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Music and Social Activism – Introducing American Music and History to Elementary Students Through Protest Songs

Author: Dale Apple


Lewis C. Cassidy Academics Plus School

Year: 2011

Seminar: Who Are Those People and Why Are They Listening to That Music

Grade Level: 6-8

Keywords: History, Music, social activism, songs

School Subject(s): Arts, History, Language Arts, Music, Technology

This unit is designed for students in Grade 6 or higher, and will provide outlets for students to be creative in response to American music and history. We will be looking at movers and shakers from American History and how music from their times influenced them. This unit is an interdisciplinary series of lessons with Art, Music, History, Language Arts and Technology.

Students will explore the role music plays in their everyday lives, and will examine American history through the theme of social change using music, beginning with early songs from the auction block, to the cotton fields- from the dust bowl and the depression through civil rights and wars, to the present day. We will deal with the larger issues of social change, and how these issues affected citizens of our country. It will show that often, music’s message went across color lines and brought people together to bring about these changes. The history of a nation’s people is reflected through the arts and students will be able to make this connection.

Some activities will include:

  • Survey of Music’s Influence on Student’s Lives
  • Introduction to Music and History through the theme of Protest Songs using a timeline, which will demonstrate how the arts are an expression of those times
  • Exploration of Musical Instruments and Their Sounds on Interactive Websites
  • Students will create a project using their strengths and will use Technology to present one aspect of how music moves them or affects them with an emphasis on social issues that are present in their world today. Will incorporate multimedia of their own paintings, photographs, written word, famous artwork and songs
  • Students will write an original song, poem or story based on an event from their own lives.

Download Unit: 11.05.01-1.pdf

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Full Unit Text
Content Objectives


In 1997, Apple Computer ran the “Think Different” ad campaign, which was monumental in the evolution of their company’s staying power. The campaign highlighted famous people who were movers and shakers, geniuses, sports heroes, activists, one-of-a-kind human beings who changed the world. It consists of text and photographs of icons in every field- from Pablo Picasso, Muhammad Ali, Amelia Earhart, Albert Einstein, Martha Graham, Jackie Robinson, Jim Henson, Miles Davis, Cesar Chavez, Jane Goodall, John and Yoko Lennon to Gandhi. In an age where education consists primarily of raising test scores, teachers have not been able to teach children how to think creatively as they adhere to strict schedules of drills and practice in a fast paced curriculum. Students are so afraid of making mistakes; of giving the wrong answer that they are reluctant to take risks. What ever happened to that resolve that kids had, that relentless, boundless energy to keep doing something until they finally mastered it? What ever happened to taking chances, to failing and learning some of the most important lessons in life? What about being different, having your own ideas and following through with them to see where they lead? With high stakes testing we have eliminated much of that drive as we teach from a script to get “cookie cutter students” in an effort to raise levels of proficiency in Reading and Math.

Through music, listening, composing, feeling and appreciating, students will be able to express some of these ways of being creative and solving problems. We will be looking at some of these movers and shakers from American history and how music from their times influenced us. Following, is the text from the “Think Different” campaign:

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes.

The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.

About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward.

Maybe they have to be crazy.

How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art? Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written? Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?

While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

Think Different Campaign, 1997


As our nation strives to raise proficiency levels in Reading and Math for all of our students, emphasis on test scores has pre-empted the teaching of almost all other subjects, especially in urban schools. We teach Social Studies and Science through our reading series but where will the arts fit in? We forget that the arts provide many students with alternate ways of learning. Some of us are visual learners and need color, shape and texture to stimulate our brains and make connections to other subjects. Others are auditory learners or kinesthetic learners and have needs that are met only through exposure to the creative and performing arts. This is the purpose of my unit, to provide creative outlets for students and an appreciation for the role music plays in their everyday lives. Students will examine the history of music through the theme of social change and issues affecting our lives.

I am interested in what influences our choices in music; what role our culture and our experiences play in our choices; and whether the absence of music in our student’s curriculum has an adverse effect on their learning.

