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Definitional Lessons
Interpretive Lessons

Lesson Plans
Background Information
This guide includes two essays, "What Is the Blues?" and "Understanding the 12-Bar Blues." Distributing these readings prior to embarking on the lesson activities will give students a good introduction to the blues. In addition, an extensive blues glossary appears at the end of this guide. Definitions of common blues terms used in the films and in the lessons are provided here.

Lesson Organization
The lessons in this guide, designed to complement the seven-film series, The Blues, explore six central thematic strands. The first three strands are definitional in nature, seeking to address the question, "What are the blues?" The second three strands broadly consider the question "What are the meanings of the blues?" and are meant to delve deeper into the contexts and cultural meanings of the blues. While the lessons in each discipline do build upon one another, individual teachers are encouraged to use those lessons or lesson pieces that best complement their curricular goals. Teachers seeking an interdisciplinary approach can incorporate social studies, English, and music activities within the same thematic strand.

Definitional Lessons

Interpretive Lessons

Chart Key




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Home Blues as African American History Blues Geography Oral Tradition and the Blues The South, the North, and the Great Migration: Blues and Literature Blues Masters: Muddy Waters and B.B. King Blues, Urbanization, and Technology Poetry: Blues Style The Beat of the Blues Playing the Blues Men, Women, and the Blues Identity, Oppression, and Protest: To Kill a Mockingbird and the Blues A Snapshot of Delta Blues: Skip James and Robert Johnson Folk Traditions in the Blues Crossroads Blues Blues Lyrics Whites, Blacks, and the Blues The Soul of a Man Finding the Blues