Civil War & Reconstruction

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The Basics

Subject Area:

United States History

Target grade level:

Grade 5

Time required:

3 class days (70 minute classes)

Related Standards:

USII.6 The student will demonstrate knowledge of the effects of Reconstruction on American life by:

a) identifying the provisions of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution of the United States and their impact on the expansion of freedom in America;

b) describing the impact of Reconstruction policies on the South.

USII.7   The student will demonstrate knowledge of how life changed after the Civil War by

a) identifying the reasons for westward expansion;

b) explaining the reasons for the increase in immigration, growth of cities, new inventions, and challenges arising from this expansion;

c) describing racial segregation, the rise of “Jim Crow,” and other constraints faced by African Americans in the post-Reconstruction South;

Author:

Jill Studnicki, 2015

The Lesson

Introductory Narrative:

“The Civil War changed America more than anything, before or since.”   When exploring the antebellum, war, and reconstruction periods of American history from this perspective, we can develop a deep understanding of what was at stake, what was lost, and what was created/gained.   This topic is relevant to study today because as our nation grows and changes, it is essential to know the ways that we have interpreted the Constitution and the consequences that followed, and how our vision of the “nation” as a unified entity has strengthened. 

In particular, the Reconstruction and Jim Crow periods shaped the cultural backdrop for many of the racial tensions that Americans struggled with in the 20th century, and continue to struggle with to this day. By studying how federal, state, and local politics affected the lives of African Americans, students will gain a fuller picture of life in the American South during this era.  This study will support their focus on the Civil Rights movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s during 6th grade Social Studies. 

Instructional Goals or Objectives:

  • Students will be able to respond to the following Essential Questions, which will foster inquiry, understanding, and transfer of learning: In what ways is the music of the Reconstruction and Jim Crow era evidence of a changing America?
  • Students will analyze minstrel tunes, spirituals, blues, and ragtime music and its relationship to era-specific legislation and the origins of jazz.

Songs Used:

“Oh, Freedom!” by Sweet Honey In The Rock

“Future Blues” by Willie Brown

“Maple Leaf Rag” by Scott Joplin

“Camptown Races” by Stephen Foster

 

Procedures/Lesson Activities: 

Day One

Description of Lesson:  Students will explore the culture and politics of the Reconstruction period after the Civil War.  In particular, they will analyze how the music of African Americans reflected their changing status and relationships with whites.

  • Begin with Song of the Day (SOTD): “Oh, Freedom”, Sweet Honey in the Rock.  Students will respond to song analysis questions in their Music Journal, providing background for the day’s lesson.  Students will discuss the tone and melody of song, and will then sing the song together as a class, using the Song of the Day Lyric Book as a guide.
    • Vocabulary: Jim Crow
    • Discussion about SOTD questions, where this particular song would be sung, and in what context.
    • Thinking Maps Activity: In their notebooks, students will create one half of a Double Bubble Map, writing down what we know about “Oh, Freedom!”
  • Direct Instruction
    • Introduce 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments
    • How does “Oh, Freedom!” reflect the amendments?  What is different about the life of African Americans after the war?
  • Second Song of the Day: “When the Levee Breaks” by Memphis Minnie.  Students will respond to song analysis questions in their Music Journal.  Students will discuss the tone and melody of song, and will then sing the song together as a class, using the Song of the Day Lyric Book as a guide.
    • Vocabulary: levee
    • Use http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/orleans/struggle.html#h03 to briefly explore the levee system in New Orleans and its impact on the lives of residents.
    • Thinking Maps Activity: create the other half of Double Bubble Map, writing down what we know about “When the Levee Breaks” and connecting the two songs in the middle of the map.
  • Direct Instruction
    • Introduce the Freedmen’s Bureau
  • Watch a clip from Ken Burns’ Jazz to explore how music was a part of daily life during Reconstruction, and what that music sounded like.  5-10 minute discussion. 
  • Exit Ticket: In what ways is today’s music different from the music we explored during the Civil War?  Has the tone changed? 

 

Day Two

Description of Lesson: Students will explore the Jim Crow era, and how federal, state, and local policies affected African Americans. 

