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Explore lesson plans and video to accompany the PBS series, Soundbreaking: Stories from the Cutting Edge of Recorded Music.

TeachRock has partnered with PBS, Higher Ground and Show of Force to create these lesson plans for the eight-part Soundbreaking series. These lessons are tailored for students in social studies, language arts, geography, science, and general music classes. Each lesson includes clips from the Soundbreaking series, archival photography, period advertising and journalism, and activities for students to experience the music-making firsthand.

The TeachRock project is an online educational resource from the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation. See, where these materials and more are available free-of-charge to students and teachers everywhere.

  • The Beat as an Object of Celebration and Concern | Lesson Plan | Soundbreaking

    Little Richard singing into microphone playing piano

    The beat is the unmistakable rhythm in music. Student investigate some of the ways listeners feel and relate to rhythms, the language used to describe “the beat,” and the manners in which rhythms connect to the past and seem to anticipate the future. The beat was a concern in 1950s America and again a concern for some, when Gangsta Rap began to dominate the Billboard charts. This lesson gets to the heart of the conflicts that arise as particular rhythms get made, released, listened to, and loved.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • Humanity's Beats: How Rhythms Represent People and Place | Lesson Plan | Soundbreaking

    Jitterbugging in juke joint outside Clarksdale Miss Nov 1939

    Student can explore the beat of popular music and what it means to call music “Afro-Cuban” “Afro-Caribbean,” or more broadly, “African-American.” Students will use Soundbreaking clips of Santana and Beyoncé and the Soundbreaking Rhythmic Layers TechTools to locate in American popular music influences stemming from the African-American church, Latin America and West Africa. Students will also explore the ways “the beat” of this music has, to some, been perceived as “dangerous” while, for others, it may have challenged racism and segregation, bringing people from varied ethnic groups and lifestyles together in ways that words and laws could not.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • Describing the Beat of Little Richard | Soundbreaking

    Examine the “visceral power” of the beat in Little Richard's music, described as “contagious” and deeply rooted in the musical traditions of New Orleans in this clip from Soundbreaking.
    Grades: 9-12
  • Gospel Music of the Southern US | Soundbreaking

    Writers Jason King and Todd Boyd make connections between gospel music and rock and roll, specifically, how the beat physically inspires church and concert goers alike to dance, in this clip from Soundbreaking.
    Grades: 9-12
  • Pat Boone's 'Tutti Frutti' | Soundbreaking

    Pat Boone’s cover of Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti” serves as an example of white musicians performing black musicians' songs, often in an effort to appeal to a more white, middle class audience seen in this clip from Soundbreaking.
    Grades: 9-12
  • Santana and Latin Rock | Soundbreaking

    The arrival of musician Carlos Santana marked the innovative merging of rock guitar, electric blues, and Latin rhythms, thus producing a new subgenre of rock and roll. Learn about it in the clip from Soundbreaking.
    Grades: 9-12
  • Single Ladies and the Church | Soundbreaking

    The-Dream and Trickey Stewart describe the creation of Beyoncé's hit song, "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" and howthe "clapping" track over the principal beat of the song was inspired by Southern church music in this clip from Soundbreaking.
    Grades: 9-12
  • The Beat Throughout American Popular Music History | Soundbreaking

    Musicians describe the importance of "the beat" to our physical and emotional response to music, from the beginnings of Rock and Roll to modern Electronic Dance Music, in this Soundbreaking clip.
    Grades: 9-12
  • The Santana Drum Break | Soundbreaking

    Santana performed at the Woodstock in 1969, utilizing a hybrid of rock and Latin percussion instruments. Learn about this method in this clip from Soundbreaking.
    Grades: 9-12