We have no music teacher, no assembly programs to broaden their experiences, few opportunities for students to actually create music, and music appreciation does not exist anywhere in our curriculum. Some of our students do have limited access, through the partnership of the West Philadelphia Cultural Alliance with volunteers coming in weekly to work with students in a choir. We also have 2 visiting music teachers who instruct some students in woodwind and stringed instruments, though the program only serves a fraction of our student population. Are we possibly stifling a budding prodigy by not having musical experiences in our school? Probably so.

Who the Target Students Are

This unit is designed for students in Grade 6. I will most likely choose one class to work with on an extended basis from classes that meet with me twice per week. Students will use many resources that are available online since they will be readily available to students in my computer lab and will be pre-selected for relevancy.

Students will begin by writing about music – any music. They will do free-writing, unplanned, spontaneous writing of what they know. It is a way of using free association to have their ideas flow without having to worry about structure or format. This is a process I use when I want to see my ideas on paper since I am a visual learner, and it allows for more creativity and flow. This will also help me assess student’s prior knowledge of music.

I will explore Protest Music as the focus of my unit beginning with early songs from slavery to the present day. We will examine music from the auction block to the cotton fields – from the dust bowl and economic woes through the civil rights movement of the 60’s. Civil rights protests began as non-violent demonstrations often accompanied by singing of spirituals from African-American churches but by the end of the decade, the Black Power movement developed and it was evident that non-violence was powerless against increasing racism. It would require more radical action in order to affect change. Music would change as well.

In the late 60’s, the concept of the drug and hippie culture was accompanied by peace and love for all people of all races and religions, and anti-war sentiment began. In the 70’s, we had war protest songs and sit-ins. The end of the 70’s and 80’s brought us Soul Train, a show that introduced many white youth from predominately white areas to Black culture. White youth who had few interactions with their African-American peers were mesmerized and embraced their music and fashion. This continues today.

The 80’s also brought punk and rap, which were very anti-establishment.

In the 90’s, Citizens For Change and Rock The Vote were formed to get young people of voting age involved in social issues. Sean Combs was responsible for the former group.

Each decade brought with it new causes and music continues to reflect those times. I will research specific examples and will include them in my unit, with emphasis on larger issues of social change, and how these issues affected citizens of our country. It will show that often, music’s message went across color lines and brought people together to bring about change.

My unit will include some of the influential people who woke Americans up and united them- people who were not just singers, songwriters and musicians, but also people of many races and cultures who became social activists and united as one to influence a country and bring about change.

We will explore the PBS website of American Roots Music, which discusses how the music of whites and African Americans meshed and influenced each other.

Music performance was often a place whites and blacks could come together and transcend the social limits imposed by segregation. Historian Pete Daniel of the Smithsonian Institution points out that travelling black and white musicians often came into contact and influenced each others’ musical repertoires and playing styles. However, particularly in the South, racial segregation continued to keep musicians and audiences apart according to an entrenched racial logic. With the advent of radio, a broad range of Americans were exposed to a diversity of musical styles, as there was no way to ‘segregate’ the airwaves. Responses to racism and racial segregation were reflected in American roots music.

American Roots Music, Into the Classroom


Students will be able to understand how the music we listen to has had an impact on the people we become and how we are shaped by the musical experiences we have had in our lives.

Students will explore how children or adults might be different if they had never been exposed to music, or grew up immersed in it.

Can music help us learn and develop the whole person, by stimulating our brains and our nervous systems? Wouldn’t it create neural pathways that might better help a child with a learning disability or difficulty in reading?

From listening to kids talk about their favorite artists in music, it is evident how music can influence them.  Kids have a tremendous amount of creative energy, which can be explored using 21st century tools in Technology. Podcasting, Garage Band, iMovie, and iPhoto can all be used to write original music in the style of many cultures and can help students begin to identify what makes them sound so different. An appreciation for all forms of art, both creative and performing should be taught in every school. This unit will be one way to introduce these ideas to my students.

