Elementary Level Lessons | What Would YOU Save?


Paintbrushes45.pngNotebookandPen45.png Two class periods 

body_wouldsave_warof1812_1.jpgProgram Segments
Summer 1814 The American Capital Burns (10 ½ minutes)

NCSS Themes

III: People, Places, and Environments 
V: Individuals, Groups, and Institutions
VI: Power, Authority, and Governance 

Canadian (Ontario) Concepts

Interactions and Interdependence
Power and Governance 

Canadian (Ontario) Specific Expectations – Seventh Grade

Describe the major causes and personalities of the War of 1812
Explain key characteristics of life in English Canada from a variety of perspectives

Students will be able to:

  • explain what a duty is
  • explain how symbols represent concepts and ideas
  • identify items that represent their school and community and explain their importance 

Focus Questions

  1. What is a duty?
  2. How do symbols represent a bigger concept or idea?       
  3. How do symbols shape the history of our country?   

Key Concepts
Duty, Symbol, Nationalism 

Instructional Resources

The War of 1812 DVD
Paragraph Rubric
Icon Dolley Madison Letter (58.7 KB)


  1. The teacher will begin the class by asking what the students understand about the term “duty” and discuss how duties are performed by people in the government.
  2. The teacher will also discuss the terms “symbol” and “nationalism” and give examples to clarify these terms to the students.
  3. The teacher will discuss Dolley Madison and her role as the First Lady with the students, and then watch The War of 1812 segment on Dolley Madison and the burning of Washington.
  4. The teacher will show a picture of George Washington’s portrait and question the students to assess their understanding of how important the portrait was as a symbol of the young nation. To better understand the bravery of Dolley Madison, the teacher and the students will read together as a class the letter written by Dolley Madison regarding that day.
  5. Next the students will determine what items are important symbols of their school and why they would decide to save them. The teacher may decide to take the students on a walk through the school to view different areas containing items that would be considered important.
  6. The students will draw pictures and write a paragraph that introduces the item, describes its importance to the school, and explains why it was their duty to save this item.
  7. The teacher will use the Paragraph Rubric as a guideline for the students.

Assessment Tasks
The students will create a paragraph on an important item and a drawing of that item that represents their school and community.

Program Segment for Lesson Plan. 10 1/2 minutes.

Paragraph Rubric


Related PBS Resources

American Experience: Dolley Madison
PBS program about the life of First Lady Dolley Madison – includes video clips and teacher resources.

Choices in War: What Would You Save First?
Looting has erupted in cities throughout Iraq as a result of the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime. Government offices, hospitals, museums and other important facilities have been pillaged and often damaged or destroyed; important facilities have been damaged. Review the situation with your students and engage them in rationalizing what institutions they would defend if given this decision in the face of post-war looting.

Exploring the Past
Investigate clues about the past and family history through photographs, drawings and other primary source materials. Explore traditions of preserving family histories and record events in your own life.

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Icon What Would YOU Save? Lesson Plan (365.3 KB)

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George Washington portrait saved by Dolley Madison


Dolley Madison