Photo from Red Hot Jazz
|OVERVIEW: Jazz music emerged from urban African
American culture to express the human capacity to do more
than merely survive under challenging circumstances. In
voices imitating instruments, jazz represents such themes
as work life, leisure/entertainment, passion, food, death,
and spirituals recorded in African American native voice.
It captures the flare of rural and urban storytelling,
"loud-talk," "whispery romance," "spare
dry poetry," "pool-hall boast" or the "jump-rope
rhyme." Jazz melds elements from ragtime, marching
band music, European classical music, spirituals, work
songs, the blues, and other forms of expression. This
activity asks students to examine jazz recordings and
related art and literature to better understand African
American culture and life in the 1920s.
GOAL: Drawing on web-based audio, text
and visual materials to derive an understanding of how jazz
reflected and shaped aspects of African American life and
culture in the early 20th century.
SKILLS: Listening, reading, writing.
ACTIVITY (55 min. total) Your teacher
has assigned you and a partner the task of preparing a multimedia
presentation on 1920s jazz and its significance in African-American
culture. Use the web sites identified above to gather resources
and begin structuring your presentation.
Step 1. Thinking About 1920s Jazz (5 min):
With your partner, read and briefly discuss Jazzonia
by Langston Hughes. What is Hughes is saying about jazz? What
feelings does the poem evoke? What words, images and poetic structures
does Hughes use? Given what you know about Hughes, what does the
poem suggest about jazz in 1920s African American culture?
Step 2. Listening to 1920s Jazz (20-25
min) Working with your partner, explore the music, images,
and commentary available on the Red Hot Jazz site. You may
start with the Red Hot Jazz home page
http://www.redhotjazz.com or choose one or two of the
following recording artists to explore:
o Louis Armstrong (with the Red Hot Onions)
o Red Hot Fives http://www.redhotjazz.com/hot5.html
o Jelly Roll Morton (instrumental only) http://www.redhotjazz.com/jellyroll.html
o Sidney Bechet http://www.redhotjazz.com/Bechet.html
(see King Bechet Trio)
o Mamie Smith http://www.redhotjazz.com/mamie.html
What themes and feelings do you hear in the
music? What insights can you gather from the music, the images
and the text about the nature of 1920s jazz and its place
in the African-American community? What resources could you
use for a presentation to your classmates?
Step 3. Artistic and Literary Perspectives
(10 min): Briefly explore resources from one or more of these
sites, which present visual arts and texts from the Harlem
Renaissance. What images or ideas could you use?
* "Rhapsodies in Black," exhibition
site created by Heywood Gallery & Corcoran Gallery of
* "Jazz at Home" by J.A. Rogers in the Survey Graphic
* Harlem Renaissance Art http://www.cc.colorado.edu/Dept/EN/Courses/EN370/EN3707117Garcia/VisualArt/Artists.html
* Art and Literature of the Harlem Renaissance http://www.nku.edu/~diesmanj/harlem.html
* NYPL Schomburg Center exhibition on Harlem, 1900-1940 http://www.si.umich.edu/CHICO/Harlem/
Step 4 Brainstorm the Presentation you
would produce. (10 minutes): Stop your Research and Analyze
what you've found. With your partner, brainstorm the main
points of a multimedia presentation to your class on the significance
of jazz in urban African American life in the 1920s. Use the
questions below to guide your thinking. (Note: unless you're
really ambitious, don't try to actually create the presentation-just
craft an outline.) Be prepared to share your ideas with your
o What would be the main points of your presentation?
What would you focus on?
o Of the resources you explored today, which ones would help
you present your ideas clearly and dramatically? Which music?
Which images? Which reading? What other kinds of resources
might you want to utilize?
o How would you best mix different forms of media to convey
your ideas and help your fellow students understand the issues
SMALL GROUP DISCUSSION (40 min): Meet with others who
used these resources to share insights, ideas, and reflections
on your experience. Start by briefly sharing your ideas for
presentations, and then discuss the activity, using the following
questions as prompts. Be sure to save time to talk about the
pedagogy of this activity and the relationship of pedagogy
and technology (prompts C & D) At the end of this time,
prepare one member of the group to share some of your thoughts
with the larger group.
a) What could students learn from this activity
about the Jazz and the Harlem Renaissance? What other kinds
of writing or presentation outcomes could this activity support?
b) What do you see as the strengths and weaknesses
of the activity? Is it a good vehicle for developing student
skills in inquiry, the exploration of primary sources, and
the construction of historical meaning?
c) How would you describe the pedagogy that
informs this activity? What aspects of the activity help to
make it effective? What skills and modes of thinking does
this activity support? Do the electronic materials being engaged
suit the assignment's pedagogy and methodological goals? What
can we learn from this activity about the kinds of inquiry
assignments that work best when using new media resources?
d) How does the inquiry approach used in this
activity compare with inquiry approaches you have used in
your classes? What is similar? Different? What are the advantages
and disadvantages of inquiry learning, in your experience?
Where does it fit in the repertoire of teaching in your field?
Developed by Donna Thompson (ASHP)& Bret