October 28th, 2002
Bob Dylan: No Direction Home
Procedures for Teachers


Media Components

Computer Resources:

  • Modem: 56.6 Kbps or faster.
  • Browser: Netscape Navigator 4.0 or above or Internet Explorer 4.0 or above.
  • Personal computer (Pentium II 350 MHz or Celeron 600 MHz) running Windows95 or higher and at least 32 MB of RAM and/or Macintosh computer running System 8.1 or higher and at least 32 MB of RAM.

Bookmarked sites:

Prior to teaching this lesson, bookmark all of the Web sites to be used on each computer in your classroom, or upload all links to an online bookmarking utility such as www.portaportal.com. Preview all of the Web sites, listed below, and video clips used in the lesson to make certain that they are appropriate for your students.

Bookmark the following sites:


Teachers will need the following supplies:

  • TV/VCR/DVD player
  • Chalkboard or Whiteboard
  • copy of AMERICAN MASTERS’ “No Direction Home: Bob Dylan”
  • Pen and Pencil
  • Computer with Internet access

Introductory Activity:

GOAL: The 1960s has been characterized as an era of great turbulence, yet American society was subject to great stresses before the 1960s and has been stressed beyond imagination since that period. In this activity, students will do research on events of the post-World War II era in preparation for being an expert on a particular topic for a panel discussion. During the panel discussion, students will assess the shocks to the ’60s generation in light of modern-day events and draw conclusions about the types of responses that are generated by certain events.

1. Assign students to their panels. There are 29 topics over the six panels. The topics that have enough information for 2 or more students have been indicated with an asterisk.

Panel 1 (The 1950s): The Cold War, the McCarthy hearings, Beat culture, Sputnik. fallout shelters and duck and cover drills.

Panel 2 (Shocking Events): assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Panel 3 (Vietnam): Gulf of Tonkin incident, the Tet Offensive, My Lai massacre, Operation Rolling Thunder, the Battle for Hue.

Panel 4 (Civil Rights Movement): Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott (*), Brown vs. Board of Education, lunch counter sit-ins, Medgar Evers and voter registration (*), March on Washington, race riots 1963 – 1970 (*), Black Panthers.

Panel 5 (Student Movements): draft resisters, Free Speech Movement, Democratic National Convention of 1968, Summer of Love, 1967.

Panel 6 (Modern-day Shocks): Columbine, 9/11, the war in Iraq.

2. For students that have had no experience with panel discussions explain that a panel consists of a small group that carries on a guided and informal discussion before an audience as if the panel were meeting alone. Each panel’s purpose in this case will be to provide an understanding of their topic and to assess the public reaction to these events. During their discussion students will volunteer facts, ask questions and state opinions without speech making. The audience listens and is given a chance to ask questions, but for the most part is passive and receptive. (Note: Panels 1 and 6 may conclude that there was little public outcry because their events represented threats to personal and national security; Panels 2, 3, 4 and 5 may discover the role that an unusually large number of young people and relative prosperity contributed to the response to these events.

3. Hand out copies of Presentation Template to help guide student research and review the focus questions to help give their research a structure.

Focus questions:

The parents of the 60s generation had lived through a devastating economic depression and a world war, yet they felt no need to demonstrate and riot. What was it about the 60s that would prompt such radical responses?

There were no riots or sit-ins after 9/11 or Columbine, and there has been only token protest about the war in Iraq. Why?

4. Using the template students will go to resources on the Internet to find a thorough description of their topic and use these facts to draw inferences as to how this event shaped American attitudes and beliefs. The following sites will help students get started on their research:

Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia

Radical Times: The Antiwar Movement of the 1960s


The Civil Rights Movement

5. Once research is complete panels will meet together to develop a rough outline of their discussion to assure that they will provide enough facts and engage in sufficient discussion to support their conclusions. Teacher may want to reinforce the idea at this point that it is not necessary for the panel to agree on its conclusions but merely to provide enough information to support them.

6. Hand out copies of the 1960s Notes handout. There are spaces for seven presentations on each page, so each student will need four or five copies. Students may take notes on their own paper if that is more convenient.

