May 2010 Archives

Online Reseach & Lesson Plan

After searching for online teaching resources, I found a large variety of information. A lot of websites I found were related to pop culture in general. These sites included information on poetry, music, movies, and television. This information was too general to apply to teaching pop music/culture specifically. I searched further and found some sites specifically focused on teaching pop music and culture to a variety of school-aged children. It offered suggestions on how to teach the topic to children of all ages. Some of the sites offered information on how to plan lessons relating to the topic. I found one site very helpful. It offered suggestions on teaching to all different age groups, income levels, and geographic areas. The following are sites that I found especially helpful.
http://www.blackwell-compass.com/subject/sociology/article_view?article_id=soco_tr_bpl236
http://www.rapidintellect.com/AEQweb/cho3023l5.htm
http://www.jstor.org/pss/1318834
http://www.cengage.com/aushed/instructor.do?product_isbn=9781428231016
http://www.nclrc.org/teachers_corner/classroom_solutions_yana/teaching_culture.html#popular_culture
The following is a lesson plan created specifically for teaching pop music and culture in classrooms.

Introduction:
Pass out lyrics to We Didn't Start the Fire.
Play We Didn't Start the Fire by Billy Joel.
Ask the following:
What is the song about?
What issues and ideas are presented?
Why does the song begin and end when it does?
Place students in groups of approximately 4.
Tell students that they are going to update the song.
Have students individually brainstorm events and issues from 1990 - present.
Have group members share.
Create a group stanza.
Pass out transparency and have groups write new stanza.
Each group will share / sing new stanza.
Following the sharing have groups discuss rationale for events / issues included.
Have groups research and investigate original song's events and issues.

Groups:
Individuals in groups brainstorm themes in history and music examples for integration.
Brainstorm application ideas. Share.

Modeling:
Have examples of music for groups to investigate.
Examples include Say It Loud, Long Road to Freedom, 200 Years of American Heritage in Song, We Sing America, Celebrate Women, The Civil War, Soundtrack for a Century
Discuss the examples and choose specific examples of music for classroom integration.

Examples:
Have lyrics and music for songs such as Yankee Doodle, Follow the Drinking Gourd, This is Your Land, Blowin' in the Wind, and Where is the Love
Groups should brainstorm integration ideas.

Rock in the 70s & 80s Response

After reading the chapters on Rock in the 1970s and 1980s, things that I already knew regarding those eras were reiterated. For example, I knew that Blondie was influential to the punk scene with her contributions influenced by disco and rap. I also knew that punk music drew strong reactions. The genre used controversial lyrics, symbols, and dress.
In addition to reading about things I already knew, I also read about very interesting events and trends that I was not aware of. One of those movements was "Rock Against Racism." Rock Against Racism was a broadly based movement whose main purpose was to oppose the National Front. The group used pop music to push political movements to the vast majority of young people in language they could understand. I found it interesting to note that the RAR group was an orthodox, anti-racist group that challenged record companies, advertising agencies, and galleries. This topic would make a good learning unit for students. It is both historical and interesting. Students should enjoy learning about something that they are not aware in the least, unlike other historical events. When teaching about racism in our country's history, it would be interesting to include the RAR. In order to combat the racism often linked to the band, Sham, RAR booked a reggae band called Misty. This forced the followers of Sham, mostly skinheads, to attend an antiracist concert to see the band. Rock Against Racism could be a great example to students on peaceful and insightful ways to combat racism.
In the 1980s chapter on Rock, music on television is discussed. In the 1950s, American Bandstand featured rock music. Since then, rock music has remained a part of television. In 1981, MTV was created. This opened up the opportunity for artists to create music videos that reflected their personal style and persona. It is interesting to read how MTV started out as purely a television channel with music videos. When I was in high school and watching the station, there were only one or two shows on the channel lineup that played music videos. The rest were reality shows and sitcoms. Now, 6 years later and almost 30 years after the channel's inception, there are no shows that play music videos. The entire lineup is reality television shows. I find it interesting that a channel whose sole purpose of creation was to air and promote music videos now has almost nothing to do with music. Its closest ties to music are the musicians that star on MTV's realty television shows. I understand that people, businesses, and products evolve over time as a response to their environment, but I think MTV should have stayed true to their purpose and created a sister network if they wanted a channel with reality shows.
I think a lot of people have lost respect for MTV as they have steered away from music, but they continue to watch it for entertainment. I definitely fit into this category. I don't think MTV is as great of a pioneer as it once was. I think the channel sinks to new lows every year as they create trashy television they know people will watch, even if they despise it. I continue to watch MTV regularly. Although my opinion on the channel has not affected my viewing of its shows, I am still dissatisfied with the direction they have taken the channel over the course of its lifetime.
I believe the transition MTV has made over the past 30 years would be a good topic for high school students to analyze in an opinion paper. They could discuss whether they believe MTV has sold out and gone awry from its sole purpose of airing music videos for entertainment and promotion.

