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Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Motown Music & History

Students will use music as a lens to learn about a historical period and research primary and secondary sources to write their own liner notes.

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Grades 7–12


Informational, Narrative


6 Sessions: 55 Minutes Each

Download Includes

Lesson instructions

5 Lesson handouts

What Your Students Will Learn


Why do we care so much about music? What meaning do we ascribe to music? How does music connect people across time and social structures? And finally, how does history shape music and how does music shape history? In this project, students use descriptive language in order to convey the mood, feeling, tone, and other unique features of a song—all the while capturing what we love most about music. This project can be adapted for any historical time period and musical genre. Student buy-in is crucial, so when possible, we recommend including your students in the decision of the music and time period.


Student form and articulate opinions about songs based on musicality, lyrics, and historical context, then craft arguments about these songs using their own authorial voice to persuade readers. The final product will be an informational and persuasive piece of writing in the genre of liner notes. Throughout the process, students will generate research notes, ideas, and opinions that they will use when developing this piece.


Publishing students’ final pieces in some way also helps to make the project gain a more authentic purpose. Some options include:

  • Creating a class music blog with all the liner notes and a link to a playlist (on Spotify or another site) of all the songs
  • Partnering with a local radio station to read excerpts from the liner notes and play the students’ songs. Arranging a field trip to the radio station studio would make this an incredible opportunity for students if feasible.
  • Creating a digital or physical booklet of the students liner notes to distribute to other students at the school and share with interested groups
Common Core Alignments

What Your Students Will Produce

Writing Samples from This Project