For Educators

Activity 5:

Cross-country Rhythms

Explore the relationship between music, history, and culture.

Prepare for class by developing a playlist of five essential songs that would form the soundtrack for a road trip across the United States. Have one of these songs playing as students come in and get settled for class. Explain that the song would be required listening for you should you embark on a cross-country road trip and then give details about the song's significance to you, emphasizing its connection to your American identity. Share the rest of your playlist and allow students to react.

Next, divide students into small groups that are as diverse as possible. Ask group members to negotiate with one another to develop a group playlist of five songs that they would play on a road trip across America. You may wish to have groups use online music sites to sample songs that aren't familiar to everyone. Afterwards, discuss what criteria each group used to choose their songs. What kind of an image of America did these songs convey? What songs or musical genres did the groups have in common with one other? Discuss how music can be a transmitter of cultural tradition and a way to connect diverse groups of people.

Finally, have students contribute their playlists to Question 3 of the E Pluribus Unum interactive feature.

Additional Resources

Jeff Chang: A Hip-Hop America
Read Chang's review of hip hop origins and the genre's cultural significance.

NewMusicBox Magazine: The Role of Music in American Life
This Web magazine from the American Music Center features a collection of quotes from American presidents about music, composers, and more.

Related Standards

Music, Standard 7: Understands the relationship between music and history and culture.

U.S. History, Standard 31: Understands economic, social, and cultural developments in the contemporary United States.

Source: "Content Knowledge" by McRel (Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning)



  1. USA in Three Words
Explore diverse perspectives of the United States
  2. The Internet's Impact on Political Participation
Investigate how Internet features and culture make political waves.
  3. A Slogan That Captures America's Best Identity
Explore the idea of "place branding" and develop a slogan that captures America's best identity.
  4. American Image Abroad
Develop strategies for improving world opinion of the United States.
< 5. Cross-country Rhythms
Explore the relationship between music, history, and culture.
  6. Patriotism and American Identity
Explore the concepts of "patriotism" and "American identity."
Download all activities as a PDF file (128KB, Acrobat Reader required)

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