The Music of Social Movements, Part 2

We’re still pursuing resources on music that has motivated movements. Continuing past the music of the civil rights era (which we blogged about here) and the Anti-Apartheid movement, here’s a lesson plan from the New York Times: Teaching With Protest Music.

It has overviews and embedded music from the older movements, but also to music from Beyoncé (***Flawless), Pussy Riot, and Los Tigres del Norte. The article also introduced us to Genius, a remarkable lyrics annotation site.

Here are some of the ELA prompts for students:

About the role of music:

Write and Discuss: Why do you listen to music? How does music make you feel? Does music serve a different role in your life depending on your mood, who you are with or what you are doing? Does music ever cause you to think differently, to feel a part of something larger or to want to rise up and take action?

Engaging with a particular song:

Listen and Annotate: Next, listen to ____________, a protest song from the time period we are studying, while reading along with the printed lyrics. As you listen, annotate by underlining, highlighting or writing in the margins — reacting or responding to anything in the lyrics or in the music itself. (You may want to play the song a second time, if it would be helpful.)

About a song the student has selected:

Bring in Contemporary Music That Speaks to an Issue or Era in the Past: What songs today have something to say about the past, whether because people are still struggling with the same issues, or because the lyrics seem symbolic or ironic when seen through the lens of the past?

There are also links to editorials and op-eds written by scholars and musicians: many great resources and jumping-off points!

Guest Post: “How Far Does the Apple Fall?”

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We are thrilled to present our first-ever guest post, via writer and teacher Rashaan Alexis Meneses, currently a professor at St. Mary’s College of California. Her essay prompt, “How Far Does the Apple Fall?” is designed for an intro-level college writing course, but may well be appropriate for advanced high school students.

Examining Assumptions Essay #1

“How Far Does the Apple Fall?” 

We are all of us influenced by the people closest to us, and to them we owe a great deal. For this assignment you will examine how your parents, guardians, or grandparents influenced your political perspective. Try to think as broadly as possible. Political doesn’t just mean red or blue, liberal or conservative. Politics run deep in terms of social class, religion, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, environmental concerns or lack thereof, global or local—there are many ways to see the world politically.

Focus on one or two specific ways in which older family members, parents or guardians, have shaped your political perspective. Whether you have adopted some of their political leanings or outright rejected them, this is a chance for you to reflect upon and examine your assumptions about yourself and the world you live in. You will want to depict at least two and no more than four specific events, circumstances, or conversations that you can reference as evidence as to how you are politically influenced or not by your parents or guardians.

This is a chance to be creative with voice and form, so you will want to rely on concrete actions. Avoid using adjectives. Give your readers specific evidence to show not tell how you are or are not politically influenced by your parents/guardians. I encourage you to refer back to the reading assignments we have covered in class that deal with family and identity. Note how each author uses tone and style. How do they assert authority? What kind of evidence do they use to develop their stance and build a thesis?

Essay Requirements: 

Your essay should be a minimum of (4)-pages long, typed in Times or Times New Roman only, double-spaced with one-inch margins on all sides. Always carefully proofread your paper several times. I highly recommend reading it aloud to yourself at least twice to catch typos, faulty language, missing points, etc. Be sure to refer to your past graded essays to address strengths and weaknesses.

Grading Criteria: 

For this assignment, I will be looking for essays that 1) demonstrate that students understand competing viewpoints, 2) that students can generate a plausible thesis and that 3) students can identify and reflect upon their own assumptions on a particular topic. You will also want to be sure to include 4) a strong and persuasive voice that can substantiate all claims with evidence.

Rashaan Alexis Meneses teaches English/Composition and Collegiate Seminar at Saint Mary’s College of California and has received fellowships at The MacDowell Colony and The International Retreat for Writers at Hawthornden Castle in Scotland. With work forthcoming in Kartika Review, her publications include Puerto Del SolNew LettersBorderSensesKurungabaaThe Coachella ReviewPembroke MagazineDoveglion Press, and the anthology Growing Up Filipino II: More Stories for Young Adults. http://rashaanalexismeneses.com/    

Oral History: Students Are Historians Too!

the-microphoneHere at Small Stones, we LOVE hearing about students collecting oral histories from people in their communities. For this second installment in our Oral Histories Series, here’s a quick who/what/where/when/why/how explainer to help students understand to how powerful oral history can be–and to see themselves as historians.

WHAT?

