Library of Congress


The Library of Congress > Teachers > Classroom Materials > Presentations and Activities > Lyrical Legacy

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These two analysis tools can help your students learn to think like historians. By examining songs and poems as historical artifacts, students can explore the unique artistic characteristics of these creative works, as well as discover what they can tell us about life in America’s past.

Here are some steps you might take to incorporate these tools in your classroom:

  1. Preparation
    • Choose a poem or song.
    • Familiarize yourself with the historical background of the piece.
    • Duplicate copies of the graphic organizer for each student.
    • Download and duplicate one copy per student of the printed primary source version of the chosen piece. Or, arrange for the class to view the document on screen.
    • Decide how students will hear the song or poem. Poems or song lyrics may be read aloud, and recordings of songs may be played from the Web or from the accompanying CD. A song can also be sung or played from the sheet music.
  2. Initial Response
    • Give students a few minutes to look at and read the printed document silently.
    • Read or play the piece aloud for the whole class to hear.
    • Have students respond to the piece. Possible responses include paraphrasing the message, free-writing a response, and drawing a picture.
  3. Analytical Response
    • Give each student a copy of the graphic organizer for individual note taking.
    • Have students work in small groups to discuss and analyze the piece as a historical artifact, writing down their individual responses on the organizers.
  4. Discussion
    • Have a spokesperson from each group share the group’s findings with the class.
    • Hold a class discussion based on some of the following questions:
      • Who was the piece written for?
      • What was the purpose of the piece?
      • What topic or concern of the era does the piece represent?
      • What does the piece reveal about the artist and the artist’s viewpoint? Do you agree with this viewpoint?
      • What does the piece say about what life was like in the past?
      • What questions does this piece raise? How can you find answers?