Teaching with Historic Places in Real Classrooms: Paul LaRue, using the 'Fort McHenry' lesson plan (Part 3/3)

"Creating Connections" Case Studies: Teaching with the TwHP Lesson Plan on Fort McHenry

By Paul LaRue, History Teacher Washington High School , Washington Court House, Ohio

Case Study # 2: Outside the Traditional History Lesson

If the class you are instructing is not a generic history class, you can still use the Teaching with Historic Places (TwHP) lesson for other subjects, such as citizenship, that are also used to prepare students for state proficiency tests. These classes can get extremely “dry” and repetitive; incorporating the TwHP lessons can help. For example, here is an example using the “The Rockets’ Red Glare:” Francis Scott Key and the Bombardment of Fort McHenry lesson.


  • First provide students with Visual Evidence Photo #3: The Star Spangled Banner Today.

  • Ask the students to stand up and spread them around the room to reflect the original 30 ft. by 42ft. flag. This should help students get a sense of perspective on the immense size of the flag. Compare this to the traditional size of the American flag. Then, mention that Francis Scott Key was approximately eight miles away from the flag during the battle.

  • Have the students take their seats and study Photo #3. Ask them what accounts for the flag’s condition today. Have a discussion about issues involving deterioration of textiles over time, using examples of curtains or table cloths that are exposed to the sun. Also talk about the fact that the flag is not only very worn, but also much smaller than it was originally because so many people snipped off “souvenirs” from the flag during the 19th century.

  • This leads into a discussion of preservation. Mention that the Smithsonian spent more than $18 million dollars to “restore” the original flag (meaning that they stabilized its condition, but they did not put back missing material). Ask the students what their school could do with $18 million and why it is important that our nation preserves this iconic symbol.

  • Ask students to write one paragraph about the following prompt: Which surprises you more about the Star Spangled Banner, its actual size or the amount of money spent to restore the flag? What will you remember about our national symbol and why?

Read about Paul's Teaching Strategies Using TwHP Lesson Plans

See Case Study #1: Use of Primary Documents and Critical Thinking Skills

Last updated: December 5, 2015