A teaching strategy for use with the Sheet Music from Canada's Past website
In this activity, students will conduct a group analysis of a sample song from Library and Archives Canada's Sheet Music from Canada's Past website, examining and comparing the historical context with Canada today. Following this, students will compose song lyrics on the same theme. Some groups may choose to perform their music as an extension activity.
Music and Language Arts; Ages 14+
Learning Outcomes (WCP)
Learning Outcomes (APEF)
In completing this activity, students will:
Language Arts Outcomes:
These Language Arts Outcomes correspond to:
Students will conduct a group analysis of a sample song from the Sheet Music from Canada's Past website, examining and comparing the historical context with Canada today. Following this, students will compose original song lyrics on the same theme. Some groups may choose to perform their music as an extension activity.
Computers with access to the Internet
Adobe Acrobat to read PDF files (available for free at:
Student Handout 1 (Historical Context and Music Analysis)
Student Handout 2 (Songwriting Guide)
Sheet Music from Canada's Past
ARCHIVED - From Colony to Country: A Reader's Guide to Canadian Military History
Canadian War Museum
Canada's Digital Collections
Library and Archives of Canada
American Library of Congress sheet music resources:
African-American Sheet Music, 1850-1920
America Singing: Nineteenth-Century Song Sheets
Historic American Sheet Music, 1850-1920
Music for the Nation: American Sheet Music, 1870-1885
Students should be aware of the history of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.
Facilitate a whole-class brainstorm to identify the topics, issues and themes that are the focus of current popular songs.
Possible themes include:
Students are invited to bring to class audio recordings and printed lyrics of songs from their personal collections that address the above issues. Have students divide up into small groups.
Each group should choose one song from among those brought in by the group members. The group will listen to the song, guided by the following questions:
Once the group has finished listening to the song, each member of the group will complete Part 1 of Student Handout 1, and then share and compare answers with the other group members.
Each group will select a song to analyze from the Sheet Music from Canada's Past website. Groups should first brainstorm words that will help in their search. When they have chosen a piece of music, they should print the song and read it once.
Groups will begin their song analysis with research into the historical context of the song, with a focus on the theme of the song (see Part 2 of Student Handout 1). For example:
Students should contrast these events and attitudes with those in their region of Canada today.
Once the research is completed, each group member analyzes the group's chosen song using Part 3 of Student Handout 1. Group members are to share their results when all members have finished.
In the same groups, students will compose original song lyrics on the same theme. They should express their own viewpoints through the lyrics of the song (see Student Handout 2).
The lyrics can be presented to the class either as a performance or a recital. The work could be displayed in a manner appropriate to class resources.
Notes on Enriching this Activity