For the 2015-16 school year, the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation has partnered with 11 educators who we selected to participate in the Rock and Roll: An American Story pilot program. The teachers span middle school, high school, and the university level, teaching in seven states including New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Ohio, Colorado, and California. All teachers are leading either a semester-length or yearlong course using the Rock and Roll: An American Story (RRAS) curriculum.
We recently interviewed Adam Daley, one of our pilot educators from the Torrance Unified School District in Southern California. Daley teaches a seventh-grade Fine Arts elective titled "Rock and Roll: An American Story."
When did you begin teaching Rock and Roll: An American Story (RRAS) in your classroom?
Adam Daley: I had a four-week pilot class that I ran the summer of 2015 with a small group of students during a summer school session. This allowed me to look through Book 1 in the program and see how students would react to the class. Overall it was a positive experience and allowed me to secure a year-long elective for the seventh grade class at my school site.
What has been the greatest strength of incorporating RRAS lessons into your courses?
AD: Ease of lesson plans, and accessibility. I get the plans and run with them, and the layout you have established is phenomenal. As a teacher, when lessons are organized in such a manner as RRAS lessons are, it makes planning much easier. And I can seamlessly incorporate the lessons into the classroom using the technology that we have at our school site.
Is there a specific lesson or discussion that particularly engaged your students? How so?
AD: I have had great engagement thus far. We finished our guitar timelines at the end of quarter one (see image below), and most students were interested in that. So much of the music is brand new to my students, so anytime we are listening to music they are engaged. I have been compiling Spotify playlists that go along with each chapter as well, and we listen to those throughout the week.
The short clips that align with the lessons are great. We have already watched Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Howlin' Wolf, Johnny Cash, LaVern Baker, Buddy Holly, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and many more in the first quarter of the school year. We also have been reading with elbow partners the great articles that go along with many of the artists. Connections to the Common Core Learning Standards are great, too. In Rock and Roll and the American Dream, we analyzed the passages by Horatio Alger Jr. and John Steinbeck and had discussions about the American Dream.
We are currently wrapping up Book 1: The Birth of Rock with the Birth of the American Teenager lesson. We have had great discussions the past week about teenagers, relationships with their parents, and the music that they listened to in the 1950s, as well as today. We have also discussed how the American teenager became a new consumer demographic in the 1950s, which we relate to today's fairly new tween market.
What are some ways you've innovated or added onto the lessons?
AD: I grade and assess students by having them complete assignments in personal work books (see image below). The first few pages of their notebooks are reserved for “playlists” where students curate their own personal playlist based on artists they’ve learned about in class and new ones they’ve discovered through research and extension activities. My class will also be conducting a physics lesson later in the course where the students will build a single-string electric guitar.
Do you have any advice to a teacher just starting to use the RRAS curriculum?
AD: Dive into the lessons. There are so many resources available — start picking and choosing ones you feel would interest your classes. I am fortunate to have the time this year to cover the entire curriculum. If you do not have this time, the website is arranged so that you can choose any lesson and/or chapter from a book and present it to a class. There are warm-up ideas, extension activities, summary lessons, and all are aligned to national teaching standards. All the work is done for you. You just need to start picking and choosing, and delivering to you students. It’s a great course, and kids love it.
Photos: Examples of student work from Adam Daley's classroom, including a timeline from The Birth of the Electric Guitar, a museum poster from the Chuck Berry lesson, and a scrapbook entry from The Blues: The Sound of Rural Poverty.