Making Curriculum Pop

CURRICULUM: Ben Harper Sounds & Visions + MLK & CIvil Rights

I sent a broadcast e-mail about this in September '09 but thought I'd give the materials a permanent home at MC POP. Since Martin Luther King is featured in the study guide and MLK day is monday, I thought it would be timely. Besides that, if I don't share this resource it might just sit out there on the web not being used by cool teachers like you!

"Back in the day" Mindblue partnered with Ben Harper & Virgin Records to create a curriculum for a bunch of Ben Harper tunes. Ben's music is extremely literate. Ben is a mix of Bob Dylan, Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix. The PDF is 20 pages and, outstanding one love song, all the tracks deal with political/civil rights issues. I think the most interesting lesson is about Rodney King and Martin Luther King for the complex song, "Like a King." It was challenging for us to write the Rodney King part of the study guide in a way that accurately portrayed the complexities of the situation.

At any rate, It is really strong collection for 5-12 grade English and Social Studies teachers.

The study guide can be downloaded (totally free) here:

You can buy the Ben Harper songs that go with the study guide from a playlist we created over at iTunes.

Of note - Ben did a stunning interpretation of Maya Angelou's very famous poem "Still I Rise." We were unable to license the poem/lyrics for the actual PDF but we mention of the song & Ben's connection with Maya in the PDF. Ben's beautiful cover of the poem (and the other tracks from the PDF) is included in the playlist at iTunes.

The Angelou poem/Ben lyrics are all over the web.

Here's a medium (audio) quality version of song for you to check a pretty moving number. In the 90's Ben would close his shows with this song, fist in the air...

Here's a video for Ben's newest single (2009) "Fly One Time" - also very teachable...

In addition to the Mindblue study guides we sell with differentiated lesson plans you can find more cool rock and roll lesson plans at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame & Museum Summer Teacher Institute Archive. They have a solid collection of lessons on a large range of topics, disciplines and grade levels.

The archive Includes a lesson for a series of rap tracks related to the same Angelou poem.

If any of you end up using the Ben Harper materials, I'd love to know if they were useful and how you used them!

Good Vibes,


MLK & Media Literacy (New Educational Resource)

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Replies to This Discussion

Hi Ryan, Thanks for the great ideas for MLK day. I used one of the short video clips from Project Look Sharp on YouTube (the one that showed clips from "The Freedom Writers' Diary") to lead into why celebrating MLK is important. I then paired it with the Harper video/song "I'll Rise" and discussed the poem's use of literary terms and why the tone is effective to the message. We then discussed how "I'll Rise" applies to other literature. Hester Prynne was brought up, as well as Atticus Finch, and we made lots of connections to our personal lives. Overall the students liked the videos, however those that listen to Harper were not aware of this song and voiced their opinions about their dislike for this one. I however really enjoyed the song! Thanks for shining a light on it for me.
Katie, sounds like you made some great connections and were really able to remix the materials in a way that really worked for your crew. Kids are fickle like that about the tunes, eh? I can see where it is a bit out of the box in terms of the Ben Harper they might know - I do have to say, personally, I think it is a stunning song, primarily for the tone he captures as you and your class discussed.

Thanks as always for sharing!




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