Saturday, July 4, 2015

Honoring the Flag

Happy Fourth of July Considerate Classroom Friends!

Photo by Tracy Perrett Photography
In honor of our beautiful country, I thought I would share the process we went through to teach our students how to honor the flag during the Pledge of Allegiance.

Each morning our principal, a form military man, would get on the loud speaker and say the Pledge of Allegiance with great pride and enthusiasm. The first few days my staff and I joined him as we tried to corral our students to do the same, however it only took us a few days to realize this was not working! 

Reciting the Pledge of Allegiance requires students to have attention to tasks, joint engagement, and the ability to imitate and communicate.  All skills most of our students did not have. 

So during the second week of school, we added an environmental support,  I took the American flag out of it's holder and held it at eye level for the students to look at as they honored the flag.  This modification was a total flop! Me holding the flag did help the students see what they were suppose to look at, but it didn't keep their attention for the duration of the pledge, especially since me holding the flag meant that the students I was originally supporting during week one didn't have a staff person with hands available to support them so the second day of week two, I handed the flag to one of our students who had the most difficulty attending to the flag, I supported him in holding the flag as we did the flag salute this worked for him put not for the 8 other children in the classroom who where suppose to be attending to the flag too! 

So next up, a visual support.  We added this step by step visual to remind our students of their responsibilities before our principal came on the loud speaker for morning announcements. 

This visual helped some student but was still quite abstract for students, who were not yet ready to attend to a visual support so next we added a hands-on feature.  Each student had the opportunity to hold their very own mini flag throughout the pledge.  This did in fact help all of the students but it did mean I had to modify the original visual support.

Now things were running smoothly for the Pledge of Allegiance but we had several students who did not want to give up their flag at the end of the pledge and the system for handing out the mini flags was very chaotic to say the least!  Students shouted "I want a flag!"  "Me too"  and "GIVE ME A FLAG!"  while others ran up and grabbed a flag from my hands not noticing the students they ran into as they did so or even worse students who took a flag right out of their friends hands!

So in comes a system for passing out and gather flags, before and after the Pledge of Allegiance.  I used an old Clorox wipe container with the following cues on it.  For getting a flag, a communication support stating "I want flag."

This gave all students the opportunity for requesting a flag each day in an appropriate manner.  Note: the support was printed on a gray background to helps students cue into the fact that the support was for communication as all our aided language boards and mini communication books have the same background.  Gray was picked as the background color for all of our communication supports so that they would look similar to a PODD book for future generalization and use.

The back of the Clorox container had a visual support that said, "All done put in" 

This visual support is taped to the inside of most of my toy and manipulative tubes and as well as direction instruction task boxes.  It was added to tubes to support my staff and I in using consistent language in helping children give up preferred items.  If you have worked in special education for any reasonable amount of time you will recognize that this is a skill that many students struggle with!

By have the visual taped to each container we expect kids to 'put in', we are able to use consistent language and it is no longer about staff being the bad guy.  The container says "all done, put in!"  Which also limits power struggles, we are not physically taking the item you prefer, you are simply putting the item in a box/container for later and in this case the container strategically only had a small opening to put in so students are not enticed to take out flags instead of putting theirs in. 

I am sure you are thinking, so that is great each child holds a flag for the Pledge of Allegiance but what about when the students enter kindergarten or attend a more 'typical preschool classroom', those classrooms are not going to have a surplus of mini American Flags nor is the teacher going to have the time to pass out flags in the fashion described above and you are right... with every modification or accommodation that gets put in place there must be a plan for fading or decreasing the support over time as students gain skills.

As our students gained the skills necessary for attending to the American flag, we started having them hold this visual reminder instead of the actual mini flags. 

This still gave students something to hold while they honored the flag but became less intrusive.  Then over time we moved to them holding nothing and simply putting their right hand on their heart. As we used this visual that was attached to our quick prompts on an as needed basis.

NOTE: The success of honoring the flag during the Pledge of Allegiance didn't just come from the system itself.  All the skills I mentioned at the beginning of this post: attention to task, joint engagement, imitation, and communication are skills we teach across classroom activities and throughout classroom routines as they are life-long skills that truly benefit students long term success.  It takes a great deal of planning, organizing and think outside the box to support students in learning these foundational skills in a functional manner that will generalize to further success. 

When I say planning I do mean the little things too!  For example, our little Clorox container system was strategically placed next to our class flag. This ensured that staff always knew where to get it when morning announcements started and helped the students start to recognize that the Clorox container-- turned mini flag holder was a part of the class American flag and Pledge of Allegiance routine. 

Thanks for stopping by on the Fourth of July. . . What class routines do you have that need a little shaping to decrease chaos and increase quality learning and teaching?  I would love to hear about them, please share below!

Happy 4th of July and Best wishes!


  1. Thank you so much!! This will be so helpful!

  2. I'm so excited to use this!!! Thank you so much!