The Role of African Americans in the Development of South Carolina’s Culture
Subject Area and/or Course Title:
South Carolina History
Targeted Grade Level:
SC Social Studies Standard 3-2.5 Explain the role of Africans in developing the culture and economy of South Carolina, including the growth of the slave trade; slave contributions to the plantation economy; the daily lives of the enslaved people; the development of the Gullah culture; and their resistance to slavery.
SC ELA Standard I 2.1 Explore topics of interest to formulate logical questions; build knowledge; generate possible explanations; consider alternative views.
Introductory Narrative to Lesson:
In second grade, students learned about historical contributions of African Americans. They have knowledge of some stories and songs of African American folklore. However, third grade is the first time students specifically examine the role of African Americans in the growth and development of South Carolina’s culture. In addition, third grade is the first year in which students thoroughly explore state history and slavery.
Instructional Goals or Objectives:
Initial Engaging Activity: The teacher will read aloud from Life on a Plantation by Bobbie Kalman. This children’s book compares the lives of wealthy plantation owners to the lives of slaves working on plantations. The teacher will then lead the students in creating a venn-diagram comparing and contrasting these two lifestyles on the board. The teacher will ask students “If you were a slave working on a plantation, would you want to stay there? Do you think slaves tried to run away?”
Students will listen to the song and think-pair-share their responses to these questions. The teacher will hear students’ ideas and reveal that the song was written and performed on plantations. It requires no instruments but the voice, meaning it was easily performed by slaves on the fields. The teacher will remind students that slave conditions on plantations were difficult and that slaves endured emotional and physical challenges. The teacher will ask students to consider these focus questions as they listen to the song a second time:
The students will think-pair-share their thoughts with a partner, and then engage in a class discussion. Through the discussion, the teacher will emphasize that “steal away” refers to slaves running away. “Steal ‘Way to Jedus” is a code song, meaning it was sung by slaves in the fields to communicate a secret code to other slaves.
Assessment and Evaluation:
The teacher will have the class brainstorm a list of hardships (other than running away) that Gullah slaves might face in daily life. Students will then divide into groups and be assigned one of these topics. The students will work together to write one stanza of a code song about their assigned hardship. Each group will share their work song with the class. The checklist used to assess the code songs is presented below.
Throughout the process of writing these lessons, I came to realize that music does not only supplement academic curriculum, but it can also introduce and teach historical content. Even though the songs I selected for my unit on Gullah and slave life were written and performed centuries ago, students are still able to relate to it. It is common for students to have experience with modern rhymes, play songs, and spirituals much like those introduced in this unit. Because our students relate to music and because it can be used in several versatile ways, it should be natural for educators to integrate music into their lessons.
Song: “Steal ‘Way to Jedus”
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