Lesson Plan, Grades 11-12, Adaptable for Grades 6 & up

        Geography and World Music
Steve Niederhauser
Thetford Academy


Introduction: These activities demonstrate several uses of recorded music from around the world.  Students at all grade levels learn about places and regions (in the full geographical sense) by listening to and analyzing world music.

Objectives: The students will demonstrate
(1) the ability to identify, contrast and compare the music of different places and regions, and
(2) the ability to recognize music as a resource for information about places and regions.

Geographic Themes: Place, and Regions

National Geography Standards:  

Number 6 (how culture and experience influence perception of  places and region), and
Number 10 (the characteristics, distribution, and complexity of Earth's cultural mosaics)

State Geography Standard: State standard number 6.7 (geographical knowledge)

Time: 2 class periods

(1) two CD players

(2) CDs

        Set One:

1. Sukay Instrumental: Music of the Andes (Flying Fish Records, 1988, FF 70108)

2. Frankie Gavin: Frankie Goes to Town (Green Linnet Records, 1991, GLCD 3051)

3. Polkas from Poland (Polskie Nagrania, 1989, PNCD 023)

4. China: Music of the Pipa; Lui Pui, Pipa, (Elektra Nonesuch, 1980, 9 72085-2)

5. 96 In the Shade: Various Artists (Mango Records, 1989, CCD 9843)

        Set Two:

1. Mouth Music (Rykodisc, 1991, RCD 10196)

2. Vujicsics (Hannibal Records (UK), 1988, HNCD 1310)

3. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan - Qawwal and Party: Shahen-Shah (Real World Records, 1989, 2-91300)

4. Buena Vista Social Club (World Circuit/Nonesuch Records, 1997, 79478-2)

5. Ana Gabriel: Joyas de Dos Siglos (Sony, 1965, CDZ-81678 / 2-47982)

(3) two world political outline maps for each student, each with five countries marked A, B, C, D, and E (see activity answers below for which countries to mark)  
Click Here for Set 1 Map.

(4) blackboard and chalk


(1) Distribute the first map and give directions for the exercise.

(2) Play music selections from each of the five countries in Set One, introducing each selection only as 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5.

(3) Students listen to each music selection known only as 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.

(4) Students label each lettered country with the number of the music selection that they think is associated with that country.

(5) Students label the name of each of the five countries (optional).

(6) Announce the correct answers and informally tabulate results.

(7) Discuss with students how they arrived at their answers.

(8) List their means of identification and musical characteristics of selections on the board (see notes to teachers).

(9) Ask students what the music tells us about the place or region.

(10) Lead an inductive discussion to explore cultural bias and relativism.

(11) Replay the selections and explain, analyze, or elaborate on the musical/cultural/historic characteristics of the selections.

(12) At another class meeting, repeat the procedure with Set Two of the CDs using different music and maps.  (Set Two is trickier than Set One, and designed to generate discussion.)


Assessment: At a later time, students create geographic presentations that incorporate regional music.

To Adapt for Younger Grades: Either do two or three selections (instead of five), or only use Set One of the CDs (which is more obvious than Set Two).

Activity Answers

  Set One:

1. D Bolivia, Sukay - "Yayakarwi"

2. E Ireland, Frankie Gavin (fiddle) - "John McKenna's Reels"

3. B Poland, Szczesliwa Trznastka (the Lucky Thirteen) - "Dziadek" (Grandpa)

4. C China, Lui Pui-yuen (pipa) - "Shi mian mai fu" (Ambuscade from Ten Sides)

5. A Jamaica, Heptones - "Book of Rules"

  Set Two:

1. C Scotland, Talitha MacKenzie - "I Bhi a da"

2. D Hungary, Vujicsics - "Sviraj Zlatol"

3  A Pakistan, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan - "Shamas-ud-Doha"

4. E Cuba, Orquestra Reve - "Runidera"

5. B Mexico, Ana Gabriel - "Un Viejo Amor"


Notes and Suggestions for Teachers
for Geography and World Music

1. The means students may use to identify the regions of the music selections may include the language in which the song is sung, the pitch and style of the singer, the kind of instruments used, the musical form, and the types of melodies, rhythms, and harmonies.  What is the general "feel" of a particular selection?

2. This activity may, of course, be altered or focused in many ways.  This activity could also be used to teach, for example, places and regions within the United States: New Orleans jazz, Detroit's Motown, the Upper South's Bluegrass, L.A. Rap, etc.  Or, for students studying Ireland, the various fiddle styles of that region could be mapped.

3. A single music selection played at the beginning of each class is an excellent way to settle down and focus students.  That selection could relate to the day's lesson plan (or not).

4. Teachers must know something about the music they're presenting.  Often, adequate background information can be gained simply from the liner notes.

5. Care must be taken not to give the impression that everyone in a particular region listens to or plays one kind of music.  In fact, this or similar music activities are an excellent way to teach cultural diffusion.  For instance, have students listen to rock'n'roll from Japan, or, better yet, reggae from Hungary!

6. Tell students that they are not expected to like the music.  Kids are used to placing immediate value judgments on music, so let them know they're listening to it in order to gain geographical information, not because they should go out and buy it.  You may hear a few "This sucks!" at first, but after a few regular listening activities, students usually begin to exhibit more interest.

7. Unless you're playing just one selection, use CDs.  Don't lose your class by having to fish for the next selection on a tape.  With CDs, you can end a selection whenever you want and go immediately to the next.  This brings up the best technique of all: use two CD players.  You'll move seamlessly from one CD to the next just like a real disk jockey!  Or try handing your play list to a student DJ.