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The Sound of Resistance: Protest Music in African Cinema

Author: David Jennis


Kensington High School

Year: 2021

Seminar: Listening to the Music of Contemporary Africa: History, Politics, and Human Origins

Grade Level: 9-12

Keywords: African Cinema, African music, Amandla! A Revolution in Four Part Harmony, Apartheid, History of Africa: Resistance and Liberation, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, South Africa

School Subject(s): Arts, Geography, Music, Social Studies

The Sound of Resistance: Protest Music in African Cinema is a unit designed to introduce high school students to a sampling of cinematic representation of musical traditions that evolved in South Africa in response to the institution of Apartheid.  This unit was designed for an elective course in an urban, public high school for students in grades 9-12 where the students meet every other day for ninety minutes. The unit will blend elements of geography, politics, music, art, and critical thinking in an effort to meet the needs of a classroom that may feature students from a diverse array of educational, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds.

Download Unit: Jennis-David.pdf

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Full Unit Text
Content Objectives

Fifty two percent of the students enrolled in the school district of Philadelphia identify as Black/African American. The distinguished professor of ethnomusicology at The University of Pennsylvania, Carol Muller, noted that even in some academic circles, Africa has occasionally been erroneously identified as a country.  During the introductory sessions of the Teacher’s Institute, several other university committee members presented their opinions regarding the importance of developing Afro-centric curriculum in secondary schools. This is important at my school for a number of reasons.

First of all, the demographic makeup of our student body closely resembles that of the SDP (School District of Philadelphia). We have a student body that consists almost entirely of minority students, of which nearly half identify as Black/African American. Anecdotal evidence from teachers in our building who specialize in African American history suggests a disconnect between those students and their cultural/historical knowledge. One teacher has suggested to me that the dissemination of knowledge related to Africa cannot be relegated to one individual class, but that the school needs to do more overall to stimulate growth in this area.

Second, there is evidence to suggest that sharing responsibilities of literacy, history, and cultural development across the framework of the school contributes to improved academic performance among 10th and 11th graders.

Listening to the Music of Contemporary Africa will serve as the instructional basis for the unit that I will eventually teach to my high school students. Throughout this unit, we have explored many countries, regions, cultures, languages, and voices in order to gain a better understanding of African music. The importance of music in Africa throughout history is clearly seen in the variety and depth of musical history that we have encountered. Additionally, we have explored the long standing impact of slavery and colonialism on Africa and its many cultures. Finally, we have seen that music thrives in contemporary Africa, and that it draws on centuries of experimentation to fill the air with sound in every region of the continent and across the globe.

There are a number of instructional frameworks that have been developed in our TIP unit that have helped scaffold our cohort’s understanding of this vast, and at times, overwhelming content. Perhaps the most fundamental information that ought to be translated from this unit into any other unit for secondary students is the geography of Africa. We know from many experiences in our highschool that many students lack basic skills in geography. Many students do not know the locations of states within the USA, so to set about understanding the enormity of Africa, I think it is necessary to begin with basic geography.

One of the biggest hurdles to understanding the geography of Africa has to do with the vast number of ways that the continent can and has been dissected on maps and in our imaginations. Whether we look at pre-history, pre-colonial, post-colonial, language, tribal, or cultural divisions, there are countless ways to slice this cake. Perhaps the simplest and most crucial division presented in the TIP unit is the division of Africa into distinct regions: North, South, West, East, Central, Islands, and Sahel as well as African Diaspora. This division will be much easier for secondary students to grasp. From here, we can further differentiate the five basic regions by listing the countries in each. This is a wonderful opportunity to use a visual aid in the classroom that can be referenced throughout the unit. Each student should have an individual map which can be used for quick reference, but there should also be a map large enough to reference in the classroom.

