For Instructors: Sample Lesson Plan - The EVIA Digital Archive Project

For Instructors: Sample Lesson Plan

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Please note that this is a hypothetical model. At the time of this writing, not all cited collections were available to the public.

This sample lesson is intended to serve as a framework for viewing and discussing select video segments from the EVIA Digital Archive Project. The purpose is to introduce undergraduate or graduate students in music or ethnomusicology to the influence of gender on performance. Emphasis is placed on aesthetics and social function as well as ways in which performance reinforces and challenges ideas about gender. Some preparation on the part of the instructor is necessary to account for the diversity of cultural and musical examples, and for highlighting various points throughout classroom lectures, discussions, and assignments. EVIA Project annotations should provide sufficient background information on the video segments used. Additional information and analytical directions for discussion may be sought from other sources. Augmentation and modifications are encouraged to accommodate varying student levels and to link material with other subject areas such as music theory, music history, anthropology, history, or area studies. The lesson plans are designed for two 50-minute class periods or for one longer (2 hr +) class period.

Lesson Plans One & Two: Gender and Performance

Musical Elements:

Vocal range and style, quality, timbre, tempo, chorus or ensemble, solo voice or instruments, and verse/refrain.

Cultural Themes:

Music and movement, gesture, dance, music and identity, music and meaning, music and ritual, music and power, music and communication, creativity and performance, and continuity and change.

Materials Needed:

Two prearranged video stream playlist (please see "Case Studies" section, below), prior reading of annotations for familiarization with the selected video segments, projection capability for video playlists, PowerPoint, overhead transparencies or dry erase board for group discussions, and any other supplemental materials needed for students.


Lesson One
Performance genres or practices that originate as male or female institutions.

Lesson Two
How music and dance events express or challenge cultural ideologies related to gender.

Overarching Concepts:

  • Ways that music or dance performance serves as a force for cultural continuity and change.
  • How performance intersects with sociocultural values and meaning.

Educational Goals:

Lesson One
In the first lecture, students view examples of performance genres that either are rooted in specifically gendered social institutions or are organized around gender identity. In certain cases the performance tradition is based on desired aesthetics, established cultural conventions, or specifically gendered activities. In other cases the manifestations may be recent and a reflection of external or internal change, such as rural/urban migrations or the onset of women's participation in genres not typically occupied by women.

Lesson Two
As a follow-up lesson, the instructor builds on the notion of "spheres of cultural action" (social and cultural contexts) and with a new set of video examples moves on to the myriad ways in which performance addresses gender roles more specifically. Based on the theme of meaning and performance, students are asked to link performance aesthetics with ideas about gender. This can be followed with information about the function of performance both as an instructional tool in society and as an experiential venue (for performers or the audience) in the communication of social roles and cultural values. Based on these same video case studies, the class session culminates with a group discussion on the many ways and various processes in which maleness or femaleness is culturally constructed.

Student Performance Objectives:

Lesson One
From a set of video examples, students view and examine the linkages of gender to music and dance performance by positioning gender as a type of analytical boundary. This is accomplished by viewing three short performance segments and analyzing smaller units (i.e. performance aesthetics). The segments feature various performance aesthetics such as low and high vocal range, "masculine" and "feminine" characterized movements, and other aspects often present in performance such as costuming or visual symbols.

The instructor leads the first example, and students then work in small groups to view more examples and create a brief write-up to hand in at the end of class. The first section of the write up involves viewing two more video examples, which the instructor presents one at a time. Students are asked to write a