Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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3. Utopian Promise   

7. Slavery and

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•  Using the Video
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•  Activities
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Activities: Author Activities

Sorrow Songs - Teaching Tips

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  • Use the sound files in the archive to play a recorded version of at least one of the songs included in this unit so students can have an aural experience of the music. If you have a strong voice or musical accompaniment, you might consider leading your class in a spiritual. Encourage students to improvise if they are moved to do so. The experience of participating in a performance should help students understand the important role of audience and communal authorship in the development of this musical tradition.

  • Students may be resistant to the idea that songs and oral traditions should be studied in a literature class. Engage them in the question of what constitutes literature and what appropriate objects of study in a literature class might be. How are these songs different from more "formal" poetry? (You might distribute a copy of a more traditional poem such as a sonnet so that the contrast will be clearer.) Does it matter that the songs are constantly changing? How does our understanding of the songs change when we study them in a literature classroom rather than in a music classroom?

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