Once the geographical divisions have been established, it will be important to briefly introduce the musical traditions associated with each region. My high school lacks a music program, so it may be necessary to introduce some basic vocabulary definitions and examples in order to provide students with a framework for conversations and analyses. Some of the vocabulary terms discussed in the TIP unit include: Ngoma (song/dance, drum, healing) song, religious views, melody, timbre, harmony, texture, rhythm, structure/form, cross-rhythm, meter, free meter, monophony, polyphony, heterophony, homophony, voice, instrument, call and response (antiphony), overlapping phrases, staggered entry, dense, polyphony, hocket, intonation, microtonal, melodic contour, voice, instrumentation, arrangement, dissonance/consonance, parallel movement, relative pitch, intervals, register, range, relationship between voice and instruments, or between variety of voices, strophic, free form, improvised, precomposed, beat, pulse, interlocking parts/melodies, compositional process, ancestral gifts, dreams. Naturally, this seems like a rather exhaustive list and may be beyond the scope of the class unit within the confines of other materials. It will be necessary to focus on a few of the most basic terms in order to give the students the vocabulary they need to discuss the material.

Students will use the foundation of geography to build a further understanding of the long history and devastating impact of colonialism on the African continent. Much like the building blocks of geography and musical terminology, the purpose will be to give students a broad foundation from which to build. It would be beyond the scope of this unit to uncover the many interwoven complexities of centuries of colonialism, but an introduction will be necessary in order for students to understand where the music comes into play. The BBC News series History of Africa, and particularly the episode Resistance and Liberation, offers “a few highlights of African resistance and liberation.” Teachers interested in further exploration of the African continent would be well served exploring the rest of this far reaching series, but this episode in particular will help focus the attention toward an African tradition of peaceful and organized mass protest which is frequently bolstered by a cultural emphasis on voice and music as a means of expression. Students will continue to build from this understanding of history and geography in order to skillfully approach an analysis of music as a tool with which many different peoples and cultures have used to fight oppression.

Students will explore the sounds of resistance through several key feature films and documentaries produced by both African and American filmmakers. Amandla! A Revolution in Four Part Harmony, directed by Lee Hirsch, offers a startling and informative entry point for students to dive deeper into the use of music in the fight against oppression. As with any media suggested for use in this unit, it is recommended that the teacher preview the content in its entirety in order to determine its appropriateness in individual classroom settings. Amandla!

Another film that is useful in portraying the importance of protest music in South African is Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. This film features traditional arrangements sung by the cast; songs such as Freedom (Mandela), Nelson Mandela Sabela Uyabizwa, Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika, and Thula Sizwe which have been traditionally sung as protest songs in Apartheid South Africa. The film also features African music from artists such as Blondie Makhene and Dizu Plaatjies. There is a wonderful moment at approximately the fifteen minute mark in the film which offers an example of the power of the voice; a group of protesters raise their voices in unison, effectively drowning out the instructions of a small group of white police officers.

Once the geography and vocabulary have been established, students should have a solid foundation on which to build a greater understanding of the cultural impact of African music. As this unit will be used in an Introduction to Film elective, we will expand our approach to the material through observations of films and film clips in addition to text based materials. A number of feature length (time permitting) and film clips will be utilized to build a picture of African music over the course of several decades. We will primarily focus on films produced in America as a way to frame our discussion of African music, but we will also explore films produced in Africa by African filmmakers. We will address topics such as ownership, appropriation, copyright, representation, power, voice, etc all through the lens of critical film analysis.

Throughout the course of the unit, students will engage in thoughtful observations, critical discussions, and detailed analyses of the representation of African music in American media. Students will compare traditional and contemporary African music as audio files alongside similar representations in Hollywood movies. Students will understand the constructed nature of media and be able to interpret hidden messages and power structures beneath the surface of popular media. Students will work to generate their own media in response.

Teaching Strategies

Firstly, it is essential to note the importance of trauma informed practice that will serve as the backbone of classroom practice and procedure.  Students may find conversations or observations related to some of the early depictions of African music in Hollywood unsettling. At all times, teachers must be diligent to create safe spaces for their students’ emotional well being. Counselors and support staff should be available to assist students who may have difficulty processing the material. The teacher should consult with school staff and administration to ensure that the content adheres to the equity mission of the individual school. The teacher should notify other stakeholders about the nature of the unit ahead of time, and maintain routine communication throughout the delivery of the unit.

The nature and purpose of classroom materials (handouts, videos, etc) should be stated prior to the beginning of each lesson in order to place the content within the broader context of the unit. Students should always be warned about any unsettling and possibly triggering material. Time and space should always be allotted to students who may need to step away from the lesson.

