6 Activities to Teach ELs About U.S. Independence Day

Do you need some activities for your ELs during the last week of school, or are you teaching ESL summer school this year? Try these six activities  for teaching ELs about U.S. customs for Independence Day on July 4th.

Teach them about the American flag, the Pledge of Allegiance, the U.S. national anthem, and other patriotic songs associated with Independence Day. Read books,  hold an Independence Day parade, or have a picnic. Immigrant families often feel left out when everyone around them is celebrating a holiday that they don’t understand. Research the Independence Day activities in your town and share the information with ELs and their families

1. Teach ELs about the U.S. flag. Introduce the vocabulary for  the U.S. flag and download the U.S. Flag Fact Sheet. Using your classroom flag, show ELs how the American flag has 50 stars, one for each state in the United States, and 13 stripes, one for each of the first 13 colonies. For a great direction-following activity, teach students how to cut a five-pointed star using paper folding and scissors. Take a virtual tour of the Betsy Ross House. Tell older ELs how Betsy Ross is credited with sewing the first flag, though there is no proof that she did. Have them research information about Betsy Ross on the Internet or in the library.

2. Explain the Pledge of Allegiance. Demonstrate to students  the appropriate behavior during the Pledge of Allegiance. Explain to ELs that the word pledge is a synonym for the word promise,  and brainstorm with them a list of times that they have made a promise.  Have ELs work in small groups to draft an ESL class pledge, then vote on pledges and adopt one. Try this Pledge of Allegiance activity so that ELs can learn the vocabulary of the Pledge.

3. Play patriotic music. Have ELs listen to the Star-Spangled Banner, the U.S. national anthem. Explain to students that they must stand at attention when the national anthem is played. The words are difficult, but playing the music will help students recognize it when they hear it.  They will understand that they must stand when it is played at a sporting event or other public gathering.

4. Hold a parade with flags, paper hats, and homemade musical instruments. Teach ELs about parade music by reading the book Yankee Doodle, by Richard Schackburg, which is an illustrated version of the song. Discuss the illustrations in the book with the children, pointing out the marching, uniforms, flags, and colors. Help ELs design  4th of July paper hats that they can wear in the parade. Show students how to make musical instruments for their parade from recycled materials. Teach the words and music to “Yankee Doodle Dandy” so that they can march to it during the parade.

5. Collect children’s books on Independence Day. Let ELs choose books about the 4th of July that are at their level of second language acquisition that they want to hear or read.  Read young children a different book every day.

6. Have a picnic. Organize a typical 4th of July picnic. Feature some popular American picnic food: fried chicken, hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad, and watermelon. Choose a simple red, white, and blue dessert and teach ELs how to make it.

I hope you and your students have fun with this unit on Independence Day.  Let us know how the different activities worked for you, and share any additional ones you’ve found success with.

About Judie Haynes

Judie Haynes
Judie Haynes taught elementary ESL for 28 years and is the author and coauthor of eight books for teachers of ELs , the most recent being “Teaching to Strengths: Supporting Students Living with Trauma, Violence and Chronic Stress“ with Debbie Zacarian and Lourdes Alvarez-Ortiz. She was a columnist for the TESOL publication "Essential Teacher" and is also cofounder and comoderator of the Twitter Chat for teachers of English learners #ELLCHAT.
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One Response to 6 Activities to Teach ELs About U.S. Independence Day

  1. Barbara Wookey says:

    Great resource! Thanks for sending.

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