Classroom Activities

  • Survey of Music’s Influence on Student’s Lives
  • Introduction to Music and History through the theme of Protest Songs
  • Concise multimedia history of Musical Genres, History, Cultures and Music samples using a timeline of Protest Songs and issues facing our society- will demonstrate how the arts are an expression of the times
  • Exploration of Musical Instruments and Their Sounds on Interactive Websites
  • Carnival Of The Animals- an animated musical classic from a French composer that demonstrates how each piece of music can communicate an animal’s specific characteristics and personality through sounds. Awesome work!
  • Introduction of Gardner’s Theory of the Multiple Intelligences- Students will explore different learning styles by answering questions about themselves and will choose what kind of learner they are.
  • Students will create a project using their strengths and will use Technology to present one aspect of how music moves them or affects them.
    • Examples may be through writing a short poem and creating a simple soundtrack using Garage Band, then illustrating it through iMovie, or iPhoto slideshow
    • May use Keynote or PowerPoint to create a presentation using their original paintings created in a graphic program or written word created in word processing to illustrate a mood or poem, and accompanied by a soundtrack
    • Students may use photography and music to express their point of view of social issues that affect them- may include school issues such as bullying or quality education, community issues such as poverty, changing neighborhoods through immigration, or national issues such as the recession and how economic changes may be adversely affecting them personally or through other means.
    • Students may create a podcast with an anecdote about someone in their family and what role music plays in their lives.
    • Students can create a podcast using PhotoBooth and the video capture feature to create an on the spot reporter clip or summary of an event from history and protest or a current event in their town, state, country or world event.
    • Students will explore a variety of interactive websites from learning about musical instruments and the sounds they make, to making and composing their own music using programs that are online as well as Garage Band.
    • Students will collaborate on a poem or rap about a current issue or social injustice they feel strongly about, and will present to the class.
    • Students will be encouraged to choose one final project based on their own learning styles, which may include visual means, auditory or kinesthetic means, through writing or any avenue they choose. This will be one way for students to push the typical boundaries of school and let their own ideas come to fruition.
    • If time allows, I would even like students to make their own small instruments from found objects to explore ways in which they can produce sounds.

Lesson One: Songs and Their Stories


Students will be able to:

  • Identify and discuss themes in specific song lyrics.
  • Analyze the social and historical meaning of a song and how music arises from living through history as it is written.

Time 4 periods of 45 minutes each


Excerpts from video, The People Speak by Howard Zinn

Computers to access websites, print outs of 4 or 5 songs’ lyrics for classroom use

Possible examples are:

  • Aginst Th’ Law – Words by Woody Guthrie (
  • Ohio – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (1970)
  • Signs – The Five Man Electrical Band, originally from Goodbyes and Butterflies
  • Society’s Child – Written and sung by Janis Ian (1966)
  • War – Edwin Starr Album: Motown Legends: War (1970)

1.4.6.A Write poems, short stories and plays.

1.9.6.A: Use media and technology resources for self-directed learning, group collaboration, and learning throughout the curriculum.

2.6-8: Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others.

9.1: Know and demonstrate how music can communicate experiences, stories, or emotions through the production of works in music.

9.2: Know and use traditional and contemporary technologies for producing, performing, and exhibiting works in music.

  • Ask students to define what a song is.
  • Definition- A short poem or other set of words set to music or meant to be sung.
  • Ask students why we create songs. Why do we listen to songs? What impact does a song have on us? What if we didn’t have music to listen to?
  • Students will examine the words to 3 or 4 songs from different protest movements and will analyze their meanings. Students will be able to correlate how history and art influence each other and have been since the beginning of our written history.
  • Students will collaborate to write a poem or rap, either individually or as a group about an issue that affects them in their lives.
  • Students will brainstorm a possible list of ideas and a word bank using free association of words that the topics bring to mind. Example- bullying: popular kids, mean teasing, picking on, weakness, respect, hate, unfair, bully, friend, etc
  • Students will write down anything they can think of about an issue for 5 minutes, preferably in list form.
  • Students will then share their ideas with the class.
  • Students will then be divided into teams of four and will choose an issue that affects them to write about together. Students will be encouraged to write using appropriate language but may use slang to get their ideas across. Students will map out a song idea and will divide up lines to each member to be completed for next class (may be done at home with help from sibling or parent or together as group). Group will meet at next class and edit for cohesiveness. Group will then present song to class for discussion.
Learning Extensions