  • Begin with Song of the Day (SOTD): “Maple Leaf Rag”, by Scott Joplin.  Students will respond to song analysis questions in their Music Journal, providing background for the day’s lesson.  Move desks to create space for dancing.  Students will discuss the tone and melody of song. 
    • Vocabulary: ragtime
    • Questions for discussion: How is this song different from yesterday’s music?  Who do you think performs it?  Who is the audience?
    • Watch clip from Ken Burns’ Jazz   (see link above)
  • Direct Instruction
    • Introduce Black Codes
  • Activity: Segregation simulation, in which students will be divided based on the color of their shirt.  (Students have three uniform colors: white, green, and burgundy.)  Follow with “check-in”, in which students reflect on their experience, how they felt during the simulation, and how they feel now that it is complete. 
  • Introduce Second Song of the Day: “Camptown Races” by Stephen Foster.  Students will respond to song analysis questions in their Music Journal.  Students will discuss the tone and melody of song.
    • Vocabulary: Minstrel, slang.  Scan song for “slang” words that Foster used. 
      • Why would Foster choose to use such language?
      • Who would enjoy listening to and singing this song?  Why?
      • How does this song reflect the racial tensions of the era?
  • Exit Ticket:  How did today’s songs make you feel?  How will that affect your experience in class tomorrow?

 

Day Three

Description of Lesson: Students will use analyze elements from the last two days’ music, and see which elements they hear in the final piece of music from our lesson. 

  • Song of the Day: “Jelly Roll Blues” by Jelly Roll Morton. Students will respond to song analysis questions in their Music Journal.  Students will discuss the tone and melody of song.  Let them dance.
    • Vocabulary: jazz
    • Discussion: how is this song different from yesterday’s songs?  In what way?  How is music changing as the years pass by?
  • Direct Instruction
    • Role of music in changing society
    • Jim Crow era politics
  • Leave time for question/answer, discussion.  This is sensitive material and deserves time and attention. 

 

Song Analysis Questions, to be answered in Music Journal:

 

Spiritual

  • How do you think this performance differs from how the song was originally performed?
  • Where and how do you think it was sung during the Civil War era? Who do you think sang this song originally?
  • What words describe the mood of this song? How are these feelings expressed? Why is the song so sad? Compare with songs from our Civil War lessons.
  • What do you think “Jim Crow” means?
  • Why were spirituals so important to African Americans?

 

Blues

  • What words would you use to describe the mood of this song? How do the words and music set the mood?
  • Why doesn’t it sound happier? Why might freed slaves have mixed emotions about getting their freedom?
  • What can you infer about life in New Orleans from this song?

 

Ragtime

  • What strikes you most about this song?
  • Write down “images” that the music “paints.” What vivid metaphors, similes; nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs are in the lyrics?
  • What voice(s) do you hear?
  • What instruments do you hear? Where are they used alone and where are they used for accompaniment?
  • Mark any changes in tempo (speed), dynamics (loudness or softness), style or timbre (tone of voice) on the sheet music or lyrics. Mark any changes in the pattern of the melody.

 

Minstrel

  • What strikes you most about this song? 
  • What musical phrase is especially memorable? What makes it so memorable: melody (or tune), rhythm (or beat), lyrics? A combination? Where does the phrase occur? How often does it or a similar phrase recur?
  • Write down “images” that the music “paints.” What vivid metaphors, similes; nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs are in the lyrics?
  • What voice(s) do you hear? 
  • What instruments do you hear? Where are they used alone and where are they used for accompaniment?
  • What cultural, occupational, or gender group does the song represent (or misrepresent)?
  • Whose point of view is emphasized? Is the composer a member of that group?

 

Jazz

  • What emotions does the song express?
  • What questions does this song raise in your mind? Where could you look for answers to those questions?
  • What message or mood does the tune/melody convey? If you couldn’t understand the words, what would you assume from the music about the style and purpose of the song?
  • What opinion, if any, is the songwriter expressing through the song? What do the lyrics reveal about any “hidden message” or point of view of the writers and performers?

 


 

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