by Theresa Kubasak
Woody Guthrie?" a student asked.
"You know, he's the guy who wrote 'This Land is Your Land'," I informed
"Huh...I don't think I ever heard about him."
This curriculum is for Nick and all the other students so they will
come to know the songs, stories and legacy of Woody Guthrie.
storyteller, artist, activist, author, and traveler: Woody Guthrie
wove all of these qualities together, not limiting himself to just
one form of expression. So too, this is the natural way to study
Woody, weaving curriculum thematically, perhaps charting, singing
and writing new verses for "So Long It's Been Good To Know Yuh" in language arts while studying a map of Oklahoma as part of social
studies and researching the human causes of the dust bowl in science.
Although it is possible to separate the different thematic spokes
in this curricular wheel, realize that all of it spins together
just as Woody's own qualities spin together.
shows that if students make connections among what they are asked
to study they will actually learn more. Knowing this, imagine a
thematic lesson on Dorothea Lange based on a thematic approach.
Use the Mike Venezia biography of Dorothea Lange to introduce students
to her work as a photographer who distinguished herself by documenting
the lives of poor people. Examine her images of the dust bowl refugees
taken in the 1930's in California. Simultaneously, trace Route 66
on a map of the United States, following the road most families
traveled. How far is that journey from the dust bowl out to Bakersfield?
Samples of the children's work in Theresa Kubasak's second grade class.
are two ways to study Lange, one as an artist who created beautiful
images and two, as a social justice documentarian. Share Lange's
famous photo of the poor mother and her two children in Nipomo,
CA. Why are the children in the photo starving in the midst of California's
lush "lettuce bowl"? Why does the mother look so haggard and hopeless?
Why are the shelters made of cardboard and junk? What's wrong with
this picture? "Is this land made for you and me?" as Woody Guthrie
you know the following verse of Woody's "This Land is Your Land"?
In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?
It is this side
of Woody Guthrie that is important for students today. He lived
the social justice issues that Lange documented. His music is not
afraid to confront the injustice of the times. Don't be afraid to
share that with your class. Listen to "Do Re Mi" and delve into
the meaning of the verses. Children will love the positive, happy
melody but be challenged by the harsh reality of the chorus. Let
students write their thoughts in their journals or have them write
letters to the editor pretending it's 1939 and they are migrants
from Oklahoma. Then, examine issues confronting farm workers today
in California. What has changed? What remains the same? Write letters
to the editor right now regarding rights of Mexican farm workers
who pick grapes in California wine country.
excellent piece of documentation validating Woody's activism is
a plaque hanging up in the Woody Guthrie Archives from the John
F. Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C. The silver letters proclaim
that this "recognizes the exceptional contributions made by Woody
Guthrie which reflect a deep personal commitment to the struggle
for economic and social justice in America." (June 30, 1980) Besides
the music, this is Woody's legacy.
John F. Kennedy Center Award
these connections take you farther than you want to go, stay at
the level with which you are comfortable. But remember, the connections
among social studies, math, language arts and music are authentically
braided together in this curriculum.
curriculum is designed for children in grades two through four but
may be adapted for other grades. See Classroom
Bibliography regarding resources for shared, guided or independent
an excellent view of a thematic approach to the study of Woody Guthrie,
read Chapter 8, "Research Study: Woody Guthrie" from Paula Rogovin's "The Research Workshop". (Heinemann 2001) A teacher at the
Manhattan New School, Paula captures the energy of inquiry learning
with young children. She also provides a complete list of skills
related to the study of Woody Guthrie on pages 164-166.
Parents view the childrens' work in Theresa's second grade class