Teacher Review for Smithsonian Folkways

More than just music-rich cultural learning resources

Cameron M.
Technology coordinator
Hoover City Schools
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My Rating
Learning Scores
My Students Liked It Yes
My Students Learned Yes
I Would Recommend It Yes
Setup Time Less than 5 minutes
Great for Creation
Further application
Knowledge gain
Small group
Student-driven work
Teacher-led lessons
Whole class
Great with Advanced learners
How I Use It
This site is a great supplement to help students understand and really dig into the culture of different countries by learning about the music and traditions of places around the world. It also offers an oral history interviewing guide to help students collect stories of history, culture, and tradition from their own communities. The guide is online and can also be downloaded as a PDF. There is a lot of text in the guide so you may offer a screen reader app for younger students to understand the questions that they might ask in an oral history project. You also might go over the guide as a class discussing the process before releasing students to complete this project. The Soundscapes section allows students to hear powerful recordings of the spoken word. For example, under the African American Spoken Word section, students can hear excerpts from Martin Luther King, Jr's. "I have a dream" speech. Students are engaged when using the materials as they typically enjoy multimedia tools. They also seemed to enjoy the interactive parts of the site such as the Jazz Education interactive website. You need to give students time to explore the site and then guide them to the specific task you want them to complete. The site is vast and they could get lost in the many options. Show them how to browse by keyword, country, or genre. Know that there are costs to download full versions of the sound files but students can listen to an excerpt of each to get an idea of the type of music from a region or culture. You might consider offering specific links to portions of the site you want them to use for your lesson.
My Take
The Smithsonian Folkways site is well organized with rich resources. Students and teachers can search for resources by country, genre, or keywords. There are powerful recordings offered that can allow rich discussions on history and culture. You can use these as starting points for discussions and comparisons to our world today. There are an abundance of lesson plans and resources for teachers. You can choose the lesson plans from an interactive map. They are all downloadable in PDF format. Many of the lessons involve lessons for music classes and students but there are also lessons that involve history and cultural awareness. Use the site as a supplement when learning about various times in history or various cultures. Know that some parts of the site are not free. For example, if you want to hear a native american medicine song you can hear an excerpt but would need to pay around 99 cents to download the full version. However, there are many free resources available. Take some time to browse. The oral histories section is vast. For example, you can hear commentary from Eugene Allen, a butler at the white house talking about First Lady Nancy Reagan. The site contains such a vast array of primary resources that you will need to allow a good bit of time to explore it all However, the search tools should help you find what you need. Also, from the site, it reads that you can "Find Smithsonian Folkways Tools for Teaching at iTunes U. Download free lesson plans, videos, activities, and other great educational resources - or subscribe to get automatic updates." This is site is rich with resources so take advantage and give your students the gift of introducing them to it.