Teacher Sign Up
Sign In
Monday Morning Ready05.31.2019
Jumpstart Your Week!

As thousands of American teens make the walk across a graduation stage, one thing is certain: “Pomp and Circumstance” will be played. The marching song prompts instant recognition for many Americans, who have been hearing it played at graduations of all kinds as far back as the early 1900s.... < read more >
Grade 3-4

Why do you think people even play a song while graduates march across the stage to accept their diplomas?

Grade 5-6

Look up the words pomp and circumstance in a dictionary. Based on their definitions, do you think it is appropriate to play a song called "Pomp and Circumstance" at graduations? Why or why not?

Grade 7-8

Make a list of graduation-related traditions. Which one is your favorite? Why?

Grade 9-10

Do you think "Pomp and Circumstance" would have become an American graduation tradition if it hadn't started and first spread to mostly Ivy League schools? Why or why not?

Write a Song for Graduation


  1. Play a recording of the song "Pomp and Circumstance" for the class to hear. Have students scan the article and make a list of reasons why people think this is an appropriate song to play at a graduation ceremony. Encourage students to add reasons of their own.
  2. Review the list. Guide students to recognize that while the song's melody creates an emotional tone appropriate for a graduation ceremony, its historical background is important, too.
  3. Instruct students to think about what graduation means to them. Is it a time to be formal and serious? Or is it a time to be happy and upbeat about the next step in their lives? Give students five minutes to compose a list of words and phrases that reflect their views about graduation.
  4. Encourage students to use the ideas they recorded to write a new song that could be played at graduation.


Invite students to share their songs with the class. Challenge them to explain the meaning behind their songs.


Grades 3-4:
Analyze the song "Pomp and Circumstance" as a class. Have each student create a list of words or phrases related to graduation and share the list with the class. Analyze the results and select the most common ideas. Work together to write a new song to play at a graduation.
Grades 5-6:
Analyze the song "Pomp and Circumstance" as a class. Then divide the class into small groups. Instruct each group to create a list of words and phrases related to graduation and challenge them to incorporate those ideas into the lyrics for a new song to play at a graduation. Have groups apply the lyrics to the tune of a song they already know.
Grades 7-8:
Divide the class into small groups. Instruct each group to analyze the song "Pomp and Circumstance." Then have groups compile a list of words and phrases related to graduation and challenge them to incorporate those ideas into a new song for a graduation ceremony. Groups may write their own music or apply the lyrics to the tune of a song they already know.
Grades 9-10:
Have students complete the entire activity in pairs. Challenge partners to write both the lyrics and the music for a new song to be played at a graduation ceremony.
The Season of Caps and Gowns
Graduation season is upon us! Some students have already graduated. Others are just about to graduate. Ever wonder if academic regalia looked any different in the past? Explore this article from the Smithsonian Libraries to find out.

Graduating in the Navajo Way
In this documentary from the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, you will meet the spiritual leaders, graduates, faculty and staff from Navajo Technical University in Crownpoint, New Mexico. You will witness students who are, in the words of medicine man Dan Jim Nez, Graduating in the Navajo way.”

Commemorations Across the Disciplines
In this lesson from the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, students will explore how cultures commemorate people and events through music, painting, sculpture, photography, architecture and poetry. Then they will work in collaborative groups to create a commemoration of their own and host a festival to share their work with others.

This Is Your Brain on Your Favorite Song
Everyone knows that emotional connections to music can be strong. But did you know that when people listen to music they enjoy, their brains drift into a resting daydream, regardless of the genre? Read this Smithsonian magazine article to learn more.

Treasures of American History: American Identity
Though not written in the U.S., “Pomp and Circumstance” has become a uniquely American tradition. Use this exhibition from the National Museum of American History to explore the diverse roots of American culture and learn how Americans have come to define themselves in many ways—through artistic expression, ethnic traditions, work and play, and home and community life.

West Point in the Making of America
This website from the Smithsonian’s History Explorer looks at the lives of selected West Point graduates who attended the Academy between 1802 and 1918. Students will also learn about the U.S. Army’s functions in 19th and early 20th century America.