Of Mice and Men - Period Music

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Discipline

Language Arts, History, Music

Grade Level

6-12

Context

Type of Activity

Small Group, Entire Class, Ongoing, Research, Oral Presentation, Writing

Objectives

  • When teachers play music from the 1920s and 1930s (including lyric sheets), students will gain a greater understanding of how that music (especially the folk music) reflected the troubled times.
  • Students will also understand how non-folk music of the period (Big Bands) helped people take their minds off their troubles during the Great Depression.
  • Students will be able to identify how folk music of the 1920s and 1930s relates to Of Mice and Men.
  • Students will take notes during the presentation of songs and during the following discussions.

Overview

Students need to understand how people passed time during the 1930s while talking, playing cards, and so forth, especially on a migrant ranch.

Music is important to any generation; in the 1930s, people listened to not only big band music, but folk music, including Woody Guthrie. John Steinbeck was a fan of Woody Guthrie, and vice versa. Understanding the rich connection between period music (again, using lyric sheets as well as listening) of the 1930s and Of Mice and Men is an important complement.

Materials Needed/Preparation

Estimated Time

For an introduction, this may take the better part of a class period. This is an ongoing activity, and music can be played anytime at the teacher’s discretion.

Procedures

  • Explain that music is an important part of any generation, and the 1930s was no exception.
  • Ask students why music is important to them. An informal class discussion should follow.
  • Remind students that all music “back then” was played on the radio—no television, no Internet, no iPods, no iTunes, etc.
  • Teachers should pass out lyric sheets for the music to be played.
  • Initially, play one or two songs.
  • As an option, students may write/perform their own 1930s period music for extra credit.
  • Ask for specific feedback (through brief writing homework and discussion the next day) on the songs:
    • How does this song relate to Of Mice and Men?
    • Explain why you like/dislike this particular song.
    • How would the characters in Of Mice and Men react to this song?
  • Write a brief essay (based on the writing homework/discussion) evaluating/analyzing what a specific song meant.  As above:
    • How does this song relate to Of Mice and Men?
    • Explain why you like/dislike this particular song.
    • How would the characters in Of Mice and Men react to this song?

Post Activity/Takeaways/Follow-up

  • Post Activity
    • Have students discuss/write what they have learned about period music.
    • Have students provide/play music that defines their own generation/culture.
  • Takeaways
    • Students should come away from this activity with a stronger cultural understanding of the 1930s, particularly the role of music.
  • Follow-up
    • Have students write an evaluation of the project and what they have learned.
    • Students can be tested on relationships between period music and Of Mice and Men.
    • For homework, students can provide their reactions (based on “Procedures” above) to one of the songs played. These will be shared in class.
    • Students, in small groups, can also create their own period-appropriate songs and perform.

Assessment 

During the unit, teachers should check students’ notebooks for notes on the songs. A quiz or two may also be given.

Common Core State Standards Met

  • Reading Standards for Literature 6-12
    • Key Ideas and Details: 1
    • Craft and Structure: 4
    • Integration of Knowledge and Ideas: 7
  • Reading Standards for Informational Text 6-12
    • Key Ideas and Details: 1
    • Integration of Knowledge and Ideas: 7
  • Writing Standards 6-12
    • Text Types and Purposes: 3 (optional)
    • Production and Distribution of Writing: 4, 5 (optional)
    • Research to Build and Present Knowledge: 7
  • Speaking and Listening Standards 6-12
    • Comprehension and Collaboration: 1, 2
    • Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas: 5
  • Language Standards 6-12
    • Conventions of Standard English: 1, 2
    • Knowledge of Language: 3
    • Vocabulary Acquisition and Use: 4, 5, 6
  • Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies 6-12
    • Key Ideas and Details: 1
    • Craft and Structure: 4
  • Writing Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects 6-12
    • Production and Distribution of Writing: 4, 5 (optional)
    • Research to Build and Present Knowledge: 7