What's a Yankee Doodle Dandy?

What's a Yankee Doodle Dandy?
Abigail Adams: Sports and Popular Culture

Skill: Elementary School
Time Required: One to three class periods


The development of a national identity began before American Independence; however, the song “Yankee Doodle” took a derisive insult and turned it into one of the most popular patriotic songs in our history and helped a new nation define itself.  Almost every student knows the words of the first verses but few can complete the song or are aware of its rich meaning.


Few cultural artifacts have survived the entirety of our nation’s history.  “Yankee Doodle” has.  And for that reason alone, it is a significant part of our culture.  The purpose of this lesson is to allow students the opportunity to hear and to learn the song, understand the subtle meaning behind the words and the ideas they convey, and then to express their new understandings through any of the expressive arts.

Materials Required:

Access to the Internet.  Art materials for students.


Begin the lesson by playing the song “Yankee Doodle” for your students.  There are several websites that have excellent vocal renditions with fife as accompaniment.  Copies of the words will assist students in following along.  Assign groups to take one verse each and make sense of the words and phrases with the meanings from the Revolutionary time period.  Check frequently to ensure that all of the groups are interpreting the material accurately.  (Many websites deal specifically with the “insults” that Americans adopted and made a matter of pride.  Be sure that these are clear to students because these give a window into understanding the national character of this new nation.)  Then have students illustrate and/or act out their understanding of each verse.  Some verses may need more than one illustration.  A sharing out of all groups will make the song more meaningful for each student.

Extending the Lesson:

Another way to develop this lesson is for the class to create a “story board” to illustrate each verse.

Sources & Resources:


             Songs and Oaths: Yankee Doodle

             Songs of Early America: Yankee Doodle Dandy            

             Yankee Doodle, the Song


This lesson was developed by Bette Brooks, Kent State University.