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Woody Guthrie Elementary School Curriculum
MUSIC: Family Night Woody Sing-Along
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Woody and Kids, Photo (c) Time Life

Introduction

As teachers we constantly speak about "creating a community of learners". What better way to build community than to gather each day to sing Woody Guthrie songs!

Some classes may open each day by singing "Howdi Do", one of Woody's songs written specifically for children. Some classes may close the end of each day with, "So Long It's Been Good to Know Yuh." Throughout the day, look for a time to sing and learn Woody's songs as part of this thematic unit. As you tie in the songs with aspects of social studies, language arts or science the children will develop a large repertoire of Woody songs they know by heart. Similar to whole group read-aloud, whole group singing after lunch is another way to build community.

Students can take turns working the CD player, keeping a gentle background of Woody Guthrie music as part of the classroom environment.


Woody, with his back to the camera, plays for workers in California
Photo by Seema Weatherwax

 

Getting Started

Part of Woody Guthrie's legacy is his role as songmaker for the people. He often sang at migrant worker camps, public parks, union meetings and political gatherings. Children can read Bonnie Christensen's book, Woody Guthrie: Poet of the People, telling how Woody shared his message through song.

From the Shafter Farm Workers Community in California to the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee to striking workers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Woody brought truth and enthusiasm to the cause with his wonderful lyrics. Get the people singing in your school by hosting a Family Night Sing-Along.

 

Activity

Plan a Family Night Woody Guthrie Sing-Along with your class. Children can make posters embellished with their own drawings of Woody with titles of songs. Use the posters to advertise, making it either a classroom evening or a school-wide event. Put out the word in your own classroom newsletter inviting parents, grandparents and siblings.

Brainstorm with your class all the titles of Woody Guthrie songs they want to sing that night. Invite a guitar player and other musicians to come and provide live music as the families sing. Utilize a parent or members from the community to be musicians. Or use the CD player. Make overhead transparencies of the words so everyone will be able to sing along. This is a great culminating event for the end of your study of Woody Guthrie. Be sure to take photos for the children's portfolios.

 

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