This is a guest post from Johnathan Abreu of the Library of Congress.
Popular songs often carry political or social messages or commentary on the events of the day. Music offers teachers a lens to explore the culture of a time and to help students understand issues of importance during that period in history. The Library of Congress archives a vast repository of sheet music and song sheets, and many of these rich primary sources are available online. Several Teaching with the Library of Congress blog entries point to music-related primary sources and ways to use them with students.
In “The Battle Hymn of the Republic: A Primary Source Starter,” Stephen Wesson takes a look at this popular Civil War-era song with antebellum roots. “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” has been appropriated and parodied by many different groups. Learn about the historical context behind the song and check out the suggestions for teachers in this great resource for teachers studying the Civil War.
In “Teaching Language Arts through Music: Historic Sheet Music and Song Sheets,” Stacie Moats provides excellent strategies for using sheet music to convey language arts concepts. Examples are taken from sheet music collections available online from the Library of Congress web site. There are many different ideas for educators wanting to incorporate materials from the Library’s sheet music collections.
Finally, in “Bringing Music and Primary Sources into Your School,” Danna Bell-Russel gives an overview of places to find music-related primary sources within the digitized collections of the Library of Congress and a number of ideas to include more music in classrooms.
Remember to take a look at the Teacher’s Guides on Analyzing Sheet Music and Song Sheets and Analyzing Sound Recordings for questions and activities to guide and deepen student thinking and analysis.