Increasing Sexuality in Music Videos

After viewing the following videos: Leslie Gore: It's My Party, Fiona Apple: Criminal, and Lil' Kim : How Many Licks, it seems that sexuality has become more prevalent in music as time goes on. In Leslie Gore's music video, she is conservatively dressed, with a shirt that covers her entire chest. Similarly dressed women dance in the background. In the 1960's, this song was considered to push limits with its lyrics and women dancing in the back of the stage.
In the 1990's Fiona Apple broke into a new realm of sexuality with her single, "Criminal." Her lyrics were very suggestive and somewhat explicit. She didn't hold back when it came to expressing her happiness and sexuality, which earned a lot of criticism. While she was dressed conservatively in her video, the scenes are suggestive.
In the late 2000's, Lil Kim came out with her single, "How Many Licks." The lyrics were extremely explicit, describing sexual relations with many partners. She describes sexual acts vividly. Her video is also very explicit. She is dressed in almost nothing with her female assets highly emphasized. She portrayed women as naked, sexual dolls.
These three videos are consistent with the trend of increasing sexuality in music throughout time. As time goes on, artists become more explicit and uncensored and their wardrobes become more revealing. It will be interesting to see what videos are like ten years from now at this rate.

Teaching Popular Music in Your Own Class-Rationale for Principal

In my opinion, there are many reasons to teach popular music in schools. Ideally, I want my students' interests in history to be stimulated. I want them to get excited to dig back in time and discover interesting trends in our nation's pop culture. I want them to be able to analyze these pop culture trends and compare them to economic, cultural, and political situations from the era.
In this course, I want to learn ways to get my students excited about learning about popular music and underlying trends from the time period. If I get excited about it, the enthusiasm will transfer to my students. I also want to gain a deeper understanding between the connections of popular music and economic, cultural, and political trends for two reasons. The first being that I find these connections very interesting personally. The second reason is if I have a deeper understanding of this material, I will be more prepared to teach it.
In regards to the situation given concerning a revised curriculum related to the language arts and social sciences programs, I would voice my concerns and state my case to keep the pop culture/music class to the principal via a letter to the principal. The letter would look like the following:

Principal XXXX,
It has come to my attention that the school district has decided to revise its entire overall language arts/social sciences curriculum as a result of pressure to go "back to the basics" of education. I understand the reasoning behind this push is to improve test scores in both reading and writing. My class, "The History of Popular Music," reinforces and builds these skills. Please consider the following points before you revise any curriculum.
My class, "The History of Popular Music," does not take away from students learning basic skills, such as reading and writing. In fact, it gives them an exciting and unique opportunity to enhance them. The skills learned in my class are complimentary to ones learned in fundamental classes. Students in my class read a large amount of material throughout the course, more so than in most currents courses offered. In addition to the heavy reading, students hone their writing skills through multiple analytical essays. The class serves as an application opportunity for students to apply the basic skills of reading and writing learned in fundamental classes.
My class teaches students to analyze given information, not just to recite it back. This skill is extremely important as many of our students at this school have collegiate plans. More specifically, my students read about popular music in varying time periods and are then asked to analyze historic cultural, economic, and political trends in that time period. This exercise teaches students about the history of our nation and cultural fads throughout its history. As history tends to repeat itself, I am giving students the tools they needs to analyze current trends and predict outcomes.
Please share this letter with the school board at your next meeting on Monday May 31, 2010.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Lindsey Adelman
May 27, 2010

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