In order to maintain productive conversations centered around potentially difficult topics, the teacher should develop a set of expectations and guidelines alongside their students. It is suggested that the teacher dedicates a portion of the initial lesson to developing clear guidelines for discourse. Even in a classroom which has established norms and expectations for student dialogue, it is worthwhile to spend some time reviewing and/or revising these rules ahead of a unit that will undoubtedly spur emotional reaction and vigorous discussion. The following is a list of suggestions that our school often uses from The School District of Philadelphia’s Office of Teaching and Learning website.

  • Avoid ego: assume everyone’s work comes from a place of good intentions; avoid taking comments personally.
  • Be results-oriented: focus on the learning, growth, and improvement of your individual work and our collective efforts.
  • Embrace honesty: bring your authentic self to the discussion; be willing to admit when you don’t know, and be willing to ask questions.
  • Be reflective: focus on the process; view struggles as an opportunity for growth.
  • Share the spotlight: avoid dominating the discourse; invite all voices to join the conversation
  • Be protective, but not defensive: guard the psychological safety and sanctity of the group discussion space (what happens in group stays in the group), while embracing the discomfort of this work (brave space)

A list such as this one should be built and agreed upon by the learning community, and afterwards it ought to be available for reference in a highly visible location somewhere in the discussion environment.

We will scaffold knowledge for students through a variety of multimodal learning activities. This unit offers a wonderful opportunity for teachers to engage students in visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic learning. The overall flow of each lesson will follow a similar pedagogical approach.  There will be teacher led instruction (direct instruction), communal activities and discourse (guided instruction ), and finally work that students complete independently (independent practice).  Individual strategies that may be used throughout each lesson include:

  • Carousel Activity. This interactive activity will engage small groups of students with new concepts in vocabulary. The basic idea is that you separate students into several small groups. Each group is individually presented with a different colored marker and a unique word, phrase, image etc on a piece of paper. Each group has a limited amount of time to write down interpretations or reactions to whatever is on the paper. After time is called, the groups pass their paper to the next group and the process is repeated until each piece of paper has a collection of observations, interpretations, and reactions. The teacher could allow the papers to circulate until each group has had a chance to see their initial paper and review the collection of notes, or the teacher could collect the papers and review the notes as a group.
  • Choice Menu. This is an assessment tool that allows teachers to foster student agency and autonomy. Students may be presented with one or more categories (ie, appetizer, main course, dessert) in which the teacher outlines a number of different assignments available for students to complete. Students will then select from among the assignments in order to demonstrate their understanding and mastery of the unit objectives. This is also a way to allow for students to demonstrate multiple modalities of thinking and learning. I often present students with options for artistic outlets, oral presentations, and other alternative selections among choices for more traditional written assignments.
  • Cornell Notes. I often use Cornell notes in conjunction with video observations in order to promote active participation and critical analysis. Cornell notes provide an organized opportunity for students to record notes, questions, and a summary of learning. For those unfamiliar with this format, there are numerous templates available online as well as tutorial videos on using them in the classroom.
  • Do Now / Energizer. This short activity sets the stage for the day’s lesson.  Instructions will be immediately visible to students upon entering the room.  Alternatively, students may receive a handout or worksheet as soon as they are met at the door. The instructions should be brief and the activity should take no longer than 5-7 minutes to complete, including discussion and review.
  • Exit Ticket. This activity can take many forms in many classrooms, but the purpose is nearly always the same; give students the opportunity to express evidence of their learning. This can be as simple as a “Green, Yellow, or Red light” to express confidence or a more formal written response to a question. Generally, it should be a short activity to round out the day.
  • Frayer Model. This model for vocabulary acquisition asks students to write a definition in their own words, synonyms, uses, and a visual. This is often presented with the new word in the center of four other boxes or areas for notation. This activity is a useful way to help students acquire domain specific vocabulary in a variety of settings, but may be particularly useful given the variety of new terms that students may encounter learning about music.
  • Guided Viewings. Rather than simply sitting down to watch a section of media, students will have guided notes to direct their viewings.  The notes will call for objective observations, insights, and questions that arise as they watch a variety of media. It will often be necessary for teachers to curate a selection of short clips from longer pieces of media. Teachers are advised to preview all visual media for content and district specific regulations dictating the use of media in the classroom.
  • This constructed response strategy is a way for students to approach critical analysis through a carefully structured formula.  R = restate the question, A = answer the question, C = cite evidence, and E = explain the evidence.   Students should already have mastered this formula, but will continue to practice it as a way to approach media studies.
  • See/Think/Wonder or Hear/Think/Wonder. This activity works well as a type of do-now or energizer, but may also be used within units. Students receive or create a three column organizer with each column labeled “see,” “think,” and “wonder” in that order from left to right. Students observe artwork, short videos, or listen to music (in this case change “see” to “hear”). Students then record objective observations, deeper analysis, and thoughtful queries in each associated column. Time should be allotted for students to share with one another and as a group.
  • Synthesis Matrix. In addition to Cornell notes, I use this organizer to help foster active watching and listening during film presentations. Essentially, a template is provided for students with a number of labeled columns and rows. For each row, the students may be asked to focus on a particular section of video, character, theme etc. In each column, there will be more specific questions for students to think about and respond to. This often becomes part of a portfolio that students will reference for future analysis.

