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Signs and Symbols #5: National Flags as Symbols

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Lesson Overview:

In this lesson, students learn that flags are symbols of countries.  Flags have colors, shapes, and pictures or symbols.  When these elements come together, a universally recognized symbol of the country is the result.  Let your children explore state flags or flags of the world in this hands-on, art-extended lesson.

Lesson Plan:

Suggested Grades:



Understand that flags are national symbols and sketch three national flags.   (AASL  4.1.8, “Use creative and artistic formats to express personal learning.)

Suggested Time:

45 -50 minutes

Success Criteria:

Each student will be able identify at least three country flags.  Each student will sketch the three flags and, together with his/her classmates, create a class “Book of Flags.”

Lesson Outline:

1. Introduction:

Remind the class that, in this Unit of Inquiry, they are studying symbols and signs.  Ask them to remind you what a symbol is.  (Answer:  Something that stands for something else.)

Tell the children that today they will have the chance to work with some of the most common symbols in the world.  These are symbols that represent countries or, sometimes, cultures.  They are almost always rectangular.  Most of them have colors, line, and shapes, but not words.  Sometimes they fly at the top of poles.  You see them a lot during the Olympics, at other sports competitions, or at festivals.  See if the children can guess that today they’ll be working with flags.

2. Main:

Introduce the children to the reference materials you have that show flags of the world.  Flags are often found in almanacs, atlases, or encyclopedias.  They can also be found online, but in my experience the children like to be able to flip pages so that they can see many flags at one time.

Pass out the student assignment sheets.  Read through the instructions together.  Give the students time to complete the assignment.  If they can’t complete everything, that is okay.  The assignment sheet has four blank flag templates, and they should try to complete at least the first three.

I like to have a few featured flags on the screen or board to set the tone of the lesson.  If you have some or can print a few, it will help the children focus on flags as symbols for this lesson.

3. Conclusion:

Ask the children to share their flags with an elbow partner or someone from another table. Ask children why flags are such effective symbols and why most countries have a national flag.

Collect their work, cut the flags apart, and bind them into a class book.  You could also make a simple display by attaching the flags to a string and hanging the flag banner in the classroom or throughout the library.

  1. Copies of the Student Assignment Sheet (attached).  Modify for your students as needed.
  2. Pencils, colored pencils, crayons, markers, or oil pastels.
  3. Computer with an Internet connection for accessing Google Images.
  4. Set of almanacs or atlases that features world flags.
  5. World Book Online (or other digital subscription) that has a collection of world flags (optional).

I have written this lesson for international country flags, but there are many ways to adapt this lesson for your students.  If you live in a country that has states and state flags/crests, you can easily incorporate those into the assignment.  If your students are well traveled, be sure to ask them for a flag from a place they have never visited.  If your children have not had much opportunity to travel, you may wish to adapt the lesson by having them match completed flags to countries/locations on a world map.  Please choose the adaptation that will be most beneficial for your students.  The big idea is that flags are symbols – as long as you’ve got that, the lesson will be fine.

Recommended Books for this Lesson:

One of the following, or any text that has a collection of World Flags:

  1. Class set of Scholastic Kids’ Almanacs
  2. Class set of National Geographic Kids’ Atlases
  3. Class Set of National Geographic Kids’ Almanacs
Key Words:

Signs, Symbols, Flags, Atlases, Almanacs, Atlas, Almanac, World Flags


Student Assignment Sheet, National Flags as Symbols