Music ed book review: Mark Ammons’ “Amercian Popular Music” Activity Book

Sometimes you need a worksheet that all your students can complete when you’re not there or a simple homework assignment that will give students some background information before class. Dr. Mark Ammons’ “American Popular Music” from Mark Twain Media Publishing is a great resource for you.


What I like:

The assignments are really short – a single page of reading and a single page of response – but provide a great amount of background information. I have used these as bellwork and homework assignments to give my students a general background in a topic before we doing a listening, watch a video, or listen to a lecture. The fully reproducible worksheets cover music topics from the 1800s to the 1990s. The price is pretty great, too, at around ten bucks.

What I don’t like:

These readings are very basic. My advanced eight grade students can complete most of the assignments in 5 to 10 minutes. They don’t ask the students to think or do music. It is a purely informational text. My biggest pet peeve, though, is some of the judgmental language used, specifically when talking about drugs and alcohol use. (This can be understood in context of Dr. Ammons’ affiliation with Brigham Young University.) I don’t usually talk about those substances in my class, but lines like “some people had to ruin the fun by using illegal drugs” when discussing Woodstock crosses the line, in my opinion.


I use these worksheets for a large chunk of my class and fill in the holes with materials I create. That’s the book in a nutshell; as long as you use these materials as a supplement rather than the backbone of your music curriculum, you’ll be happy. The price is right and all of your students can succeed with them. If you teach the history of popular music, Mark Ammons’ American Popular Music should 100% be in your library. Just remember to create, perform, and respond, too.

You can buy it directly from the publisher’s website or find it on Amazon.

images (1) @MattWarrenMusic

Music ed book review: Mark Ammons’ “Amercian Popular Music” Activity Book

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