Visual Organizer.  Students will practice using visual organizers to keep track of notes and observations.  Visual organizers are often requirements in students’ Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), and most teachers will have a tried and true set of these documents for a variety of purposes.

Classroom Activities

Example Lesson 1: Introduction to the African Struggle for Freedom

Materials: SmartBoard or other image/video projector, image of the African continent, writing implements, paper, Video for the BBC program History of Africa: Resistance and Liberation

Do Now (5-7 minutes)

Students should create a visual organizer on a blank piece of paper. The students should be instructed to fold the paper into three sections. Students should label these columns “See,” “Think,” and “Wonder” in order from left to right. Alternatively, the teacher may provide students with a pre-made and pre-labeled organizer. This may be necessary as an accommodation for certain students. Once the visual organizer has been created or distributed, the teacher should briefly explain the process for completing the organizer. For this example, I will indicate to students that I will turn out the lights and present a picture on the board (in my case, a Smart Board connected to a laptop). Students should make objective observations about what they see in the “See” column. These observations should be limited to only what the students see, and should therefore be free of any analysis or inference. Students should record deeper insights in the “Think” column as they process the image on the screen. This column is used for inference, analysis, and critical thinking. Finally, students should use the “Wonder” column to record critical questions about what they are seeing. Once the teacher has provided an opportunity for students to ask clarifying questions about the activity, and the teacher is confident they are ready to participate, the lights should be dimmed and the image should be presented. For this activity, a picture of the African continent should be used. There are many examples available online, and the teacher may select the one that works best for them.

It may be necessary for the teacher to pause at predetermined intervals of thirty to forty five seconds in order to encourage students to move to a new column to ensure that each column has a robust set of notes. At the duration of the allotted time, the teacher should make time to review each column with the class. The objective “See” column is an excellent opportunity for shy students to contribute in a low stakes environment, since these are objective observations.  During the review of this activity, the teacher should be mindful to listen for preconceived ideas, stereotypes, and generalizations that students may have about Africa, it’s culture, or it’s inhabitants.

Teachers should anticipate the generalizations and stereotypes that students may bring to this introductory lesson and be prepared to address them in an appropriate manner. Most students will enter high school with some degree of historical knowledge regarding African diaspora, particularly the Trans Atlantic slave trade, American Civil War, etc. The teacher should use this initial opportunity to dispel rumors and generalizations about a homogenous, backward, impoverished, jungle/desert landscape and engage students in critical discourse regarding the enormity of Africa’s geographic, political, linguistic, musical, and cultural heritage.

Guided Viewing (45- 60 minutes)

Students will critically engage with the BBC program History of Africa: Resistance and Liberation. The teacher will present students with a brief overview of the Cornell note taking format and strategy prior to the guided viewing. If this is the students first use of Cornell notes, extra time should be dedicated to instruction and examples in order to facilitate rigorous use of the format. The teacher should provide pre-printed templates for students who may need them. Otherwise, students should create their own template by folding or drawing on a piece of loose leaf paper. The paper will be broken down into three sections: notes, questions, and summary. The teacher will provide some limited background information on the purpose of the program, and the objectives of the viewing prior to watching the video.