Curriculum connections are available for teaching about Woody Guthrie across the curriculum in all grade levels at the following web pages:

Lesson Two: Words to Music and GarageBand


Students will be able to:

  • Create a timeline of the changes in technology in making music and music recording.
  • Compare and contrast the advantages and disadvantages that these technologies provided to people in making and listening to music.
  • Collaborate and use contemporary tools to create a soundtrack to score their original song, poem or rap.

Time 6-8 periods of 45 minutes each


Students will use a computer lab to research how listening to music has changed and software such as Microsoft Excel to create a timeline.

  • Review brief history of technology’s influence on creating and recording music.
  • What did people do before we could play a cd?
    • Sing, radio, television, albums, 45’s tapes, 8 tracks, cd’s, digital mp3’s, computers, music recorded in tracks and layers, synthesizers, virtual instruments.

Musical cross-fertilization was also hastened by the development of communication technology such as the wax cylinder recorder, the phonograph, juke boxes, the motion picture camera and the radio, which spread regionally based music to broad audiences across the country.

(PBS American Roots Music: Into the Classroom: Historical Background,

  • Introduce GarageBand to students to create a soundtrack.
  • Students will spend several sessions listening to samples of music possibilities in program.
  • Students will practice with a series of photos in a slideshow and after demonstration of tools in program; they will create a soundtrack for the slideshow.
  • Students will then create a soundtrack for the poem, song or rap they collaborated on in their groups.
  • Students will present their finished work to the class and will discuss and share opinions in a constructive critique.

Lesson Three: Social Issues- Every Picture Tells a Story


Students will be able to:

  • Research and evaluate images for use in a multimedia presentation on one social issue in their life affecting their age group, such as peer pressure, bullying, cyber-bullying, ethics and homelessness.
  • Use presentation tools to tell a story with a beginning, middle and end.
  • Present preliminary idea on storyboard, with appropriate text, graphics and sounds.
  • Assemble, edit and present final project to a target audience of their peers.

Time 6 periods of 45 minutes each

  • Images are available from the Library of Congress and other historical sites. Students may also use cameras and computers to find images in the public domain.
  • Songs that are protests of injustices such as Strange Fruit by Abel Meeropol and sung by Billie Holliday.

Students will begin this lesson by discussing how history has been influenced by people who have resisted and tried to change laws and injustices. Students will brainstorm and list those events in our history that have touched upon this theme.

  • Students will be introduced to other movements in our history where protest has brought about change, and events where songs have been written as a way to increase involvement and bring about these changes.
  • Students will create a slideshow or iMovie of a social issue that they feel strongly about, or may choose a historical event. They may choose to take their own photographs by borrowing a camera to document an issue or may download photographs from the internet for their project.
  • Students may also draw or paint their own ideas graphically using digital software programs such as AppleWorks 6 or Paintbrush for the slideshows or movies.
  • Students will research their idea and present a storyboard of what they want to convey. Since every picture tells a story, they will be limited to photos that will have impact in communicating their one idea.
  • Students will create a PowerPoint using slides with text, images such as clip art, their own paintings, and images from the internet or photos from history archives or their own cameras, word art, animation of text, sound effects transitions and timing to run show.
  • Students will show proficiency of subject by cohesiveness of presentation and knowledge of formatting by exhibiting advanced skills.
Lesson Extension

ArtsEdge, a website created by The Kennedy Center, has amazing lessons of the stories behind many famous songs, most notably, We Shall Overcome which became the anthem for the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s. Students will view sites where photographs have been used to present a story from history.

