Protest and Change in the 1960s and 1970s

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The Basics


Subject Area and/or Course Title:

 Modern US History (Advanced College Prep)


Targeted Grade Level:



Time Required:

 3-4 90 minute blocks


Related Standards:

Connecticut State Department of Education: Social Studies Standards  

2.2 – Interpret information from a variety of primary and secondary sources (maps, charts, graphs, images and print materials).  

2.4 – Demonstrate ability to participate in social studies discourse through informed discussion, debate and effective oral presentation.



Danielle Duquette


The Lesson:


Introductory Narrative to Lesson:

By this time, students have already had an introduction to the Cold War and have thoroughly studied the culture and politics of the 1950s, including the Korean War. Students also have significant background knowledge about the origins, outcome and protest in response to the Vietnam War. This unit will move into the culture of protest and change that take place throughout the 1960s and 1970s. The following lessons will focus on three areas of protest and change in the 1960s and 1970s including the Counterculture, the Women’s Rights Movement/Second Wave Feminism, and the Environmental concerns that emerge in the 1960s and 1970s. The common thread that runs throughout these lessons focuses on how music was used as a major platform to voice approval/disapproval of certain policies and behaviors and to make a push for change.  These lessons can be during consecutive classes or can stand alone.

In the first lesson, music is used primarily as a lens to view popular culture at the time and to debate the influence of that culture on the masses of people throughout the United States.  In the second and third lesson, music is used primarily as evidence of the need for change and the culture of protest that was prevalent at the time.  In addition, music is memorable.  In order to make meaningful connections between the student as a learner and active listener, many lessons will connect the historical context to relevant topics today.  Finally, music is fun.

Lesson 1: In this lesson, students will answer the essential question—did music of the 60s and 70s help or hinder the goals of feminists? Featured songs: "Wives and Lovers" by Jack Jones (1964), "Under My Thumb" by the Rolling Stones (1966), "Natural Woman" by Aretha Franklin (1967)," I Am Woman" by Helen Ready (1975), "The Pill" by Loretta Lynn (1975).

Lesson 2: In this lesson, students will answer the essential question—what environmental concerns emerged in the 1960s and 1970s through the writings of Rachel Carson and how did music provide a platform for expressing these concerns? Featured song: "Big Yellow Taxi" by Joni Mitchell

Lesson 3: In this lesson students will argue that although Bob Dylan denies writing Blowin' in the Wind as a song of protest, it has become one of the quintessential songs of expressing the concerns of this era. Featured song: Blowin’ in the Wind by Bob Dylan.


Instructional Goals or Objectives:

  • Students will be able to describe the goals of second wave feminists.
  • Students will be able to construct a sound argument to explain the role of popular culture in promoting or hindering the goals of feminists in the 1960s and 1970s.
  • Students will be able to determine the most pressing environmental concerns of the 1960s and 1970s.
  • Students will be able to argue the effectiveness of literature such as Silent Spring and “Big Yellow Taxi” in urging the government to change policy related to the environment.
  • Students will be able to argue that “Blowin’ in the Wind” was intended to be used as a song of protest.
  • Students will be able to create specific historical connections to the lyrics in “Blowin’ in the Wind”.


Procedures/Lesson Activities:

Lesson 1:

Initiation: To begin the lesson, students will Think-Pair-Share a response to the following question:

Thinking back to the goals of suffragettes and the progress of women’s rights throughout the first half of the 20th century, what goals do you believe become the focus of a second wave of feminism in the 60s and 70s?

Students will write their response in their scrapbook, will discuss their thoughts with a neighbor and then will share with the entire group. (15 minutes)

Lesson Development:

  • Begin this lesson with a PowerPoint presentation on The Women’s Movement/Second Wave Feminism. Review basic goals of radical and liberal feminists. Provide information on resistance to this movement. (15 minutes)
  • After the presentation, provide students with the lyrics and background to the featured songs in this lesson.  Students should jot down their responses to some of the provided analysis questions for each song but they should not be required to formally answer all. 
  • These notes will simply provide a guide for completing the final writing prompt in which students answer the question…Did music promote or hinder the goals of feminists in the 1960s and 1970s? (30 minutes)
    Independent writing/reflection on the assigned prompt (15 minutes)


Closure: As a class, discuss student responses to the posed question. (15 minutes)

Lesson 2 (may be extended to 2 blocks):
Initiation: To begin the lesson, students should answer the following question in their scrapbook/journal:

Individuals born in the 1920s-1940s, who came of age around the 1950s, were often referred to as “The Silent Generation.”  Why do you think this generation would have been given such a name?  Does this have positive or negative implications?


