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overview prep for teachers steps: class one class two extensions

Preparation for Teachers

Prior to teaching this lesson, preview the Web sites so that you are familiar with their content. Bookmark the Web sites used in the lesson on each computer in your classroom or lab. Load the Real Player ( and Macromedia Flash ( plug-ins onto each computer as well.

Copy the "Sweet Betsy from Pike" song lyrics for each student, or email it as an attachment to each student in your class.

Download the song lyrics
(Adobe Acrobat Reader required)

Just as this lesson may be adapted for students of differing abilities and grade levels, you may wish to adapt the song lyrics used in the lesson for your classroom community. Though the song is a widely-known and historic, it may present some issues which you may not be comfortable addressing with your class.

When using media, provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, a specific task to complete and/or information to identify during or after viewing of Web sites or other multimedia elements.

Introductory Activity

Step 1. Ask your students what different elements create a story? What do you need to create a good story?

(Guide your students to realize that all good stories have the following elements: characters, setting, plot, conflict, and a beginning, middle, and end.)

Step 2. Ask your students if they think it is possible for a song to tell a story. Do songs ever have characters, settings, plots, conflicts, etc.? Can they think of any examples of songs that tell stories?

(There are hundreds of songs that tell stories. Some examples that your students may be familiar with are the Christmas carols "Frosty the Snowman" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," TV theme songs from shows like The Brady Bunch and Gilligan's Island, and a wide variety of summer camp songs, such as "The Bear Song," "The Cat Came Back," and "Found a Peanut.")

Step 3. Explain to your students that songs that tell stories are often called "ballads." When you examine the words (lyrics) of ballads, they have characters, settings, conflicts, and a very definite beginning, middle, and end.

Step 4. Explain to your students that you will be examining a ballad that was written over 150 years ago. Log on to the Popular Music in American History: "Sweet Betsy from Pike" Web site at, and provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to listen to the tune and see if they recognize it. Do not let your students log on to the site themselves. Play the MIDI file of "Sweet Betsy from Pike" for your students once or twice. Do they recognize the song?

Step 5. If no one in your class recognizes the song, tell them that it is titled "Sweet Betsy from Pike," and that it was written in the United States in about 1847. Ask your students what was going on in the United States during that time? What was life like? What were people doing, and where were they going?

(In the 1840s and 1850s, the United States was expanding greatly. Settlers were leaving the "civilized" parts of the East and the Midwest in covered wagons, and heading to places like California and Oregon.)

Step 6. Tell your students that "Sweet Betsy from Pike" is a ballad about a young couple who made their way to California in the 1840s, and that they will be examining the plot, characters, and conflicts in the song.
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