Students may also visit websites that allow them to simulate music such as Whack A Note and the Touch Tone Pad, which uses music and math, creating music from the tones on a digital touch-tone phone numeric keypad.


Music Anthology

Follow The Drinking Gourd– Slavery protest sung by Taj Mahal- Freedom: Songs from the Hearts of America. Originally released 2002, Sony Music Entertainment

We Shall Overcome, Gospel song by Charles Lindley, 1900.

The Preacher and the Slave sung by Jeff Cahill- Audio clip from IWW Rebel Voices, Flying Fish Records. Originally released 1987.

(What Did I Do to Be So) Black and Blue, Louis Armstrong & His Orchestra, 1929.

Cotton Mill Blues by Pete Seeger, 1934.

This Land Is Your Land, Woody Guthrie, 1940. From the album This Land Is Your Land: The Asch Recordings, Vol. 1 (Smithsonian Folkways)

Rudy Vallee and Bing Crosby’s, Brother Can You Spare A Dime? by E. Y. Harburg and Jay Gorney- Freedom: Songs from the Hearts of America. Originally released 1932, Sony Music Entertainment

Which Side Are You On by Florence Reece, 1932 song – Union sentiment

Strange Fruit by Billie Holiday – lynching

We Shall Overcome by Mahalia Jackson

A Pawn in Their Game by Bob Dylan – Was written about the 60’s civil rights protest and the murder of a civil rights worker Medgar Evers.

A Change Is Gonna Come by Sam Cooke, 1964. From the album Ain’t That Good News (RCA Victor)

The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll by Bob Dylan, 1964. From the album The Times They Are A-Changin’ (Columbia)

Eve of Destruction by Barry McGuire, 1965. From the album Eve of Destruction (Dunhill)

For What It’s Worth by Buffalo Springfield, 1967.

Abraham, Martin and John by Dion, 1968.

What’s Goin On  by Marvin Gaye

Imagine by John Lennon

War – Edwin Starr, 1970 – an oldie, but always relevant

Ohio by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. The 70’s war protest- mourned the four students killed by the National Guard during a war protest at Kent State University.

Universal Soldier by Buffy Sainte-Marie

If You Miss Me At The Back of the Bus (Chico Neblett/Traditional)

Stars and Stripes Corruption by The Dead Kennedys – the 80’s Punk Movement

 Fight the Power by Public Enemy, 1989.

The Message by Grandmaster Flash. The 90’s- Rap also emerged as a protest genre, which offered up a long lament of the harsh realities for poor African Americans.

U.N.I.T.Y by Queen Latifah

Annotated Bibliography for Teachers
Web Resources, Books, Music and Video

ARTSEDGE: Educators Portal.”   ARTSEDGE: Educators Portal. Education Department of the Kennedy Center, n.d. Web. 10 Feb. 2011. <>.  This website offers a variety of multimedia experiences in the creative and performing arts to educators, students and parents. There are keywords for specific searches and I plan to use the segments in Jazz, Blues, Hip Hop, Cajun and Zydeco music.

“American Music Collections.” National Museum of American History. Smithsonian Institute, n.d. Web. 10 Feb. 2011. <>.  The Smithsonian has an extensive collection of music from American masters that is accessible through these archives, which is beneficial for each part of this unit.

Protest Song Lyrics, Great resource to find lyrics, which will help students with understanding the lyricist’s intent.

“Multiple Intelligences: Gardner’s Theory. ERIC Digest. .” ERICDigests.Org – Providing full-text access to ERIC Digests. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Feb. 2011. <>.  This article at ERIC discusses Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences and its implications in the classroom.

“Musical Instruments at the Library of Congress (Performing Arts Encyclopedia, The Library of Congress).” American Memory from the Library of Congress – Home Page. Library of Congress, n.d. Web. 10 Feb. 2011. <>.  At this site, visitors see musical instruments in categories and hear excerpts and sounds.

