Teaching with Historic Places in Real Classrooms: Paul LaRue, using the 'Fort McHenry' lesson plan (Part 2/3)

"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 #1:Use of Primary Documents and Critical Thinking Skills

Content standards for high school teachers in the state of Ohio begin with 1877. You might think that this would make the“The Rockets’ Red Glare”: Francis Scott Key and the Bombardment of Fort McHenrylesson unusable for me. But I would utilize this lesson to help me teach the use of primary documents and critical thinking skills, which do fall under my twelfth grade U.S. History Standards.


  • Ask students if they ever thought about the meaning of the words of the first stanza of the “Star Spangled Banner.” Do they think about what Francis Scott Key really saw? Can his recollections be verified by anyone else?

  • Then provide students with “Determining the Facts Reading 3: ‘Defense of Fort McHenry,’” an 1814 broadside with the words to Key’s song.

  • Also provide “Determining the Facts Reading 1: ‘Armistead’s Account of the Battle’” (specifically the last full paragraph of the passage). Because the entire account would likely take longer than one class period to read, it could be used as a homework assignment.

  • Then have students read and compare Key’s first stanza and Armistead’s final paragraph. Tell them to discuss the following:

    • The aspect of the attack Colonel Armistead focuses on.
    • Who Francis Scott Key and Col. Armistead were and what their roles and perspectives were of the battle.
    • Do the two accounts verify each other?
    • What does Armistead say about the flag?

These questions and the ones you and your students will generate can easily fill a class period. Conclude by having the students complete a short Reflective Writing. This lesson could easily fill a class period or be expanded.

Read about Paul's Teaching Strategies Using TwHP Lesson Plans

See Case Study #2: Outside the Traditional History Lesson

Last updated: December 5, 2015

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