Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Music in the History Classroom

I can't sing at all.  I still listen to late eighties rap and hair metal (I'll always stop down and belt out "Paradise City").  So I clearly have no clue when it comes to music.

What I do know is that music is a nice change of pace in the history classroom.  Recently, I've played a couple of songs for my classes to "spice" up a lesson. 

The first was "The Battle of New Orleans" originally by Johnny Horton.  I play the version sang by Boxcar Willie.  The students listen to the song (with much joy at first--sarcasm) while the lyrics pop up on the screen.  We then took a closer look at the words and I have the students point out key words or phrases that they heard while listening to the song.  This, in turn, leads to further discussion of the importance of the battle, the rise of Andrew Jackson, the geography of the battle, etc....  Oh, and by the way, as we neared the end of the song my eighth graders were singing along!

The song that I played today was "James K. Polk" by They Might Be Giants.  I simply purchased it from iTunes and posted the lyrics up on my projector screen.  We had just finished talking about Polk's term in office and the Mexican War.  The students quickly made connections and were able to do some higher level thinking with lyrics such as "Napoleon of the Stump" and "Young Hickory."  Sure, it wasn't Justin Bieber or whoever the in musical "talent" is, but it was a nice change of pace from a normal discussion.

Some other suggestions come from my PLN on Twitter.  @ColoradoHowe suggested "War of 1812" by 3 Dead Trolls.  Check out his blog!  Also, I would suggest following @historytunes and take a look at their selection on their website.

I hope this helps shake things up a bit in your classroom.  Please consider joining my PLN on Twitter.  I'm at @HistoryandTech.

Take Care,



  1. War of 1812 is a great way to compare and contrast with the Horton song. All about the perspective of the song (Horton-USA, and 3 Dead Trolls-Canada)

    Had lots of fun and success when I taught early US.

  2. Thanks for reading Dewayne. I agree, early US is fun to teach.

  3. Two great songs that I have used are:
    Iron Maiden: Run to the Hills Tells about the plight of the Native Americans through 3 perspectives

    Iced Earth: Hold at All Costs about the battle of Gettysburg

    Also, consider getting rid of the default comment settings. They only allow wordpress/google folks to leave comments and/or link back to their blog.