Music ed book review: “Top 40 Fun Facts: Rock ‘n’ Roll”

If you’re calling in a sub unexpectedly and need plans for a non-music person or need a filler activity to keep some students busy, you’ll really like this book. Tom Anderson’s Top 40 Fun Facts: Rock ‘n’ Roll is full of worksheets to use in your elementary to early middle school classroom.

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What I like:

The best and most important thing to consider with the $25 price tag is that each activity is fully reproducible. Students can navigate each of the activities on their own without teacher help. It is designed “for substitutes, field trips, and other days when you can’t use your regular curriculum.”

What I don’t like:

Students are going to come away from these activities with very little practical knowledge of popular music. Only a handful of the worksheets provide relevant information while the rest are simple word searches, jumbles, and fill-in-the-blanks. The activities are busy work and $25 is a lot to pay for busy work.

Overall:

I haven’t found much use for this book since I ordered it. When I have sub plans, I like them to be curricular and since these assignments generally cover wide periods of time, they aren’t focused enough to reinforce what I am teaching in that my current unit. In fact, I’ve only photocopied one assignment from the book in the 18 months it’s been in my library.

You can buy it directly from Hal Leonard as it’s not available on Amazon.

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Music ed book review: “Top 40 Fun Facts: Rock ‘n’ Roll”

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.

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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.

Overall:

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.

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

Music ed book review: “What’s That Sound?: An Introduction To Rock and Its History”

Bringing you tools you can use in your school-aged music classroom is my primary focus here at the blog, and John Covach’s What’s That Sound?: An Introduction to Rock and Its History is a source I use weekly. Let me tell you what I like and don’t like about it.

I need to start this blog post with a disclaimer; I consider John a friend. He and I have hosted a pop music educators conference at the University of Rochester where John teaches for a few years now and I taught with his wife for my first several years as a teacher. Keep reading, though, because I plan on being objective.

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Book Cover (Third Edition)

What I like:

Covach is able to tell a thorough history of popular music. It contains all the information you could need to make an informed decision on including a topic in your curriculum. John trumpets the 1970s which some music historians gloss over and it’s certainly a strong point of the book.

The best thing the book brings to the table are the listening charts. I liked the format so much, it’s the only thing I use when my student break down what they are hearing in a pop song. Breaking it down by time frame while filling in musical form information and the music elements happening in that short amount of time really helps students deconstruct the music when they are listening. It also helps them organize their thoughts when they are the ones making the chart.

What I don’t like:

This is never going to be a book I give to my students. It’s a college-level text and some language and topics are not appropriate for my students, though that can be said for the vast majority of popular music resources not specifically designed for middle school.

The book contains a mammoth amount of information which can seem daunting. For music educators, it should be treated as a starting off point. It doesn’t contain creating or performing aspects of the music, for instance.

Overall:

Like I said in the opening, I use this resource at least once a week. I arrange my general music class as a history of popular music, so I bone up on the next class or unit the week prior to teaching it and keep it on my desk for the inevitable follow-up questions my students have. I wouldn’t use it so frequently if I didn’t think it was a great resource.

You can find the latest edition of What’s That Sound?: An Introduction to Rock and Its History on Amazon. John is also an active follow on Facebook as is the University of Rochester Institute for Popular Music.

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Music ed book review: “What’s That Sound?: An Introduction To Rock and Its History”