“Performing Arts Encyclopedia: Explore music, theater, and dance at the Library of Congress.” Library of Congress Home. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Feb. 2011. <>.  The Library of Congress is geared to Grades 5 and older with a variety of audio, multimedia and video files. In the Performing Arts section there are photographs of jazz greats, musical scores and many digital collections. It is quite relevant when narrowing to specific fields of music.

“Play Music – Homepage.” Play Music – Homepage. New York Council On The Arts, n.d. Web. 10 Feb. 2011. <>.  From making music online to meeting composers, or learning about instruments in an orchestra, this website provides many opportunities for students to learn about musical instruments and the sounds they make. The site is geared to upper elementary aged and middle school students.

The Carnival of the Animals, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010. Print.  The animals are having a carnival, and the guests are arriving. Nearly 150 years ago, the composer Camille Saint-Saëns was asked by his pupils to write a musical joke for them. He wrote the Carnival of the Animals, a piece people enjoyed so much that it has now become one of Camille Saint-Saëns most famous works. The book illustrates the animals that are described through music in the classical compositions.

Carnival of the Animals

This video has illustrations of this worldwide favorite that reflect the spirit of the composer Camille Saint-Saëns’s fantasies and unify the selection into an overall theme. It is an animated movie in segments of many animals with wonderful classical music that represents each species.

Denisoff, R. Serge. Sing a Song of Social Significance. Bowling Green: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1983. The book describes freedom songs from the civil rights movement as well as other related protest songs, before and after the movement.

Margolick, David. Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday, Café Society, and a Cry for Civil Rights. Philadelphia: Running Press, 2000. Margolick discusses the night when Holiday first performed “Strange Fruit and talks about Abel Meeropol, the man who wrote this song, with his own incredible story as well.

Margolick, David. Strange Fruit: The Biography of a Song. New York: Ecco Press, 2001. The book discusses the controversy of who wrote the song and gives some insight into its power.

Meeropol, Robert and Michael. We Are Your Sons: The Legacy of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. In my quest to learn about the songs of protest during the civil rights movement, I learned about the connection to the Rosenbergs and the book caused me to re-examine what I thought I knew. Although it is somewhat related to my topic, I recommend it for anyone who has an interest in how history is portrayed in books and how events from different periods in time my have connections.

What Is Music?

This movie discusses the history of music in a concise, informative way for young children, from sound to music from many cultures.

Stand and Deliver: Political Activism, Leadership and Hip-Hop Culture, by Alison Keyes.

This book was not available at the time for examination but seems like a title too good to pass by.

“A People’s History of the United States, by Howard Zinn, Book.

This is a fabulous book that questions every fact you thought you knew about history and social protest. A must read!

ArtStor -Reproductions and Photographs

    1. Woman’s Rights– photograph
    2. Whites Only– photograph
    3. Silent Protest– photograph
    4. March– photograph
    5. Linked Hands– photograph
    6. Jim Crow– photograph
    7. Hands– photograph
    8. Religions march together– photograph
    9. Power of Music by William Sidney Mount, painting
    10. In A Free Government by Jacob Lawrence, painting
Annotated Bibliography For Students

“Classics for Kids.” Classics for Kids. WGUC 90.9 FM Radio Station, n.d. Web. 10 Feb. 2011. <>.

This website is operated by a radio station in Cincinnati, and offers background knowledge on classical music, composers and interactive games, as well as lesson plans for educators.

Composer. ” DSO Kids | Listen by Instrument.” DSO Kids | Home. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Feb. 2011. <>.

This site is designed for students in Grades K-5, and offers a kid friendly interface for listening to musical instruments by category- strings, wind, percussion and brass. It is primarily a teaching site with audio files for introductions to the sounds instruments make.

“ – Arts – Music (Grades 6 – 8).” – Main Page. Library of Congress, n.d. Web. 10 Feb. 2011. <>.

This incredible website from the Library of Congress offers an exhaustive list of online resources for almost any aspect of music inquiry- from “Neanderthal Jam” and the sounds of early musical instruments to music from the history of America and today.

