This is the second lesson plan I completed for my music teachable class. This time, we were tasked with planning a five-lesson unit (giving an in-depth plan for one of the five). I was really challenged by the assignment, and drastically changed my plan a number of times. I finally settled on what I regard as a pretty solid concept – what I call an ‘album study.’ The concept of the album study is more or less identical to that of the novel study. That is, a group of learners work together with a text, asking questions and coming to deeper understandings. Rather than a novel, of course, we study an album. I chose Kendrick Lamar’s genius 2015 release To Pimp A Butterfly, but many other albums would work just fine within the format. My other ‘finalists,’ The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill and the Sara Bareilles concept album Waitress, were interesting to me for similar reasons – exploring racism, sexism, abusive relationships, and so on. This social justice/equity focus is extremely important to me, but might not always be possible in all classroom environments (student needs, time, etc.)
In keeping with the democratization of the classroom that I want to work towards, I wouldn’t arbitrarily pick one album to study. Instead, I’d prepare a sort of short list to students, based on their interests. We would then decide as a class what we want to explore. Considering that even the longest albums are generally no more than an hour (unless you’re Kamasi Washington), students could listen to multiple albums repeatedly before we decide on one to explore as a class.
Whether or not I succeeded is not my call, but either way, I learned a lot from it. Plus, who doesn’t like Kendrick Lamar? Again, if you find any of this useful, feel free to use/adapt it in your own educational practice!