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Here’s a fun history project called “We Didn’t Start The Fire”


Music, Social Studies  


9, 10, 11, 12  


Title – “We Didn’t Start the Fire” project
By – Sarah Kietzman
Primary Subject – Social Studies
Secondary Subjects – Music
Grade Level – 9-12
This is just a preliminary sketch of a lesson that I plan to use in the future incorporating music in a history lesson.
Billy Joel has often said that he wanted to be a history teacher at one time and that his song “We Didn’t Start the Fire” is homage to this. He spans about forty years of U.S. history in the song, and would be a wonderful teaching tool if used constructively.
~Play the song (or video if it is accessible) for the students and do some preliminary background. “Have you ever heard this song before?” “Do you know who sings this song?” etc.
~Now play the song again and ask the students to listen to the lyrics. After the song is over ask the students what they can remember what was mentioned. Write these down on a large piece of paper or on the board.
~Play the song once more, but now distribute copies of the lyrics and have the students read along.
~Lead a discussion on what events, people, and places they know of and what ones they do not.
~Now the assignment begins. Break up the students into groups and give each group a section of the song. They are responsible for decoding the lyrics of the song. They are to place the following with each particular person, place, etc:
-Rough date
-Historical significance
-Any connection to current events of today
-Any “fun facts” that are associated with the person, place, etc.
~The students may research the subjects in any form possible, and they are to write a paragraph for each topic.
~Because of the vast number of subjects covered in the song (it might average out up to five or so topics per student), I suggest that the assignment be given at least a month for completion.
~When due date rolls around, the students will be graded on the paper each group will turn in with all of their paragraphs and also on a presentation. They are to teach the class about their part of the song. They might dress up…create a Power Point Presentation…create a mock game show…whatever covers all of their material (and you as the teacher must have a list in front of you of their lyrics so that you may check off what you hear) and is not just reading their paragraphs.
~This assignment incorporates music and allows the students to research a song that synthesizes a large portion of U.S. history.

E-Mail Sarah Kietzman !

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