“Playing (with) Scales.” Morton Subotnick’s Creating Music. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Feb. 2011. <>.

This site allows students to make musical compositions using the number keys.

“Can You Hear It”, written by William Lach- Published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art

“Carnival of The Animals”- Classical Music for Kids by Camille Saint Saens, Barrie Turner and Sue Williams.

This is an excellent cd of music representing animals as they enter the scenes that students will enjoy. You can picture and hear the footsteps of the elephant as he walks on by or envision the delicate swan as it frolics in the water.

Bell, Judy and Nora Guthrie, ed. Woody Guthrie Songs. 1994.64p. Ludlow Music All ages.

A collection of Woody Guthrie’s original artwork as well as biographical photographs embellish this music book containing nearly fifty songs. An extensive discography exemplifies the legacy of Guthrie, reaching back to Cisco Houston, Sonny Terry and the Weavers through the folk movement of Peter, Paul and Mary, Judy Collins and Tom Paxton and onto contemporary performers Holly Near, Bruce Springsteen and Michelle Shocked. Easy chords and all the verses make this a valuable Woody resource.

Christensen, Bonnie. Woody Guthrie: Poet of the People. 2001.32p. Alfred A. Knopf (0-375-81113-3) Gr.3-6.

The legacy of American folksinger-songwriter Woody Guthrie is furthered by this biography accompanied by song lyrics and lovely woodcut-like illustrations. From “This Land is Your Land” to “So Long, it’s Been Good to Know Yuh,” it is formatted as a picture book yet has an abundance of information per page. It includes a timeline of important events in Guthrie’s life. More than a read-aloud, this is an accessible resource for students seeking information about the dustbowl era, unions, migrant workers and social issues of the time.


Literacy Standards

  • 1.4.6.A Write poems, short stories and plays.
  • 1.9.6.A: Use media and technology resources for self-directed learning, group collaboration, and learning throughout the curriculum.
  • 1.9.6.B: Use relevant graphics (maps, charts, graphs, tables, illustrations and photographs)

Visual Arts Standards

  • 5.8.1 Understanding and applying media, techniques, and processes
    • Students intentionally take advantage of the qualities and characteristics of art media, techniques, and processes to enhance communication of their experiences and ideas.
  • 5.8.4 Understanding the visual arts in relation to history and cultures
    • Students analyze, describe, and demonstrate how factors of time and place (such as climate, resources, ideas, and technology) influence visual characteristics that give meaning and value to a work of art.
  • 5.8.6 Making connections between visual arts and other disciplines Students compare the characteristics of works in two or more art forms that share similar subject matter, historical periods, or cultural context.
    • Students describe ways in which the principles and subject matter of other disciplines taught in the school are interrelated with the visual arts.

Technology Standards

  • 1.6-8: Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology.
  • 2.6-8: Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others.

Music Standards

8: Understanding relationships between music, the other arts and disciplines outside of the arts.

  • 9.0: Understanding music in relation to history and culture
  • 9.1: Know and demonstrate how music can communicate experiences, stories, or emotions through the production of works in music.
  • 9.2: Know and use traditional and contemporary technologies for producing, performing, and exhibiting works in music.
  • 9.3: Know that works in the music can be described by using the music elements, principles, and concepts.

Visual Arts

  • 9.1 Production, Performance and Exhibition
    • Use knowledge of cultural and historical styles to create works in the arts and when developmentally appropriate, develops own style to create works in the arts.
  • 9.2 Historical and Cultural Contexts
    • Explain the historical, cultural and social context of an individual work in the arts.
    • Relate works in the arts chronologically to historical events.
    • Relate works in the arts to varying styles and genre and to the periods in which they were created.
    • Analyze a work of art from its historical and cultural perspective.
    • Analyze how historical events and culture impact forms, techniques and purposes of works in the arts. Identify, explain and analyze historical and cultural differences as they relate to works in the arts.