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Gateway to the Summer Games - Lesson Plans
The Power of Music
Olympic Symbols and Meanings
  Grade Level: 4-8
Subject: Social Studies, Geography, Music, English
Time needed: 1 X 45 min. sections
Lesson Overview

National anthems express feelings of unity and common understanding.

Background Information

During Olympic awards ceremonies, the flags of the three medal winning countries are raised and the national anthem of the gold medal winning country is played. An anthem is a song of praise that often speaks of the struggle a nation had in gaining independence. Common themes are: love of country, hopes and dreams, and dedication to freedom and the principles of human integrity. National anthems also reflect the feelings of individuals of that nation, and help form the basis for personal standards of excellence.


Students will understand the procedure for playing the national anthem during the Olympic awards ceremony.

Students will compare and contrast the themes found in a variety of anthems from a selection of countries.

Students will write the words of an original anthem for a fictional country.


Video Segment #3: Olympic Symbols and Meanings. Video available from Griffin Publishing Group at
(Note: While the video segment is a good addition to this lesson plan, it is not essential for successful completion of the activities.)
Background sheets: National Anthems of Selected Countries
Pencils and musically lined paper
Copy of The Olympic Hymn


Suggested Lesson Plan:

Show Video Segment #3: Olympic Symbols and Meanings, focusing on the tradition of playing national anthems for gold medal winners.

Discuss how and why countries choose to write national anthems, with particular emphasis on the background of the anthem of the United States, "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Hand out background sheets, National Anthems of Selected Countries, and have students study the words of at least three national anthems.


Brainstorm and write a list of elements that are common in all of the anthems that students read. Consider rhyming patterns, literary style, theme, inclusion of similar words, etc. The list should be discussed as another national anthem text is analyzed to determine if those elements remain consistent. The list may be hung in the classroom for future reference.

Ask students to research the words to all verses of the original "The Star-Spangled Banner. " One of the original verses is seldom sung today.

  • What has happened in our relationship with our "Mother Country" in the last 200 years that might make that verse offensive to the British?

Ask students to write a questionnaire that would help them determine background information needed to write a national anthem.

  • For example, if the Queen of England decided to commission a musician to compose a new national anthem, what kind of information would the musician need to compose the piece?
  • Would he/she need to know the country's history, climate, customs, or other information before writing the anthem?

Students should write a survey that would be sent to the country's magistrate to determine the needed information. Students will then exchange surveys with a partner who will complete it with the necessary information.

Student Products

Students will write the words to an original anthem for a fictional country, or for their own personal statement of beliefs and values.

  • The words should reflect the philosophy of the country and the common elements of other national anthems.
Additional Activities

Have students write a fictional story about one of the anthems based on the brief information included in this packet. The story would need to be researched to find more necessary information about the country and its people.

Study the words and music of the Olympic anthem and compare how its message promotes the values of Olympism students have studied.

(c) 1996 By Griffin Publishing / United States Olympic Committee

Published by Griffin Publishing under license from the United States Olympic Committee. This publication is a creative work fully protected by all applicable rights. All rights reserved. A classroom teacher may reproduce copies of the material in this book for classroom use only.

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