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Coat of Arms

Lesson Overview

Overview: Students will examine Columbus' coat of arms. The website The Meanings Behind the Symbols will be used to decipher the meaning behind his coat of arms. Students will then create a personal coat of arms.
Grade Range: PreK-2

After completing the activity, students will be able to:

  • Analyze Columbus' coat of arms to determine the meaning of colors and symbols.
  • Create a personal coat of arms.
Time Required: Social Studies, Reading
Discipline/Subject: Social Studies, Reading
Topic/Subject: Culture, Folklife, Immigration, American Expansion
Era: Settlement, Beginning to 1763



Common Core State Standards:  
  English Language Arts Standards: Speaking & Listening: Grade 1
SL.1.5 Add drawings or other visual displays to descriptions when appropriate to clarify ideas, thoughts, and feelings.




Handouts: The Meaning Behind the Symbols handout (print pages 4-6 of PDF), Personal Coat of Arms template (print page 7 of PDF).
Analysis Tool: Analyzing Photographs & Prints (print page 8 of PDF)
Other: Crayons
Library of Congress Items: Title of Source:Columbus' Coat of Arms-1942 an Ongoing Voyage Exhibit
Online Resource: Title of Source:The Meanings Behind the Symbols



1. Project and pass out copies of the photo of Christopher Columbus' coat of arms. Ask general questions
about the photograph, such as, "What is the object shown?" Look at and discuss each of the four sections on the coat of arms. The top left section displays a castle on a red background. Questions about this first section may include: "What does the castle tell you about the setting?" "The castle is on a red background. Why would Columbus choose the color red?"
2. Guide students through the examination of the photograph using the Photographs and Prints analysis form with observation questions, such as "What do you know about a coat of arms?" "Do people use coat of arms today?"
3. Move on to interpretation questions such as, "Why is it important?", "What do you think the items on the coat of arms represent?", "Why do you think Columbus chose these objects?", "What is another object Columbus could have added to his coat of arms?", and "What objects would you put on your coat of arms?", "Why?", "What Colors?", "Why".
4. Ask the question, "How would I want my own coat of arms to symbolize me?"
5. Distribute the handout based on The Meaning Behind the Symbols website and explain (cite) where the information on the handout came from. Use handout to determine the meaning behind Columbus' coat of arms.
6. Pass out the Personal Coat of Arms template. Students will create their own coat of arms. Students should choose objects and colors reflective of their own personal values.
7. Finally, each child will present his/her coat of arms. The presenter is expected to identify each object or color and the meaning behind it. The teacher should informally assess each child's understanding of the symbols guide as he/she presents.



Students will be questioned throughout the lesson. Teacher questioning will be used to determine student understanding of the meaning behind Columbus' coat of arms. As each student presents and explains, his/her personal coat of arms the teacher will informally assess each child's interpretation of the symbols' guide.


As a lead in activity, the teacher will read Coat of Arms by Catherine Daly-Weir. In this book, students will discover the importance of and reasoning behind a coat of arms. As an extension activity, students will visit the website Make Your Coat of Arms to create and print a personal coat of arms.

Author Credits:
Carolyn Wenz Elementary