America the Beautiful Lesson Plan

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

America the Beautiful is one of the most well-known songs in the national canon. In this lesson plan, students are going to analyze the lyrics of this song within historical context, and find new ways to connect to the symbolism within the verses.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Describe the historical context of ''America the Beautiful''
  • Analyze the song for literal and symbolic content
  • Connect the song to other ideas in American society in the 19th century


45-60 minutes


  • Printed copies of the 4-verse version of Katharine Lee Bates' ''America the Beautiful'', one for each student
  • Copies of the lesson America the Beautiful: Lyrics and Meaning and lesson quiz, one for each student
  • Computers with printing capabilities and Internet access
  • Markers and colored pencils
  • White multipurpose paper
  • Old magazines
  • Glue

Curriculum Standards


Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.


Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary describing political, social, or economic aspects of history/social science.


  • Before passing out the lesson, read or play the 'America the Beautiful' section for the students. However, omit any references to its title or even the fact that it is a song. Then ask:
    • Does anyone recognize the words that I just read?
  • Now, pass out copies of the text lesson America the Beautiful: Lyrics and Meaning.
  • Have the students read or watch the 'Meaning of the Words' section.
    • What did the concept of nature mean to Americans in the 19th century?
    • What were the four ideas that Bates referenced in her poem?
    • Why did Katharine Lee Bates focus on descriptions of nature, rather than cities or governmental institutions, to reflect a spirit of national pride?
    • What other themes are reflected in these verses?
  • Have students silently read or watch the rest of the lesson.
  • Allow students to ask any remaining questions they may have.
  • Now, pass out the lesson quiz and have each student work independently to complete it.
  • When students are done, have them swap papers and then review each question and answer as a class.

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