Musical Heritage

GRADE: K-2, 3-5
SUBJECT: Culture
TOPIC: Body Percussion, Song, Dance
DISCIPLINE: Music General


In this lesson, students will explore their musical heritage. Students will take a journey through Sunpie Barnes’s musical heritage then express their own musical heritage through song, dance, instruments, or a media presentation. 



  • Infer meaning through musical experiences.
  • Identify songs connected to their family or heritage.
  • Present their musical heritage with song, dance, an instrument, or media.
  • Present or perform for an audience. 



National Core Arts Standards

Music – Anchor Standard 2 Organize and develop artistic ideas and work. 

Music – Anchor Standard 11 Relate artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural, and historical context to deepen understanding.

Common Core State Standards

ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.3 Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.

Social-Emotional Growth Skills:

  • Students will strengthen their self-perception through their own musical heritage.
  • Students will identify and explore the emotions accompanying the various music.
  • Note SEAL Soundbites where additional social-emotional growth skills are worthy of a small conversation.



Teachers should pre-select a song representative of their musical heritage to share with the class. Ensure the version of the song is age and school appropriate. Bring family pictures to share with the class and be prepared to describe the connection between the song and your personal heritage. The song can relate to a historical event, special occasion, holiday, celebration, place of worship, or just a song rooted in tradition.





  1. Create a class list of things people pass on from generation to generation (photos, clothes, jewelry, etc.). Give students examples of something passed on from your own family or cultural heritage that you plan to pass on to the next generation and and describe the emotions you feel because of that.


  1. Play the video “Fox Chase” from slide 3 of the presentation Musical Heritage. Tell students the performance is by Sunpie Barnes. Ask: What is Sunpie doing in the video? What emotions do you see in Sunpie as he talks and plays? What do you see or hear that could be passed on to a new generation? How can music be a part of your heritage?


  1. Introduce students to Sunpie’s Musical Heritage on slide 5. When Barnes says, “Those rhythms became rhythms that were like ingrained in me. Basically, the metronome for who you are. And you don’t really think about it and know it, you’re just a part of it.” Ask: What do you think this means? How can music be a part of you?


  1. Distribute the Music Map resource to students. Model for students how to identify music they listen to with their family (in the car, on holidays, special occasions, places of worship, one rooted in a family tradition, or your culture, etc.). Ask: What is the social context? How does the music relate to the people you are with? How does the music help shape your relationship with them? What is the music that has helped shape you?


  1. Show students the video, Musical Heritage: Sunpie Plays the Accordion. Generate a class list of instruments with students that have special meaning to them. For example, instruments that have family ties (aunts, grandparents, themselves, a friend, etc.). If students do have family members or friends that play instruments, have them think about instruments played in the song they listed on their Music Map. 


  1. Ask students to go home and discuss meaningful music related to their family. 



  1. Tell students they are going to participate in the My Musical Heritage project. Share with students your musical heritage, modeling how to use the planner. Model for students the process you went through to identify a song and select an art form. Did you immediately know which song to pick, or did you confer with your family? How did you find the song? Give students background on the song. Explain how it makes you feel when you listen to the song. Model for students how to select an art form. Did you choose an art form you are comfortable with or a new one you wanted to try?


  1. Distribute the My Musical Heritage planner to students. Offer students the option to take the planner home to discuss with their family. Review each step and the art form options. Sing the verse and chorus of a song.
    • Play the song and use body percussion to accompany the rhythm.
    • Choreograph a sequence of dance movements. Note: Adaptive movement option for students with disabilities can be found in the Adaptive Movements Guide.
    • Perform a song on an instrument (students can use adaptive instruments, such as pencils, balloons, cans, paper cups, etc.). Note: Adaptive instrument options for students with disabilities can be found in the Adaptive Instruments, Tools, and Applications Guide.
    • Create a media presentation sharing the song and facts related to your heritage.


  1. Share the “Criteria for Success” on slide 9:
    • Choose a song that represents your musical heritage.
    • Provide details supporting your song choice and thought process. Be sure to include why this song is important and what emotions it brings up for you.
    • Gather information and artifacts about the song and possible family/friend history.
    • Express your musical heritage through an art form. 


  1. Allow time for students to work on their projects. Facilitate through the room supporting students. Students can bring artifacts, photos, or invite family/friends to present with them. *SEAL Soundbite – this step taps into self-management skills including goal setting and organizing. Consider supporting your students’ work with these questions: Who/what can help you organize this/find resources? How much time should you set aside to do each task? Can you make a list of ideas of what you need to do and prioritize them?


  1. Have students rehearse their presentations. Ensure students have the appropriate technology and space to present or perform. 



  1. Have students present and perform their musical heritage to the class. Evaluate students based on the Criteria for Success. 


  1. Invite students to discuss the performances and/or presentations. Students can ask questions, make connections, or share positive comments. 



Used with permission. Portions of this work are based on the National Core Arts Standards Copyright © 2015 National Coalition for Core Arts Standards/All Rights Reserved – Rights Administered by SEADAE.

© Copyright 2010. National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and Council of Chief State School Officers. All rights reserved.

Sunpie Barnes, Curriculum Developer and Music Artist Liaison
JoDee Scissors, Content Producer
Elizabeth Peterson, Social and Emotional Artistic Learning (SEAL) Consultant



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