Pete Seeger was known for his folk singing and for his liberal politics. He was an environmentalist, and protested against the wars in Vietnam and in Iraq. He was instrumental in publicizing the song We Shall Overcome (1948) which became the anthem for the Civil Rights movement in the United States. Where Have All The Flowers Gone written in 1962 was a protest against the War in Vietnam. Pete Seeger once said that his songs were his weapons. His memory and his wonderful songs will live on in the hearts of people in this country and in many others.
Excerpt: Pete Seeger is Gone…By Andrew C. Revkin The New York Times
“Pete Seeger spent his life surrounded by circles of song with varying dimensions.
He often created them himself, putting a hand to his ear as a signal that he expected any audience encircling a stage to drown him out.
Beacon, N.Y., his longtime home town, is like the center of a swirling circular galaxy of music these days, most of it written and sung with a better world in mind and most of it inspired in some way by his example.
I was humbled to be among those who were able to pay Pete a visit over the last several days at New York-Presbyterian Hospital as his heart and body failed at age 94. (He died peacefully last night around 9:30 p.m., family members told me; His wife Toshi died last July.)
There’s much more that will be said and written — and sung — in coming days about his songwriting and politics, his bubbling humor and hammer-hard determination.” Read more…
“Over the years, Pete used his voice — and his hammer — to strike blows for worker’s rights and civil rights; world peace and environmental conservation… to stand up for what’s right, speak out against what’s wrong, and move this country closer to the America he knew we could be. And he always invited us to sing along. For reminding us where we come from and showing us where we need to go, we will always be grateful to Pete Seeger. Michelle and I send our thoughts and prayers to Pete’s family and all those who loved him.” ~President Barack Obama~2014
Level: Intermediate – High Intermediate
Language Skills: Reading, writing, speaking and listening. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 2 hours.
Materials: Student handouts (from this lesson) access to news article, and video.
Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.
I. Pre-Reading Activities
Analyzing headings and photos
Directions: Ask students to read the titles of the post and of the actual article they are about to read. Then, have them examine the photos. Based on these sources, ask students to create a list of words and ideas that they think might be related to this article.
II. While Reading Activities
Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart by Education Oasis for assistance.
- Pete Seeger spent his life surrounded by circles of song.
- Beacon, N.Y., his longtime home town, is like the center of a swirling galaxy of music.
- Most of Seeger’s music is inspired in some way by his example.
- I was humbled to be able to pay Pete a visit at New York-Presbyterian Hospital.
- When I arrived on Monday afternoon, he was at the center of a healing circle of song once again.
- There’s much more that will be said and written — and sung about his songwriting and determination.
- But I wanted to initiate some reflections on Pete’s music.
- He’s best known, of course, for his use of songs as a shield and weapon.
- Pete was a force for change and a bard celebrating nature.
- Among his prime attributes were boundless energy and unwavering optimism.
Directions: Review the following statements from the reading. If a statement is true they mark it T. If the statement is not applicable, they mark it NA. If the statement is false they mark it F and provide the correct answer.
- Pete Seeger was a famous dancer.
- When Seeger placed his hand to his ear this was a signal to the audience to sing louder.
- Brooklyn N.Y., was his longtime home town.
- His wife Toshi died with him.
- Pete Seeger died at age 74.
- His parents were very happy people.
- He used his songs as a weapon to fight injustices.
- Seeger believed that the future holds great promise.
- The Beacon Sloop Club was started by Pete Seeger.
- Seeger wrote the song “To My Old Brown Earth,” in 2013.
Using Adjectives to describe pictures
Directions: Have students choose a picture from this lesson and write a descriptive paragraph using adjectives. For a review of Adjectives visit ESL Voices Grammar
III. Post Reading Tasks
Reading Comprehension Check
Using A Chart
Directions: Have students use this advanced organizer from Write Design to assist them with discussing or writing about the main idea and points from the article.
Directions: Place students in groups and have them answer the following questions. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the following discussion topics.
- One description of Seeger is, “He’s best known, of course, for his use of songs as a shield and weapon…” How would you put this statement into your own words?
- During an interview Pete Seeger was asked, “What gives you hope when you think of the future, when you think of the next 30 years?” His reply was, “The Internet.” In your opinion, would you agree or disagree with Seeger’s reply? Provide reasons for your answer.
- Pete Seeger sang “Folk” songs. With your group members describe the difference between the following styles of songs: folk, jazz, pop, and hip-hop.
- At the end of this article there are the following words to the beginning of Seeger’s song “To My Old Brown Earth”. What do you think Seeger was saying in this song?
“To my old brown earth
And to my old blue sky
I’ll now give these last few molecules of “I.”
IV. Listening Activity
Video Clip: Pete Seeger, “Where Have All The Flowers Gone”
An Idea for Using Songs in the EFL/ESL Classrooms, By Morris Kimura.
Directions: For this activity give students copies of Pete Seeger’s song Where Have All The Flowers Gone. Then have them listen to the video of Seeger singing the song (note that they’ll hear the song again during the activity by Mr. Kimura.
Next, follow the instructions for the activity by Morris Kimura:
“Using music in your ESL/EFL classroom is a great way to motivate students and generate enthusiasm for what they are learning. In this activity, students learn about US American culture through a song. They develop their vocabulary through practicing and singing the original song. Students then personalize their learning as they write and share their own simple lyrics to the same tune. Through this lesson, students will have fun learning through music.” Read more…