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Elbert Hubbard: An American Original - WNED | PBS

For Educators

Speaking Through Music and Poetry


For some the process of writing and speaking is done easiest by using a creative alternate outlet as their means of expression. They combine the rhythms of words or sounds to express their thoughts on social issues through poetry and music. Students will explore how these art forms can be used as both entertainment as well as a means of social protest or injustice. They will listen to, view and analyze protest music and "teen poetry jams," then create and perform their own poems.


Students will:
  • Analyze techniques musicians and poets use to effectively communicate their messages
  • Collectively construct the criteria and rubric to evaluate a poem
  • Deliver a poetry "jam" on a select topic

Necessary Materials

  • Audio and/or video clips of protest music
  • Lyrics to protest songs used in lesson
  • Video clips of "teen poetry jam" or "teen poetry slam" competitions
  • Internet connectivity

Relevant National Standards
NL-ENG.K-12.8, NL-ENG.K-12.5, NL-ENG.K-12.4, NETS 1, NETS 2

Teaching Procedure


  • Presentation of poem

Extension Activities:

  • Set up a "teen poetry jam/slam" in your school, district or region.
  • Have students research further into protest music. This can be done as a general topic or viewed from one of the reform movements such as abolition, women’s suffrage, the labor movement, civil rights, the anti-war movement, feminist movement, or environmentalism. Students may also research world music to explore the protest songs of other nations, such as in anti-apartheid South Africa.

Online Resources:

Russell Simmons Presents: Brave New Voices. HBO, n.d. 10 Jan. 2010.

Say It Loud! 65 Great Protest Songs. Popmatters, n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2010. (Warning: some explicit lyrics)

Strange Fruit. Independent Lens, 28 Mar. 2003. Web. 10 Jan. 2010.

Urban Word nyc. Urban Word, n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2010.

Youth Speaks. Youth Speaks, n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2010.

Suggested Music:

James Brown "Say It Loud – I'm Black and I'm Proud"
Sam Cooke "A Change Is Gonna Come"
Bob Dylan "Blowin' in the Wind"
"The Times They Are a-Changin"
Dixie Chicks "Not Ready To Make Nice"
Aretha Franklin "Respect"
Marvin Gaye "Inner City Blues"
"What’s Going On"
Woody Guthrie "This Land Is Your Land"
John Lennon "Give Peace A Chance"
Melba Moore "Lift Every Voice and Sing"
Public Enemy "Fight the Power"
Edwin Starr "War"
Other "Eyes on the Prize"
"We Shall Overcome"

Also search:

Country: Emmylou Harris, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson
Folk: Joan Baez, Pete Seegar, Peter, Paul and Mary, Phil Ochs, Crosby, Stills Nash and Young
Punk: Green Day (“American Idiot”), Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, Bad Religion, Anti-Flag, Rise Against
Rap: The Beastie Boys, Grandmaster Flash, N.W.A., KRS-One, Rage Against the Machine
Rock: Ani DiFranco, Patti Smith, Bruce Springsteen, Sonic Youth (“Swimsuit Issue”), Neil Young, Tom Waits

Supplemental Material:

Historic American Sheet Music. Duke University Libraries, 24 Oct, 2008. Web. 10 Jan. 2010.

Lyrical Legacy: 400 Years of American Song and Poetry. Library of Congress, n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2010.

Making a Statement through Song and Poetry. Library of Congress, n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2010.

Music in America. Library of Congress, n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2010.

Performing Arts, Music. Library of Congress, n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2010.,+Music

Songs of Our Times. Library of Congress, n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2010.

Two Unreconciled Strigings. Library of Congress, n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2010.

Stand Up and Sing: Music and our Reform History. Library of Congress, n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2010.

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Funding for Elbert Hubbard: An American Original provided by The Margaret L. Wendt Foundation
Elbert Hubbard: An American Original is a production of WNED-TV