The BBC program History of Africa: Resistance and Liberation offers a broad view of the history of invasion, subjugation, and colonization in numerous areas of Africa over a long period of time. Students should be able to list a number of these events and summarize the impact of foreign invasion on the African continent. Students should take detailed notes and make critical observations on the numerous examples outlined in the video. The teacher may wish to pause the video to ask clarifying questions or engage students in direct questions to check for understanding. Naturally, this may be adapted for a shorter class if the teacher wishes to preview the video and show a curated selection of smaller clips. As the narrator notes in the video, covering the history of African liberation movements in a forty five minute episode is nearly impossible. Ensuring students’ understanding is equally daunting in such a short period of time. By the end of the video, the teacher should review with the class  to ensure that the objective of the observation has been met; students should be able to summarize the impact of foreign invasion on the African continent. Students should understand that each of the fifty four modern day countries on the African continent have endured some type of invasion or subjugation and consequently participated in struggles for freedom and independence. This broad understanding will serve as a foundation from which the unit will build.

Discussion and Analysis (20 -25 minutes)

The teacher will present students with a final question for discussion and analysis in the form of a five to six sentence written response. Students in this school have a background in the RACE strategy of constructed response paragraphs. This strategy is a key component of our literacy curriculum, and limited time should be needed to review this strategy. In a RACE response, students (R)estate and (A)nswer the question, (C)ite evidence, and (E)xplain the evidence. In this example, students should be asked, “How has a history of foreign invasion and subjugation influenced African countries around the continent?” Students should use their Cornell notes from the guided viewing to offer evidence in support of their response. After an initial discussion and review, students should be given independent time to construct and compose their five to six sentence written response.

The teacher should collect these responses for future evaluation. In order to meet our school’s literacy goals, we often use the rubric associated with standardized assessments, such as the Keystone. This evaluation tool generally comprises a zero to five point scale in categories such as organization, focus, content, and style. In any regard, the teacher should be sure to use a rubric that the students are familiar with. It is always advisable to teach the rubric that will be used and maintain consistency throughout the evaluation process.

Exit Ticket (5 – 7 minutes)

The teacher will offer students a brief opportunity to respond to an exit ticket to finish up the lesson. In this instance, it should be something along the lines of, “Describe one thing that you learned today about Africa.” Ideally, the students will have encountered and overcome a number of preconceived generalizations about Africa throughout this lesson. The exit ticket is linked to the objective of the lesson, and provides students a final opportunity to express a new discovery. The teacher may wish to open the exit ticket question to a brief discussion prior to or after students have had an opportunity to respond.

Example Lesson 2: The Importance of Music in the Struggle for African Independence

Materials: SmartBoard or other image/video projector, writing implements, paper,

Do Now (5-7 minutes)

This energizer activity is similar to the “See/Think/Wonder” activity presented in Example Lesson 1, but in this case the teacher will use the categories “Hear/Think/Wonder” instead.  Once again, students create a visual organizer on a blank piece of paper or receive a template from the teacher. The three sections of the activity  should be labeled “Hear,” “Think,” and “Wonder” in order from left to right. Once the visual organizer has been created or distributed, the teacher should briefly explain the process for completing the organizer. For this example, the teacher will indicate to students that the lights will be dimmed and a song will be played. Students should make objective observations about what they are listening to in the “Hear” column. These observations should be limited to only what the students hear, and should therefore be free of any analysis or inference. Students should record deeper insights in the “Think” column as they process audio experience. This column is used for inference, analysis, and critical thinking. Finally, students should use the “Wonder” column to record critical questions about what they are listening to. Once the teacher has provided an opportunity for students to ask clarifying questions about the activity, and the teacher is confident they are ready to participate, the lights should be dimmed and the song should be played. For this activity, the teacher should play “Bring Him Back Home” by Hugh Masekela.

The discussion period following the energizer activity will allow the teacher to build an overall understanding of the students’ musical and historical knowledge. The students may be able to discuss instruments, vocals, arrangement, repetition, etc. depending on their experience in other music classes. Ultimately, the teacher should use the discussion period after the energizer to steer the conversation toward the repetition of the chorus, “bring him back home, Nelson Mandela” in order to get a sense of preexisting knowledge. The teacher should be able to gauge students’ previous experience with South Africa, Nelson Mandela, and Apartheid form this initial conversation.

