Our Original Colonial Flags

I like to integrate my teaching as much as possible (since we all know the sheer quantity of content we have to teach nowadays is staggering!) So instead of simply reading a biography about Betsy Ross during our unit on the American Revolution, I used the literature as a springboard for two different classroom courses of study. 

You know about the Hanger Biographies.  The Betsy Ross Biography was a model that we used when filing in the whole class graphic organizers.

What I haven't told you about were the flags.  The "main idea" of the Betsy Ross legend (as we learned, there are various schools of thought on whether or not she ACTUALLY did create the first American Flag) is that she is the originator of the flag. So each student put themselves in the role of Betsy and thought about what they would do if approached by the founding fathers to create a flag representative of the new nation.  We talked about what the symbols and colors on the flag meant.

Enchanted learning has a very simple, easy to read explanation of color symbolism on flags here.
There are many different places where the meaning behind the stripes and stars on our American Flag can be found.  Here and here are a few that I used.

teachinginroom6.blogspot.com, mrs. moorman, social studies
The students then designed a flag on an 8 x 11 piece of paper, thinking about each symbol carefully.  A small diagram was then created to accompany the drawing. (we had to get some text feature work in there!)

language arts, connecting social studies and language arts
After they sketched the flag and diagram, the students wrote a 3 paragraph essay, explaining in detail exactly why every.single.thing was put on the flag.  If they didn't have a solid reason as to how that part of the flag belonged, it wasn't allowed to go on the final balloon.

After all of the thinking and writing, the students then got to create the flag itself.  We made foil balloon flags.  This is my favorite art project all year.  The kids love it, it is just different enough that it is intriguing to look at, and they come out GREAT!  For step by step directions on how to make these, you can read my post on Classroom DIY.  I laid it out completely over there.  Here, though, I will leave you some pictures of them.

So there you have it.  Foil balloon flags, inspired by Betsy Ross.  The students really did enjoy this project.  Thinking about why they were putting each symbol on the flag helped them to make inferences and justify their thinking.  Diagramming and writing just brought it all together.  All in all, a project well worth the time.


  1. Very cool flags! I love your creativity!

  2. Those foil balloon crafts are so creative! Love it!!

    Learning Is Something to Treasure

  3. I agree with you. We do need to integrate whenever possible. What a great idea!
    Artistry of Education

  4. Seems like some great creativity and critical thinking.

    April @ ideabackpack.blogspot.com

  5. I know you have some great posts on how you integrate subjects and use themes, so I would love for you to join my first linky party on thematic teaching.

    April @ The Idea Backpack

  6. I feel like I say the same thing over and over, but this is incredible, just like everything you do in your classroom!

    1. Thank you Kristen. You are so sweet! (haven't seen you around lately...must be super busy with the end of the year!)

  7. Stephanie I wish we were team teachers! I've taught early U.S history for many years and LOVE it! Integrating language arts with social studies is so important in terms of creative written and oral expression. Your lesson is fantastic!! I weave a lot of family history into my lessons. My grandfather was an antique dealer and real estate developer in the 1920's. He bought one of Benedict Arnold's homes in Philadelphia and was give the original deed that was written on sheepskin due to paper shortages in those days. The wax seal is in perfect condition and the person who authenticated it said it should be in a museum. Ironically, my husband's great, great (I forget how many greats! grandmother was Benedict Arnold's first wife. Her name was Margaret Mansfield. She's buried about five miles from us. I'm going to give your blog URL to some of my history teacher friends! :)

  8. Stephanie...Excuse the typo... .. and was GIVEN the original deed... English teachers should always proofread before hitting submit! LOL I'm going to make sure I'm following your blog too!! Ruth


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