Discuss student ideas as a class and then clear up any misunderstandings. (10 minutes)

Lesson Development:

1. Play video clip from PBS on Silent Spring and allow students to answer response questions. (20 minutes)  Then read together the excerpts from Silent Spring and allow students to complete the reflections question.

a. Link:

I. (video) According to the video, what concerns did the use of DDT and other pesticides present to the general health of the public in the 1950s and 1960s?

II. (video) Aside from the obvious physical, biological and environmental concerns, what political and governmental concerns did the use of DDT breed?

III. (excerpt) Out of all of Carson’s concerns, which do you find to be the most problematic? Explain.

2. Allow students time to complete research to fill in notes on graphic organizer. (30 minutes)

    a. Categories for organizer:

    I. Legislation that was created in the 1960s and 1970s as a response to the environmental concerns of those decades:

    II. Environmental concerns that Carson speaks of that, in some way, linger (or are more prevalent) today:

    III. New environmental concerns that exist today:

3. Discuss student responses and fill in information students may have missed.  For example: student response should include the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. (10 minutes)

4. Have students listen to the song "Big Yellow Taxi" by Joni Mitchel (1970).  Play the song a second time, if need be. (10 minutes)

5. Have students complete the creative assignment (10 minutes or extend for more formal submissions to include a consecutive block/can also be assigned for homework):

a. Using the lyrics of the song, create a poster to serve as a banner for the Environmental Protection Agency.  Your poster should include the following:

1) A “slogan” derived from one or multiple lines of the song.

2) A reference to Rachel Carson’s concerns presented in Silent Spring.

3) An urgent message for the public and members of the EPA to push other legislators to create laws that improve the condition of the environment.

4) Color, creativity and visual elements of your choice.

b. Closure: Students present their posters to the class.  Then in their scrapbooks/journals, have students write about which poster best portrayed the plight of environmentalists in the 1960s and 1970s. (10 minutes)

Lesson 3:

Initiation:  To begin the lesson, students will complete the following task:

1. With a partner, create a list of as many significant events and individuals that you believe led protests or created change in the 1960s and 1970s.

Students will write their response in their scrapbook and then will share with the entire class.  Then create a long list on the marker board with all student responses. Sample student responses should include: Montgomery Bus Boycott/Rosa Parks, Kent State Tragedy, Martin Luther King/Selma March, Rachel Carson, Betty Friedan, etc.  (15 minutes)

Lesson Development:

1. Discuss with students what makes a song specifically a protest song.  (10 minutes)
Using the “I Can Hear it Now” strategy from Voices Across Time, guide students through an active listening session while playing the song "Blowin’ in the Wind" by Bob Dylan. (10 minutes)

2. Read the song background article aloud with students.  Discuss any student responses or reactions to the article. (5 minutes)

3. After the song has been played and student questions have been answered, have students complete the creative assignment/graphic organizer. (35 minutes)

a. Directions: Choose five lines from the song lyrics that you believe most strongly represent the idea of protest and change.  Then defend your choices by making a connection between each lyric and an event that happened in history or an individual that promoted protest and change in the 1960s and 1970s.  There are guiding questions with the lyrics to help you make connections.  Finally, write a brief argument that proves "Blowin in the Wind" was definitely a song

of protest and change.

b. Graphic organizer categories:

I. Song Lyric:

II. Historical Connection:

III. Explanation:

c. Prompt: Using the notes and research that you’ve completed, write a three paragraph article that argues that Bob Dylan’s "Blowin’ in the Wind" is undeniably a song of protest, a representation of major issues of the time period and a clear depiction of counterculture mentality of the 1960s and 1970s. You may complete additional research if necessary, cite your sources at the end of your written work.

Closure:  Students present their products to their classmates and any questions that remain should be answered (15 minutes).


Assessment and Evaluation:

Students will be assessed on their completion of all required student written work throughout this four lesson series. Student work is scored based on completion, thoughtful explanation, following directions, thoroughness of responses and (depending on the requirements) creativity. In the first lesson, the assessment is in the form of a journal entry. In the second lesson, assessment will be based on students’ completion of and creative design for the PSA assignment. In the third lesson, the assessment is completion of the provided graphic organizer.



In closing, these lessons should be used to access students knowledge and skills by incorporating music both as a hook and as a primary source.  By meaningfully incorporating music, students can develop historical thinking skills to assess the validity of the song and determine why each was significant at the time.




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Carson, Rachel, Lois Darling, and Louis Darling. Silent Spring. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1962. Print.

Dylan, Bob. "Blowin' In The Wind." The Official Bob Dylan Site.  Web. 19 July 2015.

"Flashback: Loretta Lynn Is First Female to Win CMA Entertainer of the Year." Rolling Stone. 16 Oct. 2014. Web. 20 July 2015.

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Mitchell, Joni. "‘Big Yellow Taxi’ Lyrics." AZ Lyrics. Web. 19 July 2015.

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