Guided Viewing (45- 60 minutes)

Amandla! Revolution in Four Part Harmony is a documentary that examines the importance of song in the fight for independence in Apartheid South Africa. Students should be able to associate individual songs with the fight for freedom. Additionally, students should be able to analyze the importance of music in a general sense to the struggle for independence. Students will also be able to make inferences about the role of music in the struggle for freedom and independence in other African nations. The teacher may wish to pause the video to ask clarifying questions or engage students in direct questions to check for understanding. By the end of the video, the teacher should review with the class  to ensure that the objective of the observation has been met. Students ought to be able to make connections between this documentary and the BBC program from Example Lesson 1.

Students will build from the base of historical and geographic understanding developed in Resistance and Liberation toward a more comprehensive understanding of the role that music has played in the struggle for freedom in Amandla! Students will also be encouraged to examine and respond to the cinematic representations of segments within the documentary.

Students will observe, think about, and critically respond to Amandla! Revolution in Four Part Harmony. The teacher will present students with a brief overview of the synthesis matrix prior to the guided viewing. Students will be familiar with this form of active observation from previous classes, but for the purposes of this lesson, the teacher should review the visual organizer. Essentially, this is a series of rows and columns with space for students to take notes at each intersection. Students may create this chart on looseleaf, or  the teacher may provide pre-printed templates for students who may need them. The rows of the chart will be labeled with musical moments and timecodes for reference.  For instance, 00:10 (indicating the ten minute mark of the film) which would be associated with “Verwoerd” and 00:23 “song.” The columns of the chart will be labeled with “summary,” “musical theme,” and “analysis.” The final product might look something like this:

Summary Musical Theme Analysis




If there is not sufficient time in the class period, this allows the teacher to quickly advance to the relevant portion of the documentary.

Discussion and Analysis (20 -25 minutes)

Students should be able to analyze the social, historical, and cultural connection between music and independence among African nations.  The teacher should lead a discussion with this essential question in mind, “How did music help South Africa achieve independence?” which should lead toward “How has music functioned in the history of African nations struggling for freedom and independence?”  The teacher will present students with this essential question for an analysis in the form of a five to six sentence written response. As noted in Example Lesson 1, students in this school have a background in the RACE strategy of constructed response paragraphs and will use this strategy to compose a response. Students should use their synthesis matrix from the guided viewing of Amandla! in addition to the Cornell note sheet from Lesson 1 to offer evidence in support of their response. After an initial discussion and review, students should be given independent time to construct and compose their five to six sentence written response.

The teacher should collect these responses for future evaluation. In order to meet our school’s literacy goals, we often use the rubric associated with standardized assessments, such as the Keystone. This evaluation tool generally comprises a zero to five point scale in categories such as organization, focus, content, and style. In any regard, the teacher should be sure to use a rubric that the students are familiar with. It is always advisable to teach the rubric that will be used and maintain consistency throughout the evaluation process.

Exit Ticket (5 – 7 minutes)

The exit ticket will give students an opportunity to reflect on their experience with the content of the lesson. For this lesson, the teacher will ask students to respond to a “Traffic Light” exit ticket. The teacher will present a question such as “How confident do you feel analyzing the impact of music in the identity of African resistance movements?” Students will respond with either “Green” for very confident, “Yellow” for somewhat confident, or “Red” for not confident at all. Upon collection of the exit tickets, the teacher will be able to form a general idea of the overall confidence of the class.

Example Lesson 3: Student Choice Menu

Do Now (5-7 minutes)

This lesson will represent a lesson toward the end of the unit on protest music in African cinema. Students should have acquired even more knowledge on the subject through additional guided viewings following the format presented in Example Lesson 2. Teachers are encouraged to peruse the list of content provided in the resource section in order to select additional content appropriate for their individual classrooms.

The do now activity for this lesson should incorporate a spiral review of important names, dates, locations, musical traditions, etc. This is an opportunity to review a wide range of ideas and concepts ahead of a culminating project. There are numerous outlets available to teachers to accomplish this task, including many interactive tools available online, such as Kahoot and Quizizz. Teachers are encouraged to select an appropriate tool to review the material that accommodates their students and their available resources.

