Social Studies teachers often hear how boring our content is from students of all ages and ability levels. However, these same students will listen to music of all kinds, often engaging with the tunes in every possible way. Why not use this addiction to the beat to our advantage?
How can you use music in your Social Studies classroom? Here's a quick how-to and a short list of my favorite toe-tapping tunes for each Social Studies content area!
First the How-Tos:
- Introduce units with music from the times. Have students analyze the beat, the lyrics, or simply the feel of the music. Encourage students to share their thoughts on the music or to predict the theme of the unit based on the music.
- Allow students to listen to music from historic eras to evaluate opposing viewpoints or perspectives on the times. Create t-charts or Venn diagrams on the board with students adding points as the music plays.
- Have student create their own songs to describe eras in history. They can perform the songs or simply present the lyrics to share researched topics or to review content.
- Utilize available technology (including student cell phones) to record videos on topics of study or content chants to help students remember and retain content.
- Use time appropriate music in centers or Walking Tours where students can immerse themselves in the period for a better understanding of the time period.
- Introduce music and dance from each era, teaching students the most popular moves, allowing them to examine the change in both music and dance over time.
- Simply play music in the background as students read, research, or complete assignments. Music can be soothing, will help with memory, and can engage those otherwise distracted.
- United States History
- When teaching the 1920s, play Jazz hits from the decade and teach students the basic steps of the Charleston. Videos are available online to help with the choreography!
- "Brother Can You Spare A Dime" is a great summary of the 1930s. Use the song or lyrics in an analysis or visualization activity.
- Introduce the Cold War with Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire" and this awesome video that shows snippets from events over the period. Have students pick out images from the video for further research.
- Use "War; What is It Good For?" in a Vietnam centers activity where students can examine the various perspectives on the police action.
- World History
- Review the Chinese Dynasties with this easy to learn and familiar song and video.
- Examine the Holocaust with songs from the concentration camps or Ghetto songs.
- Listen to "La Marseillaise" and read the lyrics to discover the causes of the French Revolution.
- Learn the 50 States Song to help students build basic knowledge on the USA.