Folk Music Lesson Plan: The Legend of John Henry

Submitted by: Julia

Grade Levels: 3-5

In this lesson plan, which is adaptable for grades 3-5, students use BrainPOP resources to explore the legend of John Henry and make connections to folk music. Students will also explain how folk stories and songs contribute to American culture.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Explore the legend of John Henry and make connections to folk music.
  2. Explain how folk stories and songs contribute to American culture.

Materials:

Vocabulary:

heyday; anonymous; genre; activism; peril; migrant; revival; rural; acoustic instrument; forum; tall tale

Preparation:

Preview the 60's Folk movie and plan pause points where you will talk about the movie with students. Make photocopies and gather related resources.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Review with students what they know about John Henry. You may want to read excerpts from a book or website about John Henry.
  2. Ask if students know the definition of a tall tale. Guide students to understand that a tall tale is a story that has some fact, but the truth can be exaggerated.
  3. Play the John Henry clip and talk about how the music is influenced by the tall tale.
  4. Explain to students that in the United States, one of the most popular kinds of music during the 1960's was folk music. Project the 60's Folk movie and talk about some characteristics about folk music. Ask students: What is folk music? Why there are no authors of original folk music? How it has changed over the years?
  5. Pass out the Frayer Chart Graphic Organizer about John Henry for students to complete individually, or in pairs/groups.
  6. For closure, have students turn and talk to a partner about what they learned.