It's a Free Country, Isn't It?

9, 10, 11, 12

Learners will describe requirements for naturalized citizens and explain how rights given to citizens also require civic responsibility. They will analyze the words of the National Anthem and update it with a new verse that includes today’s concept of freedom.

PrintTwo Fifty-Five Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • list reasons for immigration and give examples of immigration to this country.
  • describe the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.
  • define freedom and compare citizens’ feelings about the National Anthem over time.
  • represent current history in a new original verse for the National Anthem.
  • Shared copy of Oath of Allegiance for Naturalization (Handout One)
  • 100 Typical Questions (Handout Two), student copies
  • Answer Sheet: 100 Typical Questions (Handout Three)
  • Tape of “The Star Spangled Banner,” sung by Whitney Houston
  • Lyrics of the National Anthem (Handout Four)
  • Rubric for Written Verse (Handout Five)
  • Large sheets of paper and markers
Home Connection 

None for this lesson.



  1. Anticipatory Set: Ask the question, “What are some reasons why people immigrated or still immigrate to the United States?” List answers on the board or overhead as they are elicited from the group. Possible answers include: political freedom, religious tolerance, economic opportunity, political refugees, freedom, forced immigration (slavery), family reunification, jobs, opportunity, to escape persecution, money.

  2. Write on the board: “What responsibilities does a person have when joining a group, club or team?” List and discuss answers.

  3. Project the Oath of Allegiance to the United States (Handout One), which immigrants are required to take in order to become a naturalized citizen. Explain any part of the oath which the students do not understand.

  4. Say: “In the process of earning their citizenship, immigrants often learn more about United States government than those of us who were born here. Today, we are going to take the naturalization test which immigrants must pass to gain citizenship.”

  5. Distribute copies of 100 Typical Questions (Handout Two). There are 100 total, but pre-selection can be made to limit the number of questions students will have to answer. Allow time for students to answer the questions. When students have finished or the time limit has ended, the questions should be answered in class so that students know the correct answers. See Answer Sheet: 100 Typical Questions (Handout Three).

  6. Ask the learners to speculate why the government requires new citizens to learn about their new country and its government. If new citizens are required to have this knowledge, what is the responsibility of natural-born citizens to know about United States history, the structure of the government and the legal system of the country? Is there a relationship between individual rights that citizens enjoy and community responsibilities? What responsibilities do high school students have toward their country and community?

  7. Write the phrase “Freedom is...” on the board. Give the learners three minutes to free write as many possible completions to the phrase as they can. Ask for volunteers to report on their responses. Discuss their answers.

  8. Lead a class discussion on freedom using these questions:

    • What were some definitions of freedom in the past?
    • How might people of the past have felt about freedom?
    • How do we feel about freedom today?
    • Are there different social and ethnic attitudes towards freedom today than in the past? Explain.
  9. Say, “Today we will listen to the musical artist, Whitney Houston, as she sings The Star Spangled Banner. While the tape is playing, think of what this song is saying to you and what it means to most Americans.” Distribute the printed lyrics for the National Anthem (Handout Four). Play the tape. Following the song, ask the students to write a short paragraph response to these questions:

    • What does this anthem mean to you?
    • What does this anthem symbolize to the people of our country?
  10. Ask the learners to think back to the words of the anthem. Do these feelings and beliefs still apply today? Explain how and why.

  11. Explain that, since the National Anthem was first written, many things have changed in our country. With this in mind, the learners will work in small groups to update the anthem. As small groups they will create a new verse for the National Anthem that fits society today. The verse should be written on a large sheet of paper.

  12. Before the groups begin, show the learners an example on the overhead with a verse created by the teacher. Ask them to think about what the verse of an anthem today should contain. Distribute Rubric for Written Verse (Handout Five) and go over the required elements.

  13. Give the groups time for brainstorming and creating. Collaborative efforts should result in one verse per group.

  14. Display each group’s verse for class examination and discussion. Emphasize in discussion the merits and differences of each verse to show how freedom gains meaning through demonstrated individual application.


Since the 100 questions are a pre-unit survey, the questions may be used to assess prior knowledge. However, the questions could be repeated at the end of the year as a post-test to demonstrate growth in the understanding of American citizenship. Learners may be assessed on their active participation in the small groups. Was the learner observed making positive comments? Was the learner responsive to the other members of the group? Did the learner contribute to a creation of a verse? The verse created by each group should contain application to today’s society and the value of freedom. Rubric for Written Verse (Handout Five) may be used for scoring.

Cross Curriculum 

None for this lesson.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark HS.3 Identify the relationship between individual rights and community responsibilities.