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K–12 teaching and learning · from the UNC School of Education

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Learning outcomes

The students will demonstrate their knowledge of call and response singing through class discussion and by their written answers on the listening guide.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

45 minutes

Materials/resources

  • Student Listening Guide
  • Pencils
  • Lyrics to “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and/or “All Night, All Day” (or any call and response style spiritual)

Technology resources

  • CD (or cassette tape) - Kathleen Battle and Jessye Norman - Spirituals in Concert - (Conducted by James Levine, Deutsche Grammophon, 1991) or equivalent recording
  • CD (or tape) player
  • computer with internet access (optional)

Pre-activities

Discussion of African song styles, instrumentation, rhythmic orientation, songs appropriate for various occasions, religious beliefs, and the reason why most Africans arrived in America.

Activities

  1. Begin by reviewing reasons that Africans arrived in America and the religious beliefs that Africans brought with them.
  2. Explain how the owners of slaves encouraged them to convert to Christianity, many times placing great emphasis on the subject of servanthood often taught in the gospels and the epistles. The slaves, however, found hope for freedom in the Bible, particularly in the stories of Moses and stories of a better life to come. Therefore, they began writing a type of song called “spirituals” (songs with a religious text, often sung a capella, but using African song styles). The call and response song style was often used in African music and in African-American spirituals.
  3. Explain that in the call and response style, the “call” is usually sung by a soloist and tells a story. The response is usually sung by a group and is a response (usually the same lyrics again and again) to whatever the soloist has sung.
  4. Distribute lyric sheets and sing a well-known call and response style spiritual. Teach at least the response to the students by echo singing. Initially the instructor will sing the calls. You could vary this activity by dividing the class and having one section sing the call and the other the response, or perhaps use a student soloist on the call.
  5. Now that the students are more familiar with the call and response style, pass out the listening worksheets. Read and follow the directions in the introductory paragraph. (You may want to write in a few answers for your class to help them keep up with the fast pace of the recording. It may also be helpful to write all of the answer choices on the dry erase or blackboard.) During answer checks, stop the recording and allow the class to discuss their answers thus far. This is not a test, but a learning activity, so students should feel free to correct answers during the answer checks.

Assessment

  1. Completion of the listening guide by the students is the basic goal of this lesson. Other lessons for the week would include:
    • How the lyrics of spirituals were sometimes used by the “underground railroad.”
    • Singing and instrumental experiences with additional spirituals.
    • A study of how the Fisk Jubilee Singers acquainted all of America with African-American spirituals.
  2. At the end of the unit, a written test would be given to assess student retention.
  3. Another possible assessment would be to present a musical program with performing groups and narration which would tie together all of the information students have learned about African-American spirituals.

Supplemental information

Attachments:
Key

Comments

I used this lesson in conjunction with a nine week general music course I taught entitled, “Echoes of Africa.” The goal of the course was to acquaint students with the ways that the music of Africa has influenced American musical trends. The students studied traditional African songs and drum rhythms, spirituals, ragtime, the blues, jazz, swing, early rock and roll, doo wop, Motown, current R&B performers, and Rap. I was very pleased with the class discussions and general interest in slavery and the origins of the spiritual. I was also pleasantly surprised with the students’ appreciation for the vocal abilities of Kathleen Battle and Jessye Norman. In addition to the study of spirituals, these recordings would be a great introduction to operatic singers. The songs are in English and are sung with such feeling that students cannot help but be drawn to the music.

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Music Education (2010)
      • Grade 3

        • 3.CR.1 Understand global, interdisciplinary, and 21st century connections with music. 3.CR.1.1 Exemplify how music is used by various groups for artistic expression within the local community. 3.CR.1.2 Understand the relationships between music and concepts...
        • 3.MR.1 Understand the interacting elements to respond to music and music performances. 3.MR.1.1 Illustrate the corresponding response to conductor gestures for meter, tempo, and dynamics. 3.MR.1.2 Use musical terminology when describing music that is presented...
      • Grade 4

        • 4.CR.1 Understand global, interdisciplinary, and 21st century connections with music. 4.CR.1.1 Understand how music has affected, and is reflected in, the culture, traditions, and history of North Carolina. 4.CR.1.2 Understand the relationships between music...
        • 4.MR.1 Understand the interacting elements to respond to music and music performances. 4.MR.1.1 Illustrate perceptual skills by moving to, answering questions about, and describing aural examples of music of various styles and cultures. 4.MR.1.2 Explain personal...

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Music Education (2001)

Grade 4

  • Goal 6: The learner will listen to, analyze, and describe music.
    • Objective 6.01: Identify simple music forms when presented aurally including AB, ABA, Call and Response, Rondo, Ballad, and Introduction/Coda.
  • Goal 9: The learner will understand music in relation to history and culture.
    • Objective 9.03: Identify various uses of music, and describe characteristics that make certain music suitable for each use.

Grade 5

  • Goal 6: The learner will listen to, analyze, and describe music.
    • Objective 6.01: Identify music forms when presented aurally including AB, ABA, AABA, Call and Response, Rondo, Theme and Variations, Ballad, and Introduction/Coda.
  • Goal 9: The learner will understand music in relation to history and culture.
    • Objective 9.03: Identify various uses of music, and describe characteristics that make certain music suitable for each use.