Jazz It Up!

By Debra Buchan, January 2, 2009

Grade Level

  • High School


  • Architecture

Subject Area

  • Social Studies

Lesson Time

3 weeks of in-class and out-of-class time; 80 minute block schedule


Topic: How can we make jazz appealing, interesting and relevant to today's youth? Relevance: Jazz is the only kind of music that is truly American. After studying the history of jazz, with an emphasis on the life and times of Louis Armstrong, students will devise ways to engage their peers in the joys and historical importance of jazz. Student Engagement: Students will incorporate music, art, history, interviewing techniques, oral and written presentation skills, interpersonal skills, and their ability to critically integrate what they have already learned about jazz with what they will teach their classmates about jazz. Goals: 1. Students will identify reasons jazz is important. 2. Students will design methods for keeping jazz relevant to their generation. 3. Students will discover local opportunities for hearing jazz and share these with their peers.

National Standards

Music Standard 7: Understands relationship between music and history and culture. U.S.History Standard 31: Understands economic, social and cultural developments in contemporary U.S. Language Arts Standard 4: Gathers and uses information for research purposes. Benchmark 4: Uses a variety of criteria to evaluate validity and reliability of primary and secondary source information. Standard 8: Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes. Level IV (grades 9-12) Standard 9: Uses viewing skills and strategies to understand and interpret visual media.

Common Core Standards

Anchors for Reading:

Key Ideas and Details:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1 Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.2 Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.3 Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.7 Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.10 Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.

Anchor Standards for Writing:

Text Types and Purposes:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences.

Production and Distribution of Writing:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

Research to Build and Present Knowledge:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

Range of Writing:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.10 Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.

Anchor standards for Speaking and Listening:

Comprehension and Collaboration:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.3 Evaluate a speaker's point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.6 Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.

Anchor standards for Language:

Conventions of Standard English:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.


Objectives: 1. Students will use prior knowledge of jazz history to inform their own presentations. 2. Students will use communication skills--oral, written,visual--to creatively, passionately, and effectively engage and inform their peers about what they have learned. 3. Students will discover and teach about the local jazz community. This will require research, interviewing, viewing and listening.  


Students have access to Mac and PC computer labs for research and composing presentations. Students have access to Smart Boards and projectors in classroom, as well as video cameras and playback equipment. Students have school access to wide range of art supplies in design classrooms. Recommended internet sites to access research, jazz venues and museums: https://clefclubofjazz.org Mt. Airy Cultural Center:  https://www.maccjazz.org/festival/jf1.php3 The African American Museum in Philadelphia: https://www.aampmuseum.org  Philadelphia Museum of Art: https://www.philamuseum.org/artafter5  Jazz Journeys Educational Institute: https://www.jazzjourneys.org Romare Bearden, visual artisit inspired by jazz - https://www.beardenfoundation.org/artlife/biography/biography.shtml, https://thebeardenproject.studiomuseum.org/about-romare-bearden/


Materials will vary depending on how students choose to make their presentations. Teachers will have projector for powerpoint presentations, computer and speakers for music presentations, art and printing supplies for posters and other visual presentations. School provides public transportation passes to students on a weekly basis, enabling them to travel to various jazz venues and museums.


This is a culminating, end-of-semester lesson. Students have already studied the history of jazz in America and are therefore familiar with its vernacular.