Student Choice Menu (2-3 class periods for project development, composition, and reflection)

The student choice menu should be presented to students as an opportunity to demonstrate mastery and understanding based on each students’ individual talents and approaches to learning. This is an excellent tool to foster independence and agency for high school students. If students have not used a similar tool in the past, it will be necessary to teach and review the process. The final outcome of each selection, regardless of the option selected, should be to create something individualized and unique that expresses the student’s learning.

The choice menu for this unit will feature a number of highly engaging projects centered around the production of a piece of unique media. Students will use their knowledge of the production process to create a unique work of art, either individually or in collaboration with a small group of fellow students. Students in this course have undergone basic training in the production process, which includes pre-production, production, and post-production. For those unfamiliar with the production process, these three phases essentially boil down to planning, producing, and revising with multimedia tools. A more detailed list of opportunities appears in the appendix, but in order to understand the process, we will break down one activity in depth.

One sample project involves an in-depth interview conducted between students about the impact of music on the struggle for freedom in South Africa. For this project, the pre-production phase might first involve brainstorming individual pieces of music to use in the interview process. The students would refer to notes and visual organizers from prior viewings and decide on one or two major pieces of music from one or two guided viewings. Then, the students would generate a list of ten open-ended questions to ask their partners about a particular piece of music. The teacher must review the pre-production work in order to validate that the students have met the preliminary objectives of the project, or offer additional guidance toward a more thorough analysis if components are missing. Once approved, the students would move to production.

During production, students would take turns interviewing one another using audio and/or video recording technology. In this class, students have access to Sony Vixia camcorders, lavalier microphones, and tripods for recording. Students are expected to compose thoughtful camera angles using the rule of thirds and to monitor sound quality throughout the interview. Interviewees are expected to answer each question thoroughly in order to demonstrate their understanding of the importance of music in the struggle for freedom in South Africa. Interviewers should monitor answers and ensure that each open-ended question is answered in complete sentences, as opposed to one-word “yes” or “no” answers. Once again, the teacher should approve recordings prior to the post-production phase of production.

In the post-production phase, students are expected to carefully edit each interview for content and style. Students in this class have access to Final Cut Pro X, but there are numerous other free audio and video editing programs available, such as iMovie and WeVideo. Students are further encouraged to include B-Roll, or supplemental footage, to add information, clarification, and flavor as needed throughout the interview. Any outside sources that are included in the final edit should be cited in a credit sequence. As these videos will be used for educational purposes, it may be necessary to review the principles of fair use with students, so that they understand how and why they are able to construct classroom projects using copyrighted material. Completed videos should be approved by the teacher to ensure that appropriate credit has been given to outside sources. Teachers should review and assess each project using a holistic rubric that has been taught to the students.


Each student or small group will have the opportunity to present their accomplishment for the class at the completion of the project. Audience members should be held accountable for respectful attention to each project and may be asked to complete a review for each project. Constructive feedback should be collected anonymously for each group and reviewed by the teacher prior to distribution to the team members. Students should carefully reflect on the unit as a wrap up activity.


Akombo, David Otieno. “Treasures of African Music,” Insight Media, 2010.

Amandla! A Revolution in Four Part Harmony. Directed by Lee Hirsch, ATO Pictures, 2002.

District 9. Directed by Neill Blomkamp, Sony Pictures, 2009.

Hallelujah. Directed by King Vidor, MGM, 1929.

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. Directed by Justin Chadwick, performances by Blondie Makhene and Dizu Plaatjies, Pathé, 2013.

“Resistance and Liberation” History Of Africa with Zeinab Badawi, written, produced, and directed by Zeinab Badawi, BBC, 2017.

Sembene! Directed by Samba Gadjigo and Jason Silverman, Galle Ceddo Projects, 2015.

Tsotsi. Directed by Gavin Hood, The UK Film and TV Production Company, 2005.



