Many students recite the Pledge of Allegiance without thinking about its meaning. They’ve done it their whole lives in schools, but most likely have never been taught what each phrase means. I recommend teachers take a few minutes and lead their classes in discussions about the Pledge. Why do we pledge allegiance to a flag? What do words like “indivisible,” “liberty” and “justice” mean? And, why do we say “One nation under God”?
Step 1: Write each phrase of the Pledge of Allegiance on the board.
Step 2: Lead students in a discussion of the meaning of each word or phrase. Lesson script:
Introduction: Today, let’s spend a few minutes learning about each part of the Pledge. You could look at the Pledge as having two parts: a dedication to our country and a description of our country.
A Dedication to Our Country
The first thing we say in the Pledge is, “I pledge allegiance.” What does it mean to make a pledge? [Invite answers] To make a pledge means to make a promise.
What does the word allegiance mean? [Invite answers] Allegiance means to be faithful or loyal. It means people can count on you to be on their side.
So, we say, “I pledge allegiance to the flag.” Why the flag? [Invite answers] Because, the flag is a symbol of our fifty states joined together to be one country. When we say the Pledge, we are promising to be faithful to our country.
The next thing we say in the Pledge is “of the United States of America.” That’s our country.
Then, we say, “and to the Republic for which it stands.” One of the really good ideas that bond us together as Americans is our loyalty to the way we govern ourselves - as a republic. That simply means that we elect people to represent us when they lead our country for a certain amount of time. They are accountable to us for the job they do. So, the flag is a representation of our country.
A Description of Our Country
Next, the Pledge describes our republic by highlighting four important parts. It describes America as “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Let’s think about each part of that.
“One Nation under God.” The people who started our country (people like George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson) believed that the government doesn’t give us our freedom.
They believed that our freedom comes from God. They created our government to make sure that our God-given freedom is protected. That’s what they wrote in the Declaration of Independence.
The Declaration of Independence is a very special document they wrote in 1776 to declare (or announce) why they wanted to be a separate (or independent) country from England. (Read the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence.)
So, when we say “one Nation under God” in the Pledge we are reminding ourselves what the people who founded our country believed about God giving us our freedom and our government being there to protect that freedom.
Then, we say in the Pledge, “indivisible.” What does that mean? [Invite answers] It means we won’t be divided. It means that we pledge ourselves to stay together as a country, even when we disagree with each other.
The Pledge ends with the phrase, “with liberty and justice for all.” Liberty means freedom, and we commit ourselves to such liberties as the freedom to have our religion, the freedom to gather together with other people, and the freedom to speak our minds. We also commit ourselves to justice, which means being fair and right in our judgment of people.
By reciting the Pledge, we remind ourselves of these important ideas about America. Let’s all stand and say the Pledge of Allegiance.
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