The Pledge of Allegiance
A brief history of the The Pledge of Allegiance [Video: 7m 17s]
You’ve Already Learned
If you’ve watched our seven-minute film, you now know that the Pledge of Allegiance was written in 1892 for the National School Celebration of the 400th anniversary of Columbus Day. It was penned by Francis Bellamy for The Youth’s Companion, a publication that reached a half a million readers and was both popular and enormously influential.
But there’s so much more to the story.
- What was Bellamy thinking when he wrote the Pledge?
- Why did he choose those words?
- What changes were made after Bellamy wrote it?
- And how did The Youth’s Companion shape American values over 100 years ago, establishing patriotic rituals that we still observe today?
Lesson Plans for The Pledge of Allegiance Videos
- ESL Intermediate/Advanced (Use with American Ways Chapters 2 and 7)
- High School American English
- American History or Social Studies
- Listening Comprehension Practice
Lesson 1 Pledge of Allegiance Short Video
Begin by asking the students if they know the Pledge of Allegiance. Have them dictate the words and write them on the board.
Next, have them work in pairs or small groups to answer these questions before they watch the videos:
- What is the Pledge of Allegiance? When do people recite it? Do you know the words by heart? If so, where did you learn it? When have you recited it?
- What is a pledge? What is allegiance? What does it mean to “pledge your allegiance” to something or someone?
- Why would Americans pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States? Do you think that’s a good idea? Do other countries have a pledge of allegiance?
- What does it mean “to Americanize” someone? Why would the United States want to do that? Who would they want to Americanize? Is that a good idea? Why or why not?
- What is socialism? What is a socialist? Name a socialist country.
Have students watch the short video (1 minute 16 seconds) and answer these questions:
- Who wrote the Pledge of Allegiance?
- What magazine did he write for?
- Who was a socialist?
- What did the magazine want to sell?
- Who did they want to “Americanize”?
- Why was the Pledge of Allegiance created?
Discuss the answers to these questions and ask students in small groups or pairs to come up with 3 new questions about the Pledge that they would like to have answered. Write those questions on the board.
Script of short video:
You know the Pledge of Allegiance.
But do you know who wrote it?
His name was Francis Bellamy.
He was a writer for a popular magazine. [Picture of The Youth’s Companion]
And a Socialist.
The magazine wanted to sell flags.
And help “Americanize” immigrants.
And that’s just the beginning of the story.
You already know the words
Maybe it’s time you knew more.
Lesson 2 The Pledge: A Brief History with Dr. John Baer
Note: This lesson will probably take several class periods to complete.
Begin by reviewing the discussion of Lesson 1 on the short video. Ask students to summarize what they know about the Pledge now and what more they would like to learn. Remind them of the questions they wrote at the end of Lesson 1. Write the questions they would still like answered on the board.
Then have the small groups or pairs watch the 7-minute video on the Pledge of Allegiance with the sound turned off. If students are working on their smart phones, you could divide up the questions and then have groups report back to the whole class.
You may wish to stop and start the video with the class (or have them watch it on their smart phones), or play it a second time without the sound. Ask the students to work together to answer as many of these questions as they can:
- What is this video about?
- Who is John Baer?
- What is the date on the first Youth’s Companion shown? September 8 of what year? Why is that issue shown?
- What are the 3 different groups of people doing? How do you know?
- What is the family doing in the picture of the 1917 Youth’s Companion?
- What year did the Youth’s Companion begin publication?
- What kind of writing was there in the Youth’s Companion?
- Why is there a picture of a mother and child and another of a family?
- What does the National School Celebration of Columbus Day Program in the Youth’s Companion have in it?
- What are “pupils”? What context clue is there?
- Who do you think are in the next three pictures?
- Who is the man on the cover of the Youth’s Companion with 1492 written above his head?
- Why does the Youth’s Companion of July 3, 1890 have the headline, “Raising the School House Flag”?
- Who is pictured with Catholic nuns?
- Why are there pictures of a phone, a surveyor’s outfit, a toy boat, an air rifle, and a photograph outfit (camera) in the Youth’s Companion?
- What is happening in the short video that comes next?
- What three items are pictured after that and before the next picture of the flag?
- Why are there ads for flags that say, “The Flag and the Public Schools,” “A Flag Over Your School House?” and “Raise the School House Flag”?
- Who was the 23rd U.S. President?
- What is in the next three pictures?
- Who was the Owner/Publisher of the Youth’s Companion?
