and see how it can benefit your students.

Click here for a FREE coloring page for the Pledge from talented artist, Melonheadz.

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