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Music and Migration in Texas

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Music and Migration in Texas
Mapping the Beat
Fifth Grade

Lesson Objective
Identify similarities of musical elements in music from diverse cultures and the effects of migration on music in Texas.
A conjunto or polka group would be an ideal guest for this lesson.

Standards Addressed
National Geography Standards
Standard 1: How to use maps and other geographic representations, tools, and technologies to acquire, process, and report
information from a spatial perspective.
How: Students organize information regarding settlement patterns by color-coding a Texas Map.

Standard 3: How to analyze the spatial organization of people, places and environments on Earth's surface.
How: Students interpret the information represented on their color-coded maps and consider how spatial organization,
proximity or distance, has effected the cultural diffusion of various ethnic groups in Texas.

California Content Standards for Music-5th grade
Standard 3.5: Describe the influences of various cultures on the music of the United States.
How: Students examine the similarities and differences between music of Louisiana and that of Texas and consider the ethnic
groups that contributed to the musical sound in both of these states.

California State Board of Education History and Social Science Standards
Standard 5.8.1: Students discuss the waves of immigration from Europe between 1789 and the mid 1800's.
How: Students engage in discussion about the Steinway family's from Germany to New York and explore the economic
impact of that single family during the mid to late 1800's.

Teacher Prep

  • Obtain maps of Texas that include city names (one for each student or group of students)
  • Copy handout of Texas city names
  • Schedule a guest performer, if possible

Materials Needed

  • Lined paper for writing assignment
  • Colored Pencils
  • Map of Texas (one for each student or group of students), NOT INCLUDED IN THIS CURRICULUM
  • List of cities in Texas (one for each student or group of students)
  • Timeline Cards
    Overhead Transparencies
  • Overhead projector
    Wall map of North America and the World
  • CD Player and CDs of suggested listening examples

If teaching the whole Mapping the Beat unit, you may want to keep a chart of vocabulary up in the classroom or have students write
the words & definition in a portfolio.

Conjunto or Norteno- a type of music found along the border of the U.S. and Mexico that combines Spanish and German musical
elements. Similar to the word conjoin.

Polka- a lively dance that originated in the area of Southern Germany.

Lesson Plan Sequence
5 to 10 minutes Overview of Settlements in Texas
In your own words briefly summarize the history of Texas.

A Brief History of Texas and its Settlers
Texas is now part of the United States of America, but it has not always been. Before the 16th century, native tribes inhabited the area now known as Texas. The Spanish began exploring the area in the 1500s, and established villages throughout the eighteenth century. In the nineteenth century, Mexico gained independence from Spain. In 1836, Texas fought for its own independence from Mexico, largely supported by the U.S. government. In 1845, after 9 years as an independent republic it was admitted as a state of the United States. From 1846 to1848 the United States fought Mexico in the Mexican American War as Mexico made an effort to reclaim Texas. The war ended with the Treaty of Guadalupe signed February 1848. In that treaty the US gained California, Texas, Arizona, and parts of Utah, Colorado and Nevada.
Throughout the nineteenth century, several immigrants from Central Europe and the British Isles moved to Texas looking to obtain land for farming and start new communities. These groups interacted with the Spanish, Mexican, Native American, and U.S. communities that were already established in Texas. As a result of this cohabitation and extended contact, Texas has developed unique cultural traits that are rooted in the culture of all of its founding communities. The settlers from the area now known as Germany and the Czech Republic established large dance halls in Texas where farmers and townspeople from neighboring communities could gather, dance, and spend a night enjoying each other's company. The music at these halls, brought from Europe, included the waltz and the polka, played on an accordion, an instrument invented in Italy, which was loud enough to fill the entire dance hall. In the past one hundred years, these dances were combined with the Spanish songs and storytelling ballads that had been brought to the area earlier and were usually accompanied by a guitar. Several types of music, including conjunto, norteño, and tejano can be found in Texas and elsewhere along the U.S.-Mexico border that combine these musical elements. The songs, or corridos, of these musical styles are storiesabout local heroes and historical events. For many people along the U.S.-Mexico border, these songs are the only way to learn the history of the area.

20 minutes Mapping Activity

Hand out the list of Texas cities and the Texas maps. Students can work individually or in small groups to locate each city,
circle the name of the city in the designated color and lightly color in the circle so that they can still read the name of the city.

20 minutes Discussion and listening

Once students have color-coded the city names, work as a group to determine the patterns in the colors

Discussion questions:

Where are most German towns? Answer: South central Texas

Why are several Spanish towns located in the south of Texas rather than the north? Answer: Proximity to Mexico

Play the Beer Barrel Polka as example of German polka music.

Discussion questions:

What instruments do you hear?

What is the beat?

Play example of Conjunto music and remind students that it is a melding of German and Spanish folk music.

Conjunto!: Texas-Mexican border music. Volumes 1 through 6. Cambridge, MA: Rounder, p1988 to 1994.

Discussion questions:

Does it seem related to the polka music?

Does it have a similar beat and instrumentation?

5 min Wrap up and Vocabulary Review

· Review portfolios for accuracy and completeness of definitions.

· Review maps of Texas for accuracy and completeness

Web Sources/References
For background information on Texas History:

For background information on the accordion:

For background information on Czech migration to Texas:

For background information on Irish migration to Texas: