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Units February 2, 2022

The Birth of American Music


Lesson Summary: Students explore the influence of Black Americans on national identity and culture by examining the roots of American music and engaging in a Socratic seminar. Downloads: Unit resources Links: The 1619 project: complete pdf 1619 podcast and transcripts

This unit was created by a team of educators in the Piper School District, as part of the 2021 cohort of The 1619 Project Education Network. It is designed for facilitation across approximately five days of class composed of four classes of 83 minutes and one class of 45 minutes.


Students will be able to…

  • Analyze a text in preparation for a class discussion and a brief research project about the history of “American Pop”
  • Identify and analyze the anatomy of a Socratic seminar
  • Prepare inquiry questions to actively engage their peers in a Socratic seminar
  • Demonstrate civil discussion and listening skills in Socratic seminars focused on The 1619 Project podcast “The Birth of American Music”

Unit Overview

How is American society shaped by identities, beliefs, and practices? 

Students will delve into this question -- and many others -- as they explore the various roots of American music and the history that cultivated it. Students will SWIRL through the podcast “The Birth of American Music” by speaking, writing, interacting, reading, and listening. Listening will be key: listening to music— its intonation and inflection, and comparing and contrasting the features— and civilly listening to each other in a Socratic seminar. 

Performance Task

“The Birth of American Music” Socratic seminar

Students will engage in a Socratic seminar focused on episode 3: “The Birth of American Music” from the 1619 podcast. Students will prepare for this seminar by listening to the podcast, annotating the transcript, and synthesizing ideas from small group discussions and written reflections.

In a Socratic seminar, students help one another understand the ideas, issues, and values reflected in a text through a group discussion format. Students are responsible for facilitating their group discussion around the ideas in the text. It is a discussion, not a debate, where students practice how to listen to one another and understand the perspectives of others.


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