This first chapter focuses on some general themes that will recur in this study of Rock and Roll’s history, while also introducing a range of teaching tools and media resources that will help educators explore those themes. Here we get into the practical issues surrounding the study of Rock and Roll and less so into the specifics of any one period and/or artistic trend. As such, the content differs in character and style from that in the chapters that follow. You might consider this chapter closer in spirit to a teacher's toolkit, a section geared toward teaching issues and strategies relating to studying popular music in the classroom. 

Among the ideas that are the backbone of this project, a few are key and deserve attention. First, Rock and Roll is experienced as much more than music. It is a sound culture, of course, but it’s also a visual culture, a literary culture, a fashion culture, a political culture, a dance culture, and more. Put another way, the listener is always also a viewer, a thinker, a "reader," a dancer, and so forth. Music is experienced at all those levels, and we believe that’s how it should be studied, as the truly interdisciplinary object it is. For this reason, the various support materials, from the videos supplied by partners such as Reelin' in the Years and ABC NewSource to the various samples of music writing supplied by Rock's Backpages, are crucial contributions. The rich archival materials drawn from these partners' celebrated collections are a portal onto history — history that is certainly about far more than music alone. Following on this, it is our belief that music tells us too much about the world in which it was made to be explored in music departments alone. Our hope is that we can play some role in helping to bring music into a range of classroom situations, encouraging teachers to explore collaborative possibilities and encouraging students to take what they learn and create something of their own, fostering schoolwide conversations about a culture that changed the world.

It should be said, of course, that even the best lesson plan is at rest until a teacher makes it walk and talk. Our aim is to present a curriculum that invites creative pedagogy, that welcomes educators to "remix" the materials on offer. To that end, we often include an abundance of resources with any one lesson, certainly more than a teacher will need for a single class session. Picking and choosing a pathway through, teachers will find that they are indeed creating something singular as they make their way. In the "For Teachers" section, highlighted in the menu above, there is a deeper discussion of such possibilities, together with tools for the educator. We strongly suggest that teachers make use of this section and become part of the community that will grow up in and around it.

Finally, whether you are a teacher, a student, an independent scholar, a musician, a fan, or simply driven by curiosity, you are a part of the conversation. No matter your reasons for exploring this website, there should be something that will provoke a response, coax you to go deeper. The content will continue to grow over the course of the project's lifetime, which we hope will be long. Regular additions of historical materials, video interviews, essays, and more, together with new lesson plans, will make this an ever-changing website. Come back when you can. And stay tuned.

View More


View Lesson

How to Study Rock and Roll

How can teachers help students analyze and understand Rock and Roll?
View Lesson

Thematic Lesson: Love Songs

Why is the Pop song such a common medium for expressing feelings about love, and how do individual songs relate to their historical moments?