Harlem Renaissance Music Lesson Plan

Instructor: Suzanne Rose

Suzanne has taught all levels PK-graduate school and has a PhD in Instructional Systems Design. She currently teachers literacy courses to preservice and inservice teachers.

Activities in this lesson plan involve students in the study of the music of the Harlem Renaissance. Students learn about famous musicians and create multimedia presentations to share this information with their classmates.

Learning Objectives

As a result of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • identify jazz as a new style of music developed during the Harlem Renaissance
  • define 'renaissance' and relate this definition to 'Harlem Renaissance'
  • list famous Harlem Renaissance musicians and state biographical information about each one
  • appreciate the contributions of Harlem Renaissance musicians


60-90 minutes, plus time at a later date for presentations

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.4

Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.7

Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.WHST.6-8.6

Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and present the relationships between information and ideas clearly and efficiently.

Materials Needed

  • Recordings of music by Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, and Ella Fitzgerald
  • Projector or SMART Board to display the lesson
  • Printed copies of the 'Harlem Renaissance Music: Artists & History' (1 copy per student)
  • Printed copies of the 'Harlem Renaissance Music: Artists & History Quiz' (1 copy per student)
  • Computer with presentation software, such as PowerPoint (student access)


  • As the students enter the classroom, play the music of one of the featured musicians in the lesson.
  • Ask the students if any of them recognized the music that was playing. Tell them that they are going to learn about the Harlem Renaissance, focusing on music.
  • Ask the students what 'renaissance' means. Compare it to 'The Renaissance,' which they may know about. Explain that the Renaissance was a rebirth of the arts, sciences, and literature after the Dark Ages. Ask what they think the 'Harlem Renaissance' might be.
  • Display the lesson, Harlem Renaissance Music: Artists & History using a projector.
  • Read aloud the first section of the lesson, 'An Explosion of the Arts,' while the students read along silently.
  • Discuss this section with the students, using questions such as:
    • Where is Harlem?
    • When was the Harlem Renaissance?
    • What was the population of Harlem at that time?
    • Who were some African American artists and writers who were part of the Harlem Renaissance? What do you know about them?
    • What new style of music emerged from the Harlem Renaissance?

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