Oral histories are simply stories people tell about their own lives and experiences. They can be about subjects we typically think about when we think about history, like experiences of war and conflict, political events, and famous people. But they can also be about everyday experiences, like moving from one place to another, raising a child, learning a new skill, or even going to school.

Our understanding of history is shaped by what we choose to record. If we only focus on typical “historical” events, we miss big chunks of what life was actually like for people in a particular time and place.

WHO?

Anyone can take an oral history! And anyone can share their own experiences to be preserved. Some of the most fascinating stories that help us to understand the most about the past exist because somebody sat down with another person and simply asked her life.

One notable instance of people collecting oral histories in the United States came during The Great Depression in the 1930s, as part of the Federal Writers’ Project. Writers were sent around the country to document the lives and folklore of everyday Americans. You can learn more about this project here.

Sometimes the best person to collect a story isn’t an official historian; it’s someone the subject knows well and feels comfortable speaking with.

WHERE?

You can record an oral history anywhere the subject feels comfortable. Some people conduct formal interviews in conference rooms or classrooms. Others meet at a coffee shop and find a quiet corner. Still others prefer to tell their stories in their own homes.

Technology makes taking oral histories even easier today than in the past; distance doesn’t have to stop you! While it’s best to be in the same place, it’s now possible to interview people over video chat, a phone call, email, text messages, or even social media.

WHEN?

The most important aspect of recording an oral history is making sure the subject feels comfortable. For some people, this may be at a specific time of day. For others, it might be over the weekend. Some people feel more comfortable talking after a major life event is over–for example, if they are busy working towards earning a college degree, they may want to talk to you about it after graduation.

Others, however, may want to share their stories even as they continue living them. Many people are presently taking oral histories from refugees, for example, who still have yet to find a more permanent home. It may also be the case that stories like these, that are still ongoing, are especially powerful to preserve and share to help shape the eventual outcome for those living in difficult situations.

WHY?

It’s easy to think that history doesn’t have much of an impact on the present. But history is happening now, all around us, and it will be shaped by the stories that we choose to preserve and the voices we choose to amplify. The better we understand the stories of the people around us, the better we are able to work towards the kind of world that we ultimately want to have.

HOW?

There are SO many tools available for taking oral histories right now. A pen and paper will work just fine to record interview notes. Most of us walk around with recording devices in our pockets; smartphones can allow us to quickly and easily capture stories, whether with video or just voice, and share them with the world. And as we mentioned before, distance doesn’t have to be an issue. We can take oral histories of people who aren’t able to meet in person.

More and more, people are interested in learning about the lives of those around them, stories that might usually remain hidden. You can help shape the history of your own community, draw attention to critical issues, and create tools that foster better human understanding–all through the simple act of listening.

Coming up next: more details about how to plan, prepare for, conduct, debrief, and share an oral history yourself.

Resources for Black History Month…and All Year Long

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Allan Rohan Crite, School’s Out, 1936. Via Smithsonian Education.

Here are a few things that we’ve encountered lately that would be great additions to the classroom, whether during Black History Month or at any other time of the year.

The National Museum of African American History & Culture has an interactive online feature, Collection Stories,  curated by NMAAHC staff. Staff members choose an area of focus based on items in the museum’s collection. The resulting stories include images of the items, historical discussion, and thoughts from the curator on why these stories are so important to African American history and culture.

We especially enjoyed “Dress for the Occasion,” a story centered around the dress that Carlotta Walls wore when she integrated Little Rock Central High School in 1957 as one of the Little Rock Nine. Check it out get a glimpse of the school, her diploma, and the process behind choosing the dress that she wore for that first day of school.

From Smithsonian Education, we’d like to highlight two sets of lesson plans. Both include material appropriate for kindergarteners all the way through high school, available for download as zip files.

The Art and Life of William H. Johnson includes detailed information on how the curriculum meets Visual Art, History, and Language Arts standards. Younger students analyze color choices, subject matter, and older students conduct comparative analysis with works from other artists (including this post’s header image, by Allan Rohan Crite).

Finally, The Blues and Langston Hughes does just what you’d think: compares the poetry of Langston Hughes with blues rhythms, structures, and lyrics that most students are probably already familiar with, whether they know it or not. Younger students write their own simple poems; older students dig into the Smithsonian Folkways’ collection of blues recordings from The Great Migration.

And speaking of Smithsonian Folkways…we have one more recommendation after all. Check out Say It Loud for hours from their collection of African American Spoken Word recordings, whether from Langston Hughes himself, an interview with W.E.B. Du Bois, or a recording of Angela Davis.