- What was the original “Bellamy” salute?
- Who do you think is the man pictured next?
- What book did Edward Bellamy write?
- What building are people standing in front of?
- What is the name of the little December 1889 publication?
- What is hand-written on the piece of paper?
- What are children doing in the next two pictures?
- Who are the Knights of Columbus? Are they a religious group?
- What do you think President Eisenhower is doing, sitting at his desk, surrounded by a group of men?
- What two words appear on that screen?
- Why does someone have a sign that says, “Restore the Original Pledge” and at the bottom “American Atheists”? What are atheists?
- Why are the words “under God” highlighted on the next picture of the Pledge?
- What do you think the news clips are talking about? Why does Dr. Baer look younger?
- Do the signs about “standing for the Pledge” and “bringing it back” indicate some kind of controversy? What is a controversy?
- Why do you think there’s another picture of Francis Bellamy here?
- What are people doing in the next several pictures? How do you know?
- What is the last image of the film? What do you think the message is?
Have the students compare answers and discuss their experience watching the video without sound.
Now play the video with sound. Have them listen and fill in the blanks:
- The Pledge of Allegiance. It’s taught in our ____________. Recited at the opening of each session of Congress. Viewed as a symbol of patriotism. And while most of us know the __________, surprisingly few know where it came from. Or about the controversies it has sparked over the years.
- The Pledge of Allegiance first appeared in September 1892 in a popular magazine called the __________________________.
- The Youth’s Companion started in the early 1800s as the first publication for _________________.
- By the end of the 1800s, it had morphed into a _______________ magazine.
- It had stories and ______________, interesting current events, and so forth.
- The Youth’s Companion was one of the largest national weekly magazines of the day, with a circulation of around __________ thousand.
- The Youth’s Companion was the Reader’s Digest of its day. It came out ____________ and they didn’t have much else to turn to—no _________ and probably no weekly newspaper.
- We just can’t comprehend the thought that a family would gather around the dining room table and they would _____________ it to each other.
- The Pledge was written and published as a part of the official program for the National School Celebration of the Quadra Centennial of ________________ Day.
- In the 1890s, New York City was being flooded by all these immigrants, and they the school system was facing the problem of all these children, and they wanted to make sure that they would recite their loyalty to the ___________________________.
- The Columbus Day celebration had been conceived of and promoted by the Youth’s Companion in 1891 to foster enthusiasm for the public school system and promote loyalty amongst immigrant ________________, especially the children of Catholics.
- Although this was its major goal, the program was not without financial benefit for the ____________. The Youth’s Companion was one of the first magazines to have a “premium department” – which ______________ incentives for subscribing to the magazine.
- Basically, their premium department was a Sears and Roebuck arrangement and you could _____________ many, many things. Goods, books. Furniture….
- One of these premiums was an American ____________, which led the magazine to begin a campaign, supported by the National Education Association and the President of the United States that would create an incentive for _____________ across America to acquire a flag, which the magazine was only too happy to provide at a reasonable cost. Daniel Ford, the owner and publisher of the Youths Companion placed two men–James Upham and Francis ____________ in charge.
- You have Daniel Ford, who is editor and ______________ of the magazine, and he has a nephew-in-law—James Upham, and he just picked this _________ assistant, Francis Bellamy.
- So he put the two of them together to come up with a celebration for _____________________. And so, they worked as a team. Upham arranged to set up opportunities with the National Education Association, with the ______________ of the United States. But when it came down to the actual ceremony, it revolved around a __________, and the flag salute was written by Francis Bellamy.
- Francis Bellamy was a former Baptist minister who had come to work at the Youth’s Companion after _____________ the ministry. He was also the first cousin of Edward Bellamy—a famous American novelist whose novel Looking Backward, published in 1888, had achieved great ______________.
- Both Edward and Francis considered themselves Christian ____________ and were the founders of a socialist movement in Boston known as nationalism.
- The original pledge, as published in the 1892 Youth’s Companion was ___________ and to the point, and was to be recited with the hand held extended, palm upwards towards the flag.
- I pledge allegiance to _______ flag and the Republic for which it stands, one _____________ indivisible, with liberty and justice for __________.
- After World War II the stiff-armed salute was discontinued for obvious ______________.
- And in 1954, another _______________ was made to the Pledge, this one even more controversial. At the urging of the the Knights of ______________, the world’s largest Catholic fraternal service organization, and several other groups, Congress and President Dwight Eisenhower passed a bill that added the words “under God” to the Pledge.
