What Are They Listening To?

Contributor: Brian Anthony. Lesson ID: 11248

Music is an international language that can transcend borders and give us insight into other peoples in faraway places. Let’s go exploring! A musical journey around the world is but a few clicks away!


Social Studies

Social Studies
learning style
Auditory, Visual
personality style
Otter, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8), High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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  • Did you ever get tired of hearing the same thing on the radio, over and over again?

It seems sometimes they play the exact same song once every hour. Let's break out and listen to something totally different!

Listen to this piece of music, Ladysmith Black Mambazo - Homeless Live:

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Share the video with a parent or teacher, then discuss these questions with a parent or teacher:

  • How would you describe this music to someone who hasn't heard it before or couldn't hear it?
  • What words would you use to describe it?
  • Could you describe how it makes you feel?
  • What country do you think it is from?

Music is one of the most peculiar aspects of being a human.

Music can rally us to battle, can move us to love, can fill us with passion and joy.

  • Why do these seemingly random noises delight us so much?

However hard it may seem to describe music, let's give it a shot.

  1. Think of your favorite songs — songs you love so much you can hear them in your head, and you know all the lyrics by heart.
  2. Make a short list of your top five songs of all time.
  3. Now, pick one of them and write about it. In a short paragraph, describe what the song sounds like and what still makes it such an invigorating piece of music to your ear.

There are people who make a living writing about music, so we know it can be done! It just takes a little training and focused listening. Take a look at the Musical Elements Chart, from the LouisianaVoices.org.

Write down each of the elements, and write down your explanation for each in your own words. If you would like a richer and more challenging resource to help you think about the different aspects of music, read An Introduction to the Elements of Music, by Espie Estrella, on Thought Co.

Now, go back and describe your favorite song in writing once again, this time focusing on each of these elements. Share the new version of your description with your parent or teacher. Then, reflect on the following questions and discuss:

  • Why is music so powerful?
  • How does writing help us analyze music and understand it better?
  • Why does music differ from culture to culture?
  • How would we describe those differences?

When you write about music, you have to listen to it in a whole new way. Even songs you have listened to dozens of times before might sound a little different.

In the Got It? section, you will try to uncover musical sounds you have never encountered.

  • What will it be like to try to describe them?
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