Recent Searches

Loading Search Results...
Loading Directory Results...



Recent Pages

Recent Searches

EIU Teaching with Primary Sources


Classroom Activities: 

Home      Elementary      Middle School      High School


The Statue of Liberty as a National Symbol

Lesson Overview


This lesson explores the Statue of Liberty as a national symbol and its sources of symbolism. With guiding questions of: What is a symbol? How can a symbol be used to communicate an idea? Students discover a sense of place for Ellis Island as point for immigrants entering the United States which resulted in the country we know today. Students will be exposed to "The New Colossus", by Emma Lazarus.

Grade Range:



After completing the lessons in this unit, students will be able to:

  • Identify and explain the significance of the Statue of Liberty as a patriotic
    symbol of the United States. 

  • List specific symbols in the design of the Statue of Liberty.

  • Use a symbol in the design of the Statue of Liberty.Identify other symbols used to depict Americans' shared values, principles andbeliefs, and explain their meaning.

Time Required:

Three class periods of 30-40 minutes.


Language Arts/Social Studies


Architecture, Landscape, Culture, Folklife, Immigration, American Expansion


Rise of Industrial America, 1876-1900, Great Depression World War II, 1929-1945



Illinois Learning Standards:



1-Read with understanding and fluency.

1.C-Comprehend a broad range of reading materials.

1.C.2b-Make and support inferences and form interpretations about main themes and topics. 

1.C.2d-Summarize and make generalizations from content and relate to purpose
of material. 




The New Colossus cut apart poem. Printed photos of Statue of Liberty from sources. PDF

Analysis Tools:

Put Yourself in the Picture Photo Analysis


L is for Liberty by Wendy Cheyette Lewison


Classroom world map, interactive whiteboard or projector, KWL Chart

Library of Congress Items:

Title of Source:Statue of Liberty 


Title of Source:The Statue of Liberty: Hand and torch of the statue 


Title of Source:Broken shackles, axe head and right foot at base, May 1984 (picture #54) 


Title of Source:Profile view of left-side of head, May 1984 (picture #32) 


Title of Source:Statue of Liberty (and) New York Harbor 


Title of Source:Jewish refugee children, enroute to Philadelphia aboard liner President Harding, waving at the Statue of liberty.


Title of Source:Statue of Liberty, New York City  


Title of Source:Statues and sculpture. Statue of Liberty II   


Title of Source:New York City, Bedloe's Island. Statue of Lib.: full, front view from harbor   

Online Resource:

Title:America's Story: The Statue of Liberty Arrived in New York Harbor, June 19,1885


Title:American Heritage: An Adventure in Liberty




Use a map to show students where New York harbor and France are in relationship to where they live. Explain that the statue was a gift to the U.S. from France that had to be built, taken apart, sent across the Atlantic Ocean and reassembled in the United States. It was finished and dedicated in 1886. On the board, emphasize the age by subtracting the year 1886 from the current year. Explain how the statue is a symbol of freedom and opportunity. Point out that it was the first thing millions of immigrants saw as they entered America at Ellis Island.


Have students brainstorm what they know about the Statue of Liberty on a group KWL chart. Write all ideas on the interactive whiteboard or a large piece of paper in the KWL format.


Read the book L is for Liberty by Wendy Cheyette Lewison.


The class is now ready to take a detailed look at the statue, beginning with its symbol-packed design. With the brainstormed ideas displayed, encourage further discussion with these questions.

  • Why does the statue face away from the U.S. if it is a symbol of liberty? Put the Statue of Liberty photograph  on the interactive whiteboard or use a projector. (Note: The statue faces 
    France as a symbol of the enduring friendship between the two countries. This positioning was 
    fortuitous because the statue was subsequently viewed by more than 12 million immigrants as they entered the U.S. making it one of the first things they saw in America.

  • What do people use torches for? What does the torch make you think about the statue? Put The Statue of Liberty: Hand and Torch of the Statue photograph on the interactive whiteboard.

  • What is the symbolism of the chains at the statue's feet? Put Broken shackles, axe head and right foot at base, May 1984, photograph on the interactive whiteboard. 

  • Who uses a crown? What does the crown make you think about the statue? Put Profile view of left-side of head, May 1984 photograph on the interactive whiteboard.

  • How does the tremendous size of the statue affect the way you feel about it? Show Statue of Liberty (and) New York Harbor photograph on the interactive whiteboard.

  •  Why are so many people familiar with the Statue of Liberty? Why are so many people aware of what it represents? 


As a class, review what a symbol is and identify examples of symbols in the classroom. Explain that a symbol brings to mind an idea. Over the years, a symbol tends to take on a meaning related to its history, function or appearance. Discuss how ideas can also be gradually transferred to an object over time. Millions of immigrants found themselves welcomed to America by the Statue of Liberty. The statue became associated with immigrants struggle for freedom and their desire for a better life.


Study part of the famous poem engraved on the Statue of Liberty. Tell students that a poem, "The New Colossus", by Emma Lazarus, is inscribed on the base of the statue. Place the partial text of the poem on the interactive whiteboard. Read the partial poem aloud to students and briefly discuss its meaning. Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" Give students the poem word puzzle in partners and have them use the text to arrange the words in the proper order. Have students read the poem again. 


Divide the class into groups.


Display picture of Jewish refugee children, enroute to Philadelphia aboard liner President Harding, waving at the Statue of Liberty. Discuss what the children may be feeling and what their hopes and their ideas about entering America might be.



As an evaluation activity, assess students' understanding of symbols and their use in depicting Americans' shared values, principles and beliefs with a writing assignment. Ask students to list some American symbols and what they represent. Then have students select a symbol that they believe to be the symbol of the U.S. and explain their choice. This can be accomplished with a drawing and/or writing.


For independent time on the computer students should visit America's Story to differentiate instruction students with higher ability should be asked to write more sentence and could also be asked to find the full poem "The New Colossus"  by Emma Lazarus, read and discuss the full version.

Author Credit:
S. Spung
Chrisman Elementary 









Related Pages

Take the next step

apply now
schedule a visit

Give to EIU

Every gift made to Eastern Illinois University -- whether it's big or small -- makes a difference. EIU's generous donors are helping our students fulfill their dreams every day, and you can be part of that.

Learn more about how to make your contribution today!