So, let's face it - who HASN'T asked themselves what Andrew Jackson would have had on his playlist?

My 8th Grade American History students have spent the past few weeks getting to know Andrew Jackson - his little personality quirks, his marginal social skills, his flirtations with psychosis, as well as his military triumphs and his invention of modern American politics - and his hypothetical taste in music seemed like an interesting way of framing a discussion of his personality.

[Note - What follows is a really good lesson plan. Needless to say, I didn't come up with it. My Rockstar Music Colleague led me by the hand to come up with something streamlined and elegant - two qualities that don't come easily to me.]
Step One - A Discussion About Playlists

I shared the playlist from my iPod that I listen to when I run with my students. I explained why I have certain songs on this particular list and why, even though there are songs I like better, they don't work well to keep me running. "Eaten By the Monster of Love" is FANTASTIC for running, but I probably wouldn't play it as background music at a dinner party.

I tell them about songs I have bought as gifts on iTunes for friends and colleagues and why I've bought those particular songs for those particular people. I play a few clips from the songs to demonstrate.

Step Two - Picking Songs For Each Other

I had the students break into pairs. I gave them seven or eight minutes to talk to each other about things that they like. The only limitation (aside from school-appropriateness) was that they weren't allowed to discuss music. At the end of that time, I had them tell the class what songs they would pick for their partners and explain why. I played clips of the songs from iTunes.

A couple of the boys were knuckleheads about this and suggested the least appropriate songs possible, but overall, they made interesting choices.
Step Three - Leaving a Message on My Voicemail

I had intrigued my guys by telling them to bring their cell phones to class. Now, I gave them the shortest, easiest homework assignment ever:

Call my voicemail number and tell me three things:
  • Your name
  • A song that Andrew Jackson should have on his iPod
  • Why

My voicemail is actually a GoogleVoice account that lets me download messages as MP3 files. I chose the best of the suggestions, recorded clips of the songs the students suggested and put together a short movie.

As always, your comments are appreciated.

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