“It’s Been A While…”

The title for this post is from the song of the same name from the band Staind.  A great rock ballad from a good rock band.  But I digress.  Now that I am back in the swing of things, I am ready to share some more great social studies information!  Today’s post is about the using of music in social studies education.

A good colleague of mine is Dr. Chris Goering from the University of Arkansas (and graduate of Kansas State University) has a wonderful website titled “Lit Tunes” where he talks about using music in language arts instruction.  As we know about the College and Career Readiness standards, we need to look at how we can incorporate language arts into our instruction.  I would greatly encourage you to look at Dr. Goering’s Soundtrack of Your Life assignment on the website.  

Additionally, there are some wonderful ideas of using student music to make sense of the history they are studying.  What if the teacher allowed the student to identify a period of history using a song that they know.  I always thought it was interesting to let kids describe people via song.  It is just another form of poetry to help describe people and others.  One of my previous students used Jay-Z to describe children’s rights in the Industrial Revolution with the song “It’s A Hard Knock Life“.

One of my student teachers drew upon the visualization of Iron Maiden’s song “Paschendale” to help set up a discussion of trench warfare in World War I.  Another used John Mellencamp’s “Crumblin Down” when discussing the fall of the Berlin Wall (a much better choice than Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” I believe).  All of these clever means to use music to setup discussion and activities are creative and interesting.  The problem that many teachers feel can be difficult is the finding of the songs to use.  That is where I encourage you to have the students find out with some simple protocols in place.

1.  Must be related to the topic.  (Persuasive presentation of evidence?)

2.  Must be school appropriate.  (Set your norms here)

3.  Students must be attentive to the song.

and for my classroom…

4.  Students must sing a chorus with a catchy hook.

I still recall with great glee my 8th Graders joining in the singing of “Goober Peas” when we started our American Civil War unit.  The halls echoed with the sound of “Eating Goober Peas” throughout the rest of the week.  Using period music as well as challenging students to find current music to explain historical phenomena will pay off huge dividends and is a great way to engage students in learning.

In social studies,


PS:  If you want a great visual for WWI trench warfare, I encourage you to check out the final scene of the show “Blackadder Marches Forth” starring Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean) and Hugh Laurie (Dr. House).  The comedy ended with one of the greatest tributes to those who fought in World War I I have ever seen.

About bradburenheide

I'm an Associate Professor at Kansas State University's College of Education. Currently I am the program coordinator for secondary social studies education. My research interests include instructional gaming, history education, and creative pedagogy.

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