Week 1: Day 1:IDENTIFY/INVESTIGATE 1.Teacher will present students with following oral prompt: "There is concern that jazz is a dying art form because young people are not receiving adequate or relevant exposure to the genre. How can you, as a group of urban teenagers that has been studying the history of jazz, use your knowledge to teach and engage people of your age group with the joys of being familiar with jazz?" 2.Students will break into 6 groups of 4. (This class has been doing a lot of throughout semester, so they are familiar with roles within groups.) They will assign roles of facilitator, record keeper, research organizer, and presentation organizer. 3.Teacher will give students list of internet resources for jazz information in Philadelphia--see websites above. (This can be adapted for any urban/suburban area.) 4.Groups will spend second half of 80 minute period researching local jazz museums/venues/libraries. For homework, students will compile their research information for use in class next day. Day 2: INVESTIGATE/REFRAME PROBLEM 1.Teacher will play "devil's advocate"--"I hate jazz. Why should I even listen to it? I don't care about it. It's so old school. Why do I need to know this?" 2.Student groups will generate surveys designed to find out (for example) what their classmates already know about jazz, what they want to know about jazz, and what kinds of music they listen to already. Students should also keep in mind teacher's prompt when designing survey questions. These surveys will be distributed, completed and collected during students' lunch period; they will be compiled in next class meeting. Days 3,4,5 FRAME PROBLEM/GENERATE SOLUTIONS 1.Teacher: Get in your groups. Using the information from the surveys your classmates filled out for you yesterday, what do you see as the biggest problem in making jazz relevant to your peers? What questions did your classmates ask while they were completing the surveys? Can you formulate big questions, based on these surveys, that will help you in our quest to promote jazz? 2.Student groups will compile surveys and sketch, graph, list results--use any method that makes responses visual, manageable. Share survey results with rest of class. Each group will also develop its brief framework of the problem. Example:"Most of the students who filled out our survey found jazz to be irrelevant to their lives. Our problem is to find a way to make a jazz connection with our classmates, so they might acquire a cultural, historical and artistic appreciation of this art form." 3.Teacher will say, "We spent the entire semester studying the history of jazz, with an emphasis on the life and music of Louis Armstrong. As a student, what lessons were most effective at encouraging your appreciation of jazz? What lessons were least effective at achieving this? Keeping this in mind, how will you develop ONE 10 minute presentation to hook your peers into an appreciation of jazz? Some possibilities are print ads, DVDs, live performances, or guest speakers." 4.Student groups will: 1.respond to teacher's prompt regarding best and worst lessons for 15 minutes. 2.share their outcomes with class for 15 minutes. 3.spend remainder of class (approx. 45 minutes) drawing, modeling, writing ideas for their own 10 minute presentations, using background on jazz. 4.determine what contacts they need to make to begin their research, especially what clubs and museums they need to visit. 5.determine what materials they will need to make presentations (e.g., recording devices-audio and/or video, powerpoint, poster creating materials, art materials, performance space, computer access). 6.make initial contacts with venues, museums they want to visit and set up visiting days/times. 7.submit to teacher by end of day of 5 a tentative description of presentation, a supplies/materials requirements list, a list of sources contacted, and a list of planned visits to venues and museums. Week 2:EDIT/DEVELOP IDEAS AND ARTICULATE SOLUTION 1. As a class we will create a 4 day calendar for visiting jazz venues and museums. Most locations will be within walking distance of our school. Because this class is team-taught (history teacher + English teacher), we will be able to chaperon our students. 2. Students will prepare questions for interviewing musicians at jazz clubs, people who work at the museums, and any other jazz "experts" they schedule to meet. 3. Teacher will review/assess questions. 4. Students will assemble any interviewing materials they need, such as paper, pens, cameras, video recorders, sketching materials. 5. The next 4 days will be devoted to being "out on the town" acquiring research materials for presentations. 6. Students will write summaries every night for homework detailing their day's work product. Week 3 Days 1-4:EVALUATE PROCESS AND PREPARE TO IMPLEMENT SOLUTION 1. Students will have access to computer labs 40 minutes/class to: a. write a one page process paper explain how his/her group approached the problem, how the group divided up its workload, how the research process evolved and was implemented, and how decisions were made to reach a consensus on the proposed solution. b. write a one page synopsis of his/her group's solution and description of presentation. c. prepare an MLA format works cited page, including any interviews, museums, music venues, online or print sources of information student accessed to produce project. d. work with group members to produce any necessary photographs, advertisements, information packets, handouts, powerpoints, etc. for the final project presentation.REHEARSE IN FRONT OF CLASS BEFORE WHOLE-GRADE PRESENTATION. Make suggested changes to presentations based on classroom feedback. Day 5: ARTICULATE AND RE-EVALUATE SOLUTIONS Presentation Day! 1.Each group will have only 10 minutes to make its jazz sales pitch. Pitches will be performed in student common area in front of entire grade. This may have to be adapted if you have a large school or inflexible schedule. 2.Students will observe and measure outcomes based on responses to presentations and 2nd go-round of surveys. After presentation day, the students will have their classmates fill out the "jazz awareness" surveys again and see if their answers have shifted.


Assessment will be through: 1. Individual grading of process paper, solution synopsis and works cited. 2. Individual grading through observation of each student's contribution to group. 3. Group grade for effectiveness and creativity of presentation. Instruction differentiation is achieved through group assembly, combining students with different strengths.

Enrichment Extension Activities

Successful presentation may be performed in clubs, community centers, other schools, churches.

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