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Illustration of a woman voting

[Detail] We'll vote against the terrible men. 1869

Lesson Overview

Throughout American history, popular music has reflected the mood and opinions of the times. By exploring sheet music, students analyze issues related to industrialization and reform to answer the essential question, "How does society respond to change?" Students will have the opportunity to create original lyrics and song covers that reflect the Progressive Era.


Upon completion of this lesson students will be able to:

  • Identify historical events referenced in music.
  • Examine pieces of sheet music and identify context, purpose, and perspective with regard to the political, social, and economic conditions existing at that time.
  • Explore ways music is used to shape public opinion.
  • Create lyrics and music covers for an original song illustrating a topic of the Progressive Era.


Time Required

  • Six classes

Recommended Grade Level

  • 9-12
  • 6-8


  • Arts & Culture
  • City & Regional History


  • Progressive Era to New Era, 1900-1929


Patricia Baron Carlson and Cathy Bonneville Hix