Connecting to Colonial Music

Grades: 4-6

Subjects: Social Studies, Music

Concepts: Role of music, Lyric analysis, growing rift between Britain and colonies

Skills: Listening comprehension, historical terms and context

Materials: Handout: Connecting to Colonial Music, Handout: Lyrics

Time: 1 class period

Focus Questions

  • How did colonists develop a separate identity in the years before the American Revolution?
  • How did the British view the new American identity?
  • What do the lyrics of Yankee Doodle Dandy teach us about the Colonial period?

Instructional Objectives

Students will be able to:

  • Analyze the song Yankee Doodle Dandy from the French and Indian War period
  • Improve their listening skills through answering questions about the song
  • Explain historical terms associated with the song
  • Appreciate music as a means to understanding culture, past and present
  • Understand the importance and role of music in their own lives

Rationale and Background
Connection to the NH Framework Proficiencies

Introductory Activity

Name That Tune

  1. Ask students to write down their favorite song, along with any lyrics they can recall.
  2. Play the game of “Name Tune” by having students read/sing some of their lyrics.
  3. Then engage students in a Think Pair Share cooperative learning activity to go deeper and explain why they like that song:
    • Ask students to find a partner. In pairs, students share why they like the song and what connects them to the lyrics.
    • After they have had a few minutes, conduct a whole class discussion about students’ favorite songs.
  4. To finish, find out from students: what makes this song your favorite? What do the lyrics mean? Why are they special to you? How can the same song mean different things to different people

Instructional Resources or Materials

Instructional Procedure

  1. Transition the discussion to apply the importance of music to people throughout history, especially the unit they are now studying – the Colonial Period. Ask the class if anyone has heard the “Yankee Doodle Dandy” song. Get them all to sing it; provide the lyrics to teach them all the verses.
  2. Ask if anyone knows what those lyrics mean. Have students brainstorm ideas.
  3. After some guessing, explain that this song originated during the French and Indian War when the colonists fought alongside the British at Niagara. Tell students how the British looked down on the colonial forces’ backwoods appearance. In England, during the colonial period there were “macaroni clubs” where people of high fashion gathered. “Macaroni” referred to a “dandy” or a person who had fancy Italian or French fashion that was widely popular in England at that time. The Yankee Doodle in the song felt himself good enough just by sticking a feather in his cap. This song was meant to show the disdain of Englanders toward the colonists who had developed a uniquely American attitude and fashion as a result of frontier life in the time leading up to the American Revolution. It reveals the growing divide that occurred between Englanders and colonists during the colonial time, especially after the colonists’ successful experiences of the French and Indian War.
  4. Distribute the handout Connecting to Colonial Music and have students work in pairs to complete the questions. Discuss the answers to the questions as a class.
  5. End by explaining that eventually the colonists took pride in the song and it became widely popular. Can students explain why most/all of them were familiar with such an old song? Connect back to students’ favorite songs and ask them how music can have lasting effect and can help shape culture, in history and today

Concluding Discussion questions

Engage students in a whole class discussion about how colonists and Native Americans communicated with one another and draw parallels to students’ lives and other examples of contact between different groups.


  1. Participation in the discussion with a partner and the whole class about music and the song
  2. Completed worksheet Connecting to Colonial Music

Curriculum Modifications/Extension