Students explore the evolution of ragtime and swing music.
- Length: 1-2 sessions, or more at teacher’s discretion
- Grades: 9-12
- Students will understand and appreciate ragtime and swing jazz styles and the jazz masters who created them.
“Keith McCutchen on Jazz”
From: Humanities Through the Arts
big bands, flatted notes, improvisation, ragtime, spirituals, swing, syncopation, work songs
TV/VCR or DVD player, CDs of jazz/swing/ragtime, access to the Internet for research, materials to make posters/PowerPoint® presentations or other ways to share what students have learned
Instructional Strategies and Activities
Show the video
Introduce the video excerpt by telling students that ragtime and swing music were two of the most popular styles of jazz music in the first half of the 20th century. Tell the class that they will research the evolution of ragtime and swing and that they should look for information in the video excerpt that relates to this. Show the video excerpt and discuss it as a class. If there is time, play some examples of ragtime and swing music.
Research Ragtime and Swing Topics
Assign students, in groups or individually, to research the following topics:
- jazz influences, such as African spirituals and work songs
- jazz techniques, such as syncopation, flatted/blue notes, and improvisation
- characteristics of swing and ragtime styles
- famous composers and performers who popularized ragtime and swing, such as Scott Joplin, Jelly Roll Morton, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Glenn Miller, and the Dorsey Brothers.
You may add others to this list in advance or allow students to add performers and topics as a result of their research. Make additions to the list based on class size.
Create a Jazz Exhibit or Presentations
Students can use books, online resources, audio resources, and video resources to do their research. This project can be a homework assignment or can be done in the school media center during class periods, at the teacher’s discretion.
Have students use their research findings to create a display, “Ragtime and Swing: Two Essential Jazz Styles.” Depending on teacher’s preference and class interest, the display could be a bulletin board, student posters, a series of “jazz trading cards” (8-1/2 × 11 or smaller), individual panels in a flip chart presentation, or a multimedia display using video and audio as well as posters and written information. The students’ exhibits can be displayed in the classroom or in other areas of the school and/or used as the basis for 1- to 2-minute presentations on each topic. Displays and presentations can include text, visual, and musical components. The culminating purpose of the activity is to use the displays/presentations as teaching and learning tools and to share information among classmates to broaden their knowledge and understanding of these two jazz styles.
Support • Connections • Resources
- Jazz: A Film by Ken Burns, video/DVD of the program shown on PBS
- Jazz web site at www.pbs.org/jazz (general source materials connected to the PBS series)
- All About Jazz web site at www.allaboutjazz.com (history of jazz, timeline)
- Hasse, John Edward, ed. Jazz: The First Century. New York: William Morrow/Harper Collins, 2000. (See especially Chapters 1-3 and “100 Essential Jazz Albums.”)
- Gioia, Ted. The History of Jazz. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.
- Shipton, Alyn. A New History of Jazz. Continuum, 2001.
- Ward, Geoffrey C. and Ken Burns. Jazz: A History of American Music. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000. (book accompanying the PBS series)
- Jazz: The Story of American Music (a set of five CDs accompanying the PBS series), Sony Music/Verve Music Group, 2000.
Writing To Communicate
Have students write feature articles for the school paper or a community paper about the recent renewed interest in swing music. They may use findings from their research and/or interview students or musicians.
Applications Across the Curriculum
Have students research famous jazz/swing/ragtime musicians and write a script for a monologue delivered by the selected musician.
Have students research the role and popularity of swing music during World War II. How did the music connect to the war? Why was the music popular with soldiers and with those left on the homefront? Who were the most popular performers? Have the class listen to exemplary tunes from the period.
The Performance Assessment is also a great opportunity to discuss elements of drama, performance, and production.
Open Response Assessment
Prompt: Swing music, unlike ragtime, enjoyed a resurgence of popularity among young people in the late 1990s.
Directions: Suggest and defend several reasons which might account for the recent renewed interest in swing music and swing culture, particularly among young people.
Open Response Scoring Guide
|Student demonstrates extensive knowledge of concepts, vocabulary, and historical/cultural context of the art form and applies this knowledge consistently and effectively. Student communicates this knowledge and understanding effectively, with insightful use of supporting examples and/or details.
|Student demonstrates broad knowledge of concepts, vocabulary, and historical/cultural context of the art form and applies this knowledge effectively. Student communicates this knowledge and understanding effectively, using supporting examples and/or details.
|Student demonstrates basic knowledge of concepts, vocabulary, and historical/cultural context of the art form and applies this knowledge effectively. Student communicates this knowledge and understanding effectively, using some supporting examples and/or details.
|Student demonstrates limited knowledge of concepts, vocabulary, and historical/cultural context of the art form and makes inappropriate or underdeveloped application of this knowledge. Student communicates this knowledge ineffectively, with few or no supporting examples and/or details.
|Student offers blank or irrelevant response.
Performance Event: Create and deliver a first-person monologue about a jazz personality.
Directions: Compose a script based on information about the life and music of a figure associated with ragtime or swing music. Study the script and use the first-person persona to deliver it. Use recorded music in the style associated with your jazz personality to enrich the performance.
Performance Scoring Guide
|Student writes and delivers monologue effectively, exhibiting extensive understanding of the elements and/or design principles of the art form. Student demonstrates extensive critical thinking skills and creativity in completing the assignment. Student completes all aspects of the task in an incisive and thorough manner.
|Student writes and delivers monologue effectively, exhibiting broad understanding of the elements and/or design principles of the art form. Student demonstrates broad critical thinking skills and creativity in completing the assignment. Student successfully completes all aspects of the task.
|Student writes and delivers monologue, exhibiting basic understanding of the elements and/or design principles of the art form. Student demonstrates basic use of critical thinking skills and creativity in completing the assignment. Student adequately completes the task.
|Student works on assignment, exhibiting minimal understanding of the elements and/or design principles of the art form. Student demonstrates little or no use of critical thinking skills and creativity. Student minimally completes the task or does not complete all aspects of the task.
|Student shows little or no effort of having attempted to complete the task.