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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