Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Music as Primary Source

Who says primary sources are only "dusty old documents?" Photographs, videorecordings, and sound recordings are also primary documents that are highly engaging to today's students.

I recently had the opportunity to collaborate with an 8th grade social studies teacher on a Civil Rights music video project. Students were asked to select a song from the Civil Rights era (or a song inspired by the struggle for civil rights), analyze the lyrics, and create a music video for the song using photographs and short video clips. This project builds upon lessons not only in social studies classes, but in language arts & computers, as well. For example, students had analyzed the lyrics to Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit" in Language Arts class as part of their study of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, and made movies in computer class with iMovie.

Students, working in groups, had the option of using Windows PhotoStory 3, Windows Movie Maker (both available on all school computers), iMovie (available on many school computers), or the website Animoto.

This project was not only a great way to have students analyze primary sources (The Library of Congress provides many tools for analyzing primary documents-see Analyzing Photographs & Prints and Analyzing Sound Recordings), it was also a great way to incorporate many Web 2.0 tools. We used a wiki to consolidate resources for students, used Playlist to provide examples of appropriate songs (the site also provides an embed code), and students were encouraged to use Google Docs to collaborate on their lyrics analysis.

But wait, there's more! We were also able to discuss the concepts of remixing the songs & images into a new work. While respecting copyright (students were required to cite all images, videos, and songs), they also learned about Creative Commons first hand.

Students were required to use higher order thinking skills and many 21st Century Skills (critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity; media & technology skills). When asked, students said that they had a lot of fun creating the videos. Students also said, during a reflection of the project, that looking at so many images of the civil rights movment helped them to fully understand their readings and class discussions. A picture is truly worth a thousand words.
Exemplar video.