  • Standard – 9.1.12.A Know and use the elements and principles of each art form to create works in the arts and humanities.
  • Standard – 9.1.12.C Integrate and apply advanced vocabulary to the arts forms.
  • Standard – 9.1.12.F Analyze works of arts influenced by experiences or historical and cultural events through production, performance or exhibition.
  • Standard – 9.2.12.A Explain the historical, cultural and social context of an individual work in the arts.
  • Standard – 9.2.12.D Analyze a work of art from its historical and cultural perspective.
  • Standard – 9.2.12.G Relate works in the arts to geographic regions:
    • Africa, Asia, Australia, Central America, Europe, North America, and South America
  • Standard – 9.2.12.J Identify, explain and analyze historical and cultural differences as they relate to works in the arts (e.g., Plays by Shakespeare, works by Michelangelo, ethnic dance and music).

Student Choice Menu

You have watched and listened to one of the most important struggles for independence in history. The lessons of xenophobia, racism, and intolerance that created apartheid in South Africa are unfortunately still relevant today. As filmmakers and students of history, you will use your knowledge and abilities to create a unique piece of media that demonstrates a thoughtful analysis of the lessons you have learned throughout this unit. For this project, you will select one option from the following menu of possible activities. Choose the option that you think will highlight your individual talents and abilities. If you do not see something you like, feel free to propose an alternative option of your own.

Once you have explored the options, please complete the questions below.


Conduct an interview with a partner. You will select a piece of music from one of our observations and analyse its importance. You must compose at least 10 open ended questions to ask during your interview.

Incorporate A Roll, B Roll, music, graphics, and credits as necessary.

Montage Video

Create a  thirty second to one minute montage that clearly condenses time, space, or information related to the music of the South African struggle for independence. You must use a wide variety of camera aesthetic principles (15-20 unique shots). Cite all materials in a final credit sequence.


Record a creative interpretation of a song from one of our observations. You must by providing an initial reading, a rehearsal schedule, and a final reading. Finally, you must record a reflection of learning.


Compose and record a unique song, poem, or rap in the style of one of the musical pieces we have observed in this unit. You should include a reference to the original piece or pieces that you used as inspiration.


Research and present findings about one of the musicians responsible for composing  protest music in South Africa. Presentation should include biographical information, detailed summary of oeuvre, comparison of at least three individual works, and include research from 3-4 unique sources.

Summary Presentation

Use PowerPoint or Google Slides to compose a thoughtful summary and analysis of the unit. Presentation must include detailed information related to two films, two songs, and two important individuals. You may pre-record or present your presentation live.

  1. Which option will you complete for your final project?


  1. Why did you select this option?


  1. What personal skills or strengths will this project demonstrate?


  1. What difficulties do you anticipate in completing this project?


  1. What specific support do you think you will need in order to be successful?


Student Choice Menu Rubric

Professional Very Good Good Basic Needs Improvement
Overall / Focus & Concept Project developed from start to finish with professionalism and integrity. Project suffers from some ups and downs but is completed successfully. Some group members lack focus / attendance. Group suffers from lack of focus.  Difficulty completing assignments on time. Project is undeveloped or incomplete.
Pre-Production Thoughtful consideration of topic throughout pre-production.  Professional storyboard, script, shot list, etc. Demonstrates clear focus on topic.  All pre-production materials are complete. Basic understanding of pre-production.  All elements of pre-production are present, but may be incomplete. Limited understanding of pre-production.  Elements of pre-production are missing or incomplete. No evidence of pre-production.
Production Final project demonstrates a complete understanding of the unit objective. Project is creative and appealing. Project demonstrates some understanding of the unit content.  There is some visual appeal. Project demonstrates basic understanding of unit objectives.  There is limited creativity applied to the final project. Project demonstrates a basic awareness of the subject. Little/No awareness of unit content.
Post-Production Project demonstrates professional attention to detail in the editing and revision process. Project demonstrates successful revision and editing with few errors. Project demonstrates basic understanding of the revision process. There are multiple errors which may distract from the original concept. Project demonstrates little evidence of editing.  Numerous errors. Project demonstrates  no evidence of post-production thought or activity.
Classwork All group members engaged and on task during class time. Most group members engaged and on task during class time. Few group members engaged.  Some group members off task. Group makes poor use of class time.  Educational technology is misused. Group wastes most class time.  Group is disruptive.