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This lesson analyzes African American folktales, songs, and hymns during the time of slavery with the help of Inspiration software


Computers & Internet, Language Arts, Social Studies  



Title – African American Folktales, Songs, and Hymns
By – Lisa Bachman
Primary Subject – Language Arts
Secondary Subjects – Social Studies, Computers and Internet
Grade Level – 10th


    This lesson will analyze African American folktales, songs, and hymns that existed during the time of slavery. Students will learn when, why, and how they began; the importance of folktales, songs, and hymns for African American slaves; and the uniqueness that they brought and continue to bring to African American culture and traditions. Focus will be placed on reading and understanding the many differing folktales, spirituals, hymns, and songs of that period in history.


      Standard Benchmark 2.1: Develop critical, listening, and viewing strategies.

    Standard Benchmark 1.3: Examine mass media, film series, fiction, and other texts from popular culture.

Learning Resources and Materials:

  • “Inspiration” software programĀ 
  • Art supplies (construction paper, markers, etc.) for creating presentation to class (optional)

Development of Lesson:


      • The teacher will first ask the students to define what a folktale is. Allow the students to share their ideas and thoughts. The teacher can then list their ideas on the board.
      • The teacher then asks the students if they know who wrote these folktales and for what reason.

        These questions will provide an overall idea of what prior knowledge the students have regarding folktales that were used during the time of slavery and in general. This lesson will deal specifically with African American folktales, songs, hymns, spirituals during the time of slavery, although many other cultures (such as the Native Americans) used folktales and still do to this day. Students, divided into groups, will research the different components of this topic and present it in an original manner to the class.

      Methods and Procedures:

        The teacher should act as a facilitator of learning, thereby allowing the students to have control over how they gather and present their information. Creativity, personal expression, and working as a team are all important components of this lesson. Students should be given ample time at the library, as well as in the classroom, to work on their projects, but should be provided with a structured timeline in order to be able to meet the deadline date. Again, the teacher should use an indirect approach thereby allowing students to have some control and responsibility over their presentation.
      • Students will be placed in groups (no more than four students per group) in order to gather their research. Each group will be given a specific area of interest to work on. The groups will be divided as follows:
        • Folktales Group
        • Hymns and Spirituals Group
        • African American Customs (during the time of slavery) Group
        • African American Culture Group
        • Songs (other than hymns) Group
        • Historical Account of Slavery Group
      • I have suggested a website (see above) that has factual information on what is being taught in this lesson, however it is recommended that teachers allow students to also use the Internet to find other sites with factual information on their topic.
      • Students will then use the “Inspiration” software program to insert all of the information they have collected into an organized format.
      • Once completed, students will need to make copies of their diagrams that they will pass out and discuss during their group presentations.
      • A speaker will be chosen (prior to the presentation) from each group who will present the information that is depicted on their diagram. Encourage students to be as creative as they want. Allow them to include images and pictures, creating a PowerPoint, bringing in copies of the hymns that were sung, etc.
      • At the end of the presentations, allow time for reflection and discussion on what they learned from the presentations that were given in class.


      • Students should be placed in groups with no more than four students. It is also recommended that teachers place students in groups based on varying talents and abilities. Teacher should also inform the students that each student needs to have a role to play while working on the project.
      • Continual monitoring of the projects should take place as the groups collect their information and work on their presentations for the class. Teachers are highly encouraged to sit down with each group on a consistent basis in order to clarify, answer questions, and provide additional guidance as needed.

      Assessment and Evaluation:

      • Students will be assessed and evaluated based on the following criteria:
        • Oral presentation given in class
        • Group Inspiration Diagram
        • Creativity
        • Additional activities and or props used to enhance the presentation
        • Is the information organized, nicely presented, colorful, and imaginative?
        • Did the group go above and beyond to impress their peers and teacher?


    • At the end of the presentations, allow time for reflection and discussion on what the students learned from the presentations that were given in class.
    • It is crucial for every student to study and learn about the many important, yet sometimes forgotten, historical moments in our history. It also allows students the opportunity to try and understand the importance of why people of differing cultures and experiences did why they did and why it was so significant to them in that day in age. These customs and practices provide a wealth of information regarding the lives of human beings that endured indescribable suffering, yet still were able to sing and continue on.

Teacher Reflection:

    I hope you will enjoy using this lesson as I know that it will provide a new and exciting way for your students to study a very important part of history, as well as reading (and maybe even singing!) fascinating literary works and songs.

E-Mail Lisa Bachman !

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