Lesson 3: Teaching History of One Specific Event or Period


Return to: ETAP 623 Spring 2016 | Chen Guo's Portfolio Page | Chen Guo's Mini-Course


Note.jpg Introductory Narratives

Rather than being taught of general history, some students may have interests in some remarkable historical events or special periods. They are expecting to find more facts happened during those days and explore deeper understanding of and behind the events. The purpose of this lesson is to provide an example (California Gold Rush) of using songs which can demonstrate and reflect the remarkable historical event in some specific period for instruction. Such pattern and method can also be applied in teaching other specific topics, such as the Great Depression, the Cold War, and the Reform and Open up in China.

Note.jpg Songs Used in This Lesson

  • Seeing the Elephant [1]
  • Acres of Clams (Old Settler's Song) [2]
  • Oh, California ! [3]

Note.jpg Procedures/ Activities

  • Before playing the songs, raise several guiding questions and ask students to brainstorm a chart listing reasons of why miners chose to move to California then.
  • Listen to and ananlyze "Seeing the Elephant", ask them to map the progress of the miners across the continent and down through the gold fields.
  • Orgnize students in groups to share the maps and discuss questions collaboratively.
  • Before listening to "Acres of Clams", create individual profiles for a panel of student “miners” who will discuss their life options in the years following the California Gold Rush. Others students propose options for the miners or offer them news based on historical developments that may influence their decisions.
  • Play "Acres of Clams", explain some mining skills and techniques mentioned in the song to students.
  • Raise discussion questions to students and organize them in groups to work collaboratively.
  • Listen to and show the lyric of "Oh, California", explain the first person writing style to students. Let students feel the feeling and emotion expressed by the lyric.
  • Ask students to write a fictional letter home from a miner to his or her family back east using the first person writing style after class.

Note.jpg Guiding Questions

  • What does the song title "Seeing the Elephant" really mean for?
  • What are the interactions and contributions of the various people and cultures that have lived in or migrated to the American West?
  • Can you identify features of an event, issue or problem, suggesting possible causes and results after listening to the songs?
  • What is the attitude and emotion conveyed by the songwriter of "Oh, California"?

Note.jpg Lyrics of the Songs

  • Seeing the Elephant: [4]
  • Acres of Clams (Old Settler's Song): [5]
  • Oh, California !: [6]

Note.jpg Discussion Questions

  • Why might different miners have “seen the elephant” of the American West in different ways?
  • What did their experiences have in common?
  • To what do you think “the end of the jumping off place” refers?
  • How was farming on the frontier similar to mining? How was it different?
  • Why did the old settler claim to be so happy on Puget Sound?
  • How to understand the miner's saying "I thought I ought to cry a bit, but I could not find a tear"?

Note.jpg References / Resources

Go back to: Lesson 2: Teaching History of One Specific Place

Continue on to: Lesson 4: Other Elements of music for history instruction