Teaching the American Revolution using Music

I really enjoy incorporating music into my classroom on a daily basis. I play classical music while my History students are working on group activities, Motown hits for my Effective Teens when they are planning their Genius Hour projects, U2's "Pride (In the Name of Love)" to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. and analyze his impact on the Civil Rights Movement, and relaxation music when I sense student stress levels are high. 

Yesterday I utilized music in a different way--to help students deeply review the American Revolution.


The piece I used was the main theme to the movie "The Patriot", composed by John Williams. This piece is brilliant, in my opinion, because it so clearly takes the listener through the history of the American Revolution. One can hear life before British taxation in the colonies, the impact of events like the Boston Massacre and Intolerable Acts, the early, middle, and turning point battles of the war, and how the Treaty of Paris changes life for the new nation of America.

The task was to complete a graphic organizer analyzing three main tempo changes (many students heard more changes--I wanted to make it simpler for all students, though). Students needed to jot notes about the tempo (fast, slow), list instruments they heard during these segments, and, most importantly to me, write down historic events, emotions, and feelings associated with these segments. 

Students really seemed to enjoy this activity. Those who shine musically were able to explain the difference between a viola and a violin (new information for me!) and use musical terminology to express their thoughts in a different subject area. Creative students like it because it enables them to think metaphorically. All students benefit because it's a novel way to review main points of our subject. A student in my 6th hour stated that he saw historic events as he heard the music. That was my objective--I strive to consistently provide opportunities for my young historians to know and experience the material they are learning. 

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