Create Your Own Folk Music Lesson Plan: 1960s Cultural Climate

Submitted by: Rachel Zindler

Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8, 9-12

In this lesson plan, which is adaptable for grades 3-12, students use BrainPOP resources to explore the cultural climate of the 1960’s in the United States. Students will learn about major musicians and key cultural figures of the 1960’s in the United States, and understand the value of folk music as a means of commenting on social issues. Students will then write and perform an original song to communicate personal beliefs and effect change in the community.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Learn about the cultural climate of the 1960's in the United States
  2. Learn about major musicians and key cultural figures of the 1960's in the United States
  3. Understand the value of folk music as a means of commenting on social issues


  • Interactive whiteboard for completing graphic organizer, or printed and enlarged Brainstorming Web from the Graphic Organizers link on the BrainPop Educators site
  • Colored pencils, paper, etc.
  • Recordings of "Blowin' in the Wind" by Bob Dylan
  • Lyrics to "Blowin' in the Wind" by Bob Dylan
  • Optional: recordings and lyrics by artists such as Woody Guthrie, Joni Mitchell, Phil Ochs, Pete Seeger, Peter,Paul, and Mary, etc.
  • Packet of copies of 2 Activity Sheets including Vocabulary Activity Page and Brainstorm Graphic Organizer stapled together for each student
  • Any type of recording devices (tape players, mp3 recorders, etc.)
  • Chart paper
  • Computers with microphones and headphones for partner work
  • Computer & projector/interactive whiteboard to watch BrainPOP Jr. as a class


music; protest songs; racism; feminism; culture; lyrics; Beat writers; acoustic; folk; folk-rock; activism; activist; social


Preview BrainPOP movie and all related features to familiarize yourself with the material. Photocopy handouts mentioned in the materials list. Find a recording of "Blowin' in the Wind" by Bob Dylan and copy the lyrics onto a transparency, chart paper or prepare them to be projected on the interactive whiteboard.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Ask your students what they know or have heard about the 1960's in the United States. Create a basic web of the facts using the blank Brainstorming Web. You may want to project this onto an interactive whiteboard, print and enlarge the page, or just create your own version of a web on chart paper.
  2. Students can research album covers from the 1960’s folk music and create album covers for their songs based on the style of the 60’s folk singers.
  3. Have your own folk concert! Students can design invitations or concert posters to invite friends and family to hear the songs written by the folk artists in your class and view the “album covers” on display with the lyrics to the songs.
  4. Depending on students’ familiarity with the issues, they may need to research the topic they want to sing about.
  5. Encourage students to have fun with planning and performing their song. Those who play instruments can play the tune while their partners sing! If students do not want to sing to or are embarrassed to sing in front of their peers they can read the song lyrics while music plays in the background, or they may can to turn the song into a rap. If you have the time and the resources, students can record their songs onto mp3s or tapes.
  6. Tell students that they will be writing their own folk songs about a topic which matters a lot to them. They may choose from the chart or come up with other topics about which they care deeply. Based on interest, create pairs or small groups of students and have them brainstorm ideas for their song. Students can use the melody from a folk song from their community or create their own tune. You may want to assign this activity over the course of several days, providing more or less structure depending on your students’ needs.
  7. Create a class chart to keep track of the social issues or cultural events that are mentioned in the folk songs. Then ask students to add their own ideas to the list. What are important issues to them? Some ideas that may come up are: protecting the environment, racism, students’ rights, women’s rights, vegetarianism, immigration, homelessness, war, and the economy.
  8. Assign pairs of students to research protest songs by specific artists online. You can have them search for lyrics to folk songs from the artists mentioned in the movie, such as Woody Guthrie, Joni Mitchell, Phil Ochs, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, or others. They should choose one song to read or play for the class and then explain what it means. What social issues did the artists confront? Why?
  9. Post the lyrics to “Blowin’ in the Wind” by Bob Dylan on the interactive whiteboard or overhead projector, and play the recording of the song for the students. Then, have students read the lyrics as a shared reading. (This is a good opportunity for struggling readers to practice their skills because they will have heard the song lyrics at least once before reading aloud). Discuss the lyrics with your class. What do they think they mean? Why did Bob Dylan write this song when he did? You may want to have other songs prepared for students to read and listen to as well.
  10. For homework, ask students to write about the different types of folk music they hear in their homes or community. What kind of music do they hear people singing at family gatherings, at festivals, or other special events? What songs are sung at rituals and family reunions? What are the songs about? What (if any) instruments do people play when they sing this music? Do they know who wrote the music? Students can bring in tapes/cd's/mp3’s of the music from home if they have them. If you have time, you may want to invite family members to play or perform for the class.
  11. After watching the movie the first time, ask students to fill in as much as they can remember on the Activity Page Brainstorm Graphic Organizer and add to the Vocabulary sheet as well.
  12. Screen the movie for the second time, pausing throughout to allow students complete the graphic organizer. After the movie is over, you may want to give them a few more minutes to fill in the rest of the Vocabulary sheet and to share their answers from each worksheet. You can model or have students share their answers by typing directly into the Activity Pages.
  13. Screen the movie with closed captioning 60's Folk for the first time. Remember to pause the movie at key moments to ask students questions about the content and allow for discussion. You may want to ask students to "turn and talk" to their neighbor about what types of traditional music is played in their community, or if there are any songs they have learned from older friends or relatives. You may also ask if anyone knows the lyrics to the songs mentioned in the movie, such as Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land" or Bob Dylan's "Blowin in the Wind" when they are mentioned in the movie.
  14. Tell your class that they will be viewing the movie about 60's Folk two times. The first time they will be watching, listening and discussing, and the second time they will be taking notes.
  15. As a pre-unit assessment, hand out the packet of activity sheets and ask students to fill in the definitions, based on what they know already on the Vocabulary Activity Page. They may also want to review the Brainstorm Graphic Organizer at this time.

Extension Activity:

You may divide the class into 7 small groups and assign students to research the Q&A and the FYI features. If you do not have enough computers, you can print out and copy the Quiz and the Activity Page for students to complete independently.