7. Starting with Panel 1, students will engage in their discussion.

8. Once all panels have presented, show the following clips from the American Masters program “No Direction Home: Bob Dylan” to provide visual reinforcement for what they have learned:

Part I: 11:30 – 13:20 - images of the 1950s.

Part I: 1:13:10 – 1:24:20 - images of the 1960s.

Part I: 1:34:00 – 1:40:30 – civil rights and the politicization of American youth.

Part II: 4:27 – 10:20 – March on Washington, President Kennedy.

Part II: 19:36 – 20:40 – Mario Savio and the Berkeley Free Speech Movement.

9. Each student will then be responsible for writing an in-class essay in which he/she will frame his/her own response to the focus questions using the information presented.

Learning Activities:

GOAL:Bob Dylan has drawn from a rich variety of musical genres. In this activity, students will present background information on three broad categories of music (folk/country, blues and rock) and use this information to view samples of Dylan’s music that correspond with each genre. Students will draw conclusions regarding which form contributed most to Dylan’s development as a songwriter.

1. Make copies of The Foundations of Bob Dylan’s Music Student Organizers. Divide students into groups of five. Each genre has four topics: the characteristics of the genre, history and roots of the genre, characteristic performers and subgenres plus an editor’s page. Each student will gather information on the assigned topic while the editor keeps track of all research, isolates relevant facts, makes suggestions for further research and formulates the introduction and conclusion for the group’s position paper. As the rock genre covers a large body of music, you may want to have two or three rock groups, each responsible for one of the following decades in rock music: the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

2. Students will watch the following clips from “No Direction Home” and take notes on their assigned genre in the space provided.

Part I: 6:50 – 11:10 – Hank Williams, Johnny Ray, Webb Pierce (folk/country) Muddy Waters (blues), Gene Vincent (rock).

Part I: 20:00 – 27:15 - John Jacob Niles, Odetta Liam Clancy, and Woody Guthrie (folk)

Part I: 36:00 – 40:20 - Liam Clancy, Maria Muldaur, Dave Van Ronk, New Lost City Ramblers and John Cohen (folk)

Part I: 45:15 – 56:40 – Woody Guthrie, Peter LaFarge, Cisco Huston, Dave Van Ronk, the Clancy Brothers(folk)

Part II: 41:40 – 59:30 – Dylan’s transition to rock.

3. Students should begin their research on their assigned genre by looking for a basic definition on a website such as Wikipedia. Further research can be done on sites such as The University of Arizona or the Indiana University School of Music.

4. Explain to the students that they should keep track of their research on the hand out by citing the Internet sites, books, articles, etc. they used in finding their information.

5. Next, students can use a website of all the Discography of Bob Dylan and Bob Dylan website as a starting point to go out onto the Internet and find clips to use to make decisions about which of Dylan’s songs fit into each genre.

6. Each group will use this information to write and present a position paper about the influences on the music of Bob Dylan. Students may use the prompts below to formulate their position papers. Because of the way the research is structured, it should be easy to evaluate each student’s contribution to the final position paper.

a. Bob Dylan refused to be categorized as a protest or topical songwriter, but many folk songs, blues songs and rock and roll songs express dissatisfaction or anger toward social injustice. What elements of your genre have been used as protest?

b. How did your genre influence Bob Dylan’s songwriting? Use examples.

Culminating Activity:

The Lyrics of Bob Dylan

GOAL: There are many sections in “No Direction Home: Bob Dylan” that show interviewers asking Bob Dylan what his songs mean or what he is trying to express in them. His answers are evasive (Part II: 1:20:00 – 1:25:10). Joan Baez also relates a conversation where she freely admitted she had no idea what a song he had written was saying. Dylan replied that no one probably ever would (Part I: 1:36:40 – 1:40:20). In this activity, students will examine the lyrics of “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” They will brainstorm all possible meanings of selected words and phrases and draw conclusions using leading questions.

1. Hand out the lyrics to “Subterranean Homesick Blues” and show the clip (Part II: 29:56 – 31:52) of the video Dylan made of the song.

2. Give students time to fill in both columns and answer the questions.

3. Discuss their responses and see if the class can come to a consensus.

Inside This Lesson


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