A Collaboration of Sites and Sounds: Using Wikis to Catalog Protest Songs
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Protest songs serve as a means to combat social ills and cover a wide array of topics, including racism, sexism, poverty, imperialism, environmental degradation, war, and homophobia. This lesson makes a connection to popular culture by asking students to work in pairs to research and analyze contemporary and historic protest songs. After learning about wikis, each pair posts their analysis of the protest songs to a class wiki, adding graphics, photos, and hyperlinks as desired. The class then works together to organize the entries. Finally, students listen to all of the protest songs and add information and comments to each other's pages.
This lesson works well with a unit focusing on a piece of literature in which a character(s) actively fights for social, political, or economic justice. For example, this lesson can build on a discussion of the issues that Atticus Finch contends with in To Kill a Mockingbird.
Protest Songs: This list from the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty includes protest songs on a variety of topics from a variety of artists.
Protest Song Lyrics Research Guide: students can use this handout to research the lyrics to a protest song, including the song's historical significance and its contemporary connections.
Group Participation Assessment Sheet: Use this rubric to assess students' group participation for any group project.
From Theory to Practice
Meeks and Austin cite group interaction as the catalyst for literacy development. They demonstrate how collaborative projects enable and empower students to learn. This lesson employs the collaborative classroom strategies found in their book, and then extends students' collaborative efforts to a collaborative digital writing space, the wiki.
The open-editing function of wikis leads not only to collaboration, but also to re-conceptualizations of authorship and readership functions. In the democratic world of wikis, its readers also take on the roles of writer, editor, monitor, and arbitrator. By introducing wiki construction and maintenance, this lesson can lead students to a critical analysis of the new spaces in which they read, write, and think.
Common Core Standards
This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.
This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.
NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts
- 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
- 2. Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.
- 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
- 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
- 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
- 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
- 7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
- 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
- 9. Students develop an understanding of and respect for diversity in language use, patterns, and dialects across cultures, ethnic groups, geographic regions, and social roles.
- 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
- 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).
Materials and Technology
- Internet access
- A recording of Kanye West's "Diamonds from Sierra Leone"
- Additional recordings of protest songs (See this List of protest songs from the Protest Songs from the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty)
- "Wiki: Don't Lose That Number" (one copy per student)
- "Make Way for Wikis" (one copy per student)
- Online Self-reflection Checklist
- If your classroom does not have computer access, arrange for class time in the computer lab.
- Look into your administration's policies about students publishing on the Internet. Even if the rules prohibit this practice, many aspects of this lesson can be carried out off-line; the wiki component can be replaced by ideas in the Extensions section.
- Make appropriate copies of the Research Guide, "Make Way for Wikis," "Wiki: Don't Lose That Number," and Group Participation Assessment Sheet.
- Set up a wiki account with third-party server (unless you have some technical knowledge and would rather start one from scratch) such as Wikispaces.
- Visit the example wiki, and bookmark it for instructional use.
- Make copies of the Wiki Rubric for the students.
- Test the Online Self-reflection Checklist on your computers to familiarize yourself with the tool and ensure that you have the Flash plug-in installed. You can download the plug-in from the technical support page.
- work in pairs to critically analyze and examine the lyrics of protest songs.
- identify the social ill/problem the artist is protesting against.
- research information presented in the lyrics.
- build a case for or against the artist's position.
- add their research to the class wiki.
- learn about the collaborative nature of wikis.
- Begin this lesson by playing the chorus of rapper Kanye West's "Diamonds from Sierra Leone." Ideally, students will instantly recognize the track and artist, and even sing along. Before you hand out the materials, ask the class to speculate as to why you played this particular song. Play snippets of other "recognizable" protest songs, including Bob Marley's "Get Up Stand Up," Dave Matthews Band's "Cry Freedom," Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful," and Edwin Starr's "War."
- Ask the students if they can think of any other protest songs.
- Explain that each student will first search the Internet for a protest song (subject to your approval for content and appropriateness). The list at Protest Songs from the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty is a good place to start.
- After students make their decisions, ask them if they are familiar with their song and artist.
- Ask students to share their selections out loud. On the board or chart paper, compile a list of the selected artists and issues these artists are protesting against. Explain that a more detailed compilation will be published on the class wiki.
- Have each student work with a partner to analyze their songs' content and purpose. Students will use the research guide for this part of the assignment.
- Invite students to share their finding with their fellow classmates.
- Encourage students to find the songs they have selected in their own music collection, their family members', or online.
- Pass out copies of the two articles, "Make Way for Wikis" and "Wiki: Don't Lose That Number."
- Allow the students to read the pieces in class.
- Discuss Eric Oatman's "Make Way for Wikis" first. The article provides a good overview of wikis' history, characteristics, benefits, and potential problems.
- Ask the students if they have ever created or edited a wiki. Explain the practicality of using wikis in an educational setting (i.e., the simplicity of creating and managing Websites, the opportunity for project development with Web review, the streamlining of group collaboration, and the ease in which group members' contributions can be tracked).
- Display the example wiki for the class and explore the way the example works so that students have a visual understanding of what they will be working on. This is also a good time to show and discuss the Wiki Rubric so students know what is expected of them in this project.
- Discuss Jennifer Dorroh's "Wikis: Don't Lose That Number." Remind students (and yourself) that even though wikis are potentially wonderful educational tools, they are not without problems.
- Have the students brainstorm other applications, benefits, and problems of wikis not discussed by either article.
- Have students return to their original groups of two. Explain that the class is going to post their responses to the research guide on the pre-established class wiki. For tracking purposes, you will want the students to establish login IDs. However, make sure that they either use pseudonyms or first names only.
- Help students with the technical aspects of uploading information onto the wiki.
- Encourage them to get creative-graphics, pictures, and hyperlinks are all perfectly acceptable. You may want to have some of your tech-savvy students assist those who need extra guidance.
- Once all the responses are loaded onto the Website, direct your students' attention to the wiki on your projected screen. As a class, determine the best way to arrange the entries, whether that's by artists, issues they're protesting against, song names, etc.
- Play the protest songs that students bring in. Using the research prompts as a guide, ask the students to jot down responses to the songs they listen to. Encourage them to add their comments to the ones already posted on the class wiki. Furthermore, encourage them to add to and edit their entries in the future.
- Remind the class that the best wikis are the ones that are constantly being taken care of and tinkered with.
- For homework, ask the students to complete the Group Participation Assessment Sheet and the Online Self-reflection Checklist (if a student does not have Internet access at home, this form can be completed later on at school).
- Students can write their own protest songs. They would identify issues that they deem worthy of protest and then compose lyrics that bring those issues to light. These too could be added to the class wiki.
- There has been a lot of news lately about blogs and students. Blogs and wikis are cousins in the new media family. They both have similar design elements and collaborative components. However, wikis have escaped the type of scrutiny blogs currently face in school districts across the country. Have the students hypothesize as to why this is the case. Ask them to draw up the similarities and differences between wikis and blogs. This is a great time to introduce the concepts of content, form, arrangement of entries, search mechanisms, authority, and classroom possibilities.
Student Assessment / Reflections
Students can be assessed through their song responses, class discussion, and group participation. They are to complete both the group participation assessment sheet and the Online Self-reflection Checklist. Carefully review the students’ comments, and provide appropriate feedback on their participation with this lesson. In addition, use the Wiki Rubric to assess student participation in the class project. If you are teaching this lesson for the first time, make sure to get student input as to the strengths and weaknesses of the assignment.