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Lesson Plan

I've Got the Literacy Blues

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I've Got the Literacy Blues

Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Unit
Estimated Time Six 45- to 60-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Maureen Carroll

Pleasanton, California


International Literacy Association



Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice



What are the blues? How can the blues be used to better understand a story's theme? Students will answer these questions in this lesson when they read O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi" and explore the story's themes using blues music, creative writing, and media study. Students begin by listening to several blues selections, reading essays about the blues, and discussing characteristics of blues music. Next, students build their background knowledge by conducting research and completing a graphic organizer about the blues. After researching the blues, students read "The Gift of the Magi" and identify the story's themes. They then make connections to their own lives by writing and performing blues poetry based on one of the themes from the story. As a final project, students create a mural to showcase their understanding of the story's themes as they apply to literature, music, poetry, and their own lives.

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small screenshot of The Blues Graphic Organizer The Blues Graphic Organizer: Students can use this handout to help them organize their research about blues music.


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Copeland, M., & Goering, C. (2003). Blues you can use: Teaching the Faust theme through music, literature, and film. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 46(3), 436–441.

  • Popular culture is an excellent and often overlooked resource that should be used to enhance students' literacy skills, as students are exposed to music, film, video games, and television, but often do not explore, understand, or apply this media to their literacy lives.

  • Using the musical form of the blues can help improve students' critical reading, thinking, listening, discussing, and writing skills.

  • It is important to incorporate new forms of literacy, such as music and other elements of popular culture, into the classroom in order to better prepare students for the skills life demands.

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