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Liberty Defined

Adrienne J. Kupper
OverviewProcedure for teachersStudent Resources and Materials
Grade Level
Time Alloment
 Two 45 minute classes


What is liberty? It is one of the basic ideals of the United States, but it is often a difficult word to define. Many things have been created and have come to symbolize liberty, and these symbols are part of the fabric of American culture. Through the use of primary source documents and the poem "The New Colossus," students will examine what liberty means to them and to others. They will view video segments and learn about the history of one of these symbols - the Statue of Liberty - and they will express their own views of liberty through creative writing.

Subject Matter

American History, Language Arts

Learning Activities

Students will be able to:
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the history of the Statue of Liberty.
  • Discuss and record their views of liberty.
  • Read and analyze language in the poem "The New Colossus."
  • Use primary sources, historic sheet music, and documentary footage to gather information about liberty and the Statue of Liberty.

From the National Standards for History, available online at

Standard 4E: The student understands national symbols through which American values and principles are expressed.

From the National Standards for Social Studies, available online at

Standard 10: Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of the ideals, principles, and practices of citizenship in a democratic republic.

From the New York State Learning Standards for Social Studies

Standard 5: Civics, Citizenship, and Government Students will use a variety of intellectual skills to demonstrate their understanding of the necessity for establishing governments; the governmental system of the United States and other nations; the United States Constitution; the basic civic values of American constitutional democracy; and the roles, rights, and responsibilities of citizenship, including avenues of participation. From the New York State Learning Standards for English Language Arts, available online at

Standard 1: Language for Information and Understanding: Students will listen, speak, read, and write for information and understanding. As listeners and readers, students will collect data, facts, and ideas; discover relationships, concepts, and generalizations; and use knowledge generated from oral, written, and electronically produced texts. As speakers and writers, they will use oral and written language that follows the accepted conventions of the English language to acquire, interpret, apply, and transmit information.

Standard 2: Language for Literary Response and Expression: Students will read and listen to oral, written, and electronically produced texts and performances from American and world literature; relate texts and performances to their own lives; and develop an understanding of the diverse social, historical, and cultural dimensions the texts and performances represent. As speakers and writers, students will use oral and written language that follows the accepted conventions of the English language for self-expression and artistic creation.

Media Components


Freedom: A History of US
Episode 10: Yearning to Breathe Free

Web Sites

"Liberty" from the collection of Historic American Sheet Music at Duke University
This site includes all of the pages of the sheet music for "Liberty" by Ted S. Barron, which was written in 1916. The images can be viewed in both small and large format. This image, as well as others like it, can also be accessed by searching the American Memory Series at the Web site for the Library of Congress,

Freedom: a History of US Webisode 10, Segment 1C
This page contains the text of the poem "The New Colossus" by Emma Lazarus, as well as an audio clip of the poem. There is also background information and images available.


For the class:
  • A television and VCR
  • A map of New York City (provided by school)
  • Dictionary (provided by school)
For each student: