What do you think of when you hear the terms “songster,” “the blues man,” or “musician”? Why do you think people from different cultures or eras—or even in different parts of the musical industry—use different terms to describe someone who sings?
Why do you think younger African American musicians are now seeking out and performing pre-blues songster music? Why do you think younger musicians overlooked this type of music before?
According to the article, the recent interest in pre-blues songster music is “part of a broader historical reclamation process.” What do you think that means? Why do you think it’s necessary?
The article states that by the late 1950s, there was a new focus toward blues as the primary form of African American expression. The “songster” had turned into “the blues man.” Why do you think the new title was significant? What, if any, role do you think blues music might have had on the Civil Rights Movement, which was gaining ground at this same time?
- Prior to conducting this activity, select a genre of poetry. Find and download audio recordings of two age-appropriate examples of poems from that genre.
- Invite students to share what they know about that particular genre of poetry. Enhance their understanding with literary or historical connections of your own.
- Play the first example. Challenge students to identify examples of figurative language in the poem. Have them examine the poem to see how the poet incorporated alliteration, rhythm, rhyme, and repetition. Discuss the tone and mood of the poem and identify how the person reading the poem enhances those elements by the way he or she delivers the poem.
- Play the recording for a second poem. Encourage students to compare this poem to the first poem they heard.
- Challenge students to write a poem of their own.
Invite students to share their poems with the class. Check to see how closely each follows the format for the specified type of poem.
CUSTOMIZE THE LESSON:
Examine the poems as a class. As you evaluate each one, help students identify examples of similes and metaphors. If applicable, challenge them to find and explain examples of personification. Encourage students to include these elements when they write their own poems.
Have students discuss the two audio poems in small groups. Encourage them to listen for examples of similes, metaphors, and personification. Challenge them to determine what each one means signifies within the poem. Discuss the results as a class. Encourage students to include these elements when they write their own poems.
As a class, analyze how each poem’s form or structure contributes to its meaning. Provide written samples of each poem. Encourage students to compare and contrast the poem through these two media. After students write their own poems, encourage them to make an audio version of their prose. Have students compare and contrast their written and spoken poems in small groups.
Have students analyze each poem’s form and structure in small groups. Challenge them to identify specific words the poet selected that add to meaning or tone of the prose. If possible, find two different readings of the same poem. As a class, compare how each delivery affects the tone and mood of the poem. After students write their own poems, encourage them to make an audio version of their prose. Have students compare and contrast their written and spoken poems in small groups.
Students learn the structure of the blues stanza, both in music and in the blues-based poems of Langston Hughes. This set of four lessons is divided into grades K–2, 3–5, 6–8, and 9–12. Younger students compose their own three-line blues poems. Older students listen for details of the Great Migration in recordings of rural and urban blues from Smithsonian Folkways.