- Many groups picked it up, and especially those who were anti-communist felt that if we had a _______________that Communists would be uncomfortable reciting, let’s make it uncomfortable. Because most Communists were ______________.
- Little did supporters of the change suspect the firestorm of controversy adding these two ____________ would inspire for decades to come.
- The Pledge of Allegiance is often a part of the 4th of ______________; under God is unconstitutional. Now we all put our ____________ over our hearts.
- It has been ruled _________________ by the Ninth Circuit out in California. He would not be ______________ that “under God” was even in there, is that correct?
- Francis Bellamy, who was a Baptist minister—and he ____________ what went through his head; he never mentioned God—or under God, or anything like that.
- Well, I would say to overgeneralize, there’s a Pledge of Allegiance case that comes up every year _______________, somehow, and gets before the Supreme Court let’s say every _________ years.
- The continued ________________ leads one to wonder what Francis Bellamy, the original author of the Pledge, would have thought.
- It looks like Francis Bellamy, who was a preacher, purposely kept it ___________ of the Pledge. Francis Bellamy’s ______________ said he would have opposed that in the Pledge.
- Whether Bellamy would have approved of the change or not, the ___________ public and judicial system have so far been unwilling to revert to the original wording. The most ____________ court rulings have let the phrase “under God” stand.
- Only __________ will tell if the mood of the American people will change. And with it, the Pledge of Allegiance itself.
Have the students check their answers. Then review the questions about the Pledge that the students created in Part 1. Are there still questions to be answered? Students can look online for the answers and report back.
The script of this film contains many pairs of words, called collocations. These are words which often appear together, such as “current events,” referring to news of the day, or what is happening now.
Have students work in small groups or pairs to review these phrases and give a brief definition for each in their own words:
- Public school
- Recite the Pledge
- Session of Congress
- Symbol of patriotism
- Quadra centennial
- Spark a controversy
- Weekly magazine or newspaper
- Comprehend the thought
- Official program
- Flooded by immigrants, or a flood of immigrants
- School system
- Face a problem
- Recite their loyalty
- Foster enthusiasm, or foster loyalty
- Major goal
- Financial benefit
- Premium department
- Sears and Roebuck
- Begin a campaign
- Subscribe to a magazine, or newspaper
- Create an incentive, provide an incentive
- Reasonable cost
- A flag salute, or salute the flag
- Arrange an opportunity
- Supporters of the change
- Firestorm of controversy
- Judicial system
- Original wording
- Court ruling
- Mood will change
Questions for discussion:
- How do Americans feel about the Pledge of Allegiance? What is the controversy?
- What is patriotism? Are you a patriotic person? What does a patriotic person do? How do people in other countries show their patriotism?
- What does “morph” mean? What is a metamorphosis? Give an example.
- What is your experience with reading aloud? Has your family ever read out loud together? What did your family do together when you were growing up?
- How have smart phones changed family life?
- What do you know about Columbus Day? What is the controversy about Columbus and his voyages to America? What do you think?
- What challenges do immigrant children face in school? What are the challenges to the children, and what are the challenges to the schools? What is your experience?
- Why did The Youth’s Companion offer premiums to subscribe?
- What was a Sears and Roebuck catalogue? What is the modern equivalent?
- Who wrote the salute to the flag? What was it? What part did James Upon play in creating the Columbus Day celebration?
- Who was Edward Bellamy? What Boston movement did he help found?
- Originally, what did people do with their right hand when saying the Pledge? Why did that change with World War II? What was the Nazi salute?
- When was the phrase “under God” added to the Pledge? Who wanted this change? How did people who were anti-communists feel about it? Why?
- How strong is the controversy over “under God” in the Pledge? How do you know?
- Why would a court declare the phrase “under God” unconstitutional? What does that mean?
- What is a generalization? What is an overgeneralization?
- What would Bellamy say today about the phrase “under God”? Why does that seem surprising?
- What do you think? Should children (or adults) be required to say the Pledge of Allegiance? What would saying the words “under God” in the Pledge mean to you?
Have students write on one of these topics:
- Write a short summary of the history of the Pledge in your own words. (Note: The fill in the blank exercise is very close to the actual script of the Baer video, which is a short history of the Pledge.)
- Write an essay about the “under God” controversy and state your opinion.
- There has been another controversy concerning the National Anthem. What is the controversy? Should football players have to stand for the playing of the National Anthem before football games? Take a stand and write a persuasive essay to support your opinion.