History of Jazz Lesson Plan

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

With this lesson plan, your students will learn about the early history of jazz. They will apply this knowledge by curating their own musical exhibits on jazz history.

Learning Objective

Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Identify major influences on the early development of jazz
  • Demonstrate the link between early influences and developed jazz through selected musical compositions
  • Locate the development of jazz within American history


90-120 minutes

Curriculum Standards


Introduce a topic; organize complex ideas, concepts, and information so that each new element builds on that which precedes it to create a unified whole; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., figures, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.


Develop the topic thoroughly by selecting the most significant and relevant facts, extended definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples appropriate to the audience's knowledge of the topic.


Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.


  • Printed copies of the lesson quiz
  • Access to internet and/or jazz audio files


  • Begin class by asking students what they know about jazz.
    • How do you define jazz? What are the critical elements of jazz? What does jazz mean to you? Is that definition the same for everybody?
  • Begin the video lesson What is Jazz? - History, Characteristics & Instruments. Pause at 2:45 and discuss:
    • Where did jazz music originate? With which population?
    • What are some of the major influences on jazz? How do you think each one impacted the development of jazz? Which ones impacted the instrumentation of jazz? How about the rhythms, attitudes, or other elements of jazz?
    • When does jazz seem to have really emerged? What was happening in the United States at that time? What were African-American experiences in the United States like at that time?
  • Resume and complete the video. You may test student understanding with the lesson quiz.

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