Curriculum Planner: "The Total Blues Experience"

Article excerpt

Activity: Making connections to blues music across generations

The blues is one of the most widely misunderstood genres of music in existence. During its history, the music has stood outside of organized society and established institutions (Evans, 2005). Many people, including African Americans, view the blues as an isolating, depressing commentary on the miseries and misfortunes of a few misguided individuals. Yet blues music, arguably, is just the opposite--a creative form that is uplifting and that promotes positive messages. The blues since its birth a century ago has always been dedicated to offering its listeners commentary on myriad aspects of life ranging from male-female relations and employment status to race relations and spirituality (Spencer, 1993; Evans, 2005). These loci are essential to a musical genre that, concerned with reflecting people's real lives of glory and pain, remains vital in the early-21st century.

Provided here is an example of a curriculum planner, by Pamela Lamar-Dukes, and based on the National Center for History in the Schools standards, that illustrates ways to utilize nonstandard historical content (e.g. textbooks and commercial curricular materials) in ways that engage students and make the content relevant and meaningful. This curriculum planner provides step-by-step instructions for conducting a journey into The Total Blues Experience. The lesson plan also provides activities to help student see the strong connections between the blues and the newer musical genres of rock 'n roll and hip-hop.

Relevant standards addressed by this lesson:

National Center for History in the Schools Standards

5-12 Thinking Standards (http://nchs.ucla.edu/standards/thinking5-12_toc.html)

* Standard 2: Historical Comprehension, D. Evidence historical perspectives.

* Standard 3: Historical Analysis and Interpretation: E. Analyze cause-and-effect relationships and multiple causation, including the importance of the individual, the influence of ideas, and the role of chance. J. Hypothesize the influence of the past.

* Standard 5: Historical Issues-Analysis and decision Making, C. identify relevant historical antecedents.

United States History Standards for Grades 5-12 (http://nchs.ucla.edu/standards/us-standards5-12.html):

* Era 7, Standard 3: How the United States changed from the end of World War 1 to the eve of the Great Depression.

* Era 9, Standard 1: The economic boom and social transformation of postwar United States.

Goal: Students will understand the history and purpose of the blues as one of the most highly influential genres of music in American history.

Objective: The students will identify three historical events leading to the creation and popularity of blues music, after reading three historical accounts of the music.

Duration: This lesson can be completed in one week. The lesson can be conducted at any point during the school year, but may be especially significant during Black History Month as many students may be interested in the history of music and the influence African-Americans have had on its development.

Instructional sequence: The major function of this lesson is to introduce students to a musical form that serves as the foundation for many of the most popular music forms today (e.g., rock and roll and hip-hop). One of the most effective instructional grouping techniques to use for this lesson is cooperative learning. The lesson should proceed in the following manner:

1. The lesson begins with the instructor assigning each individual student to interview two adults to inquire about their musical interests. Students should be allowed to choose the adults, but the instructor should encourage students to find someone 50 or older. This will allow students to gain some insight into the historical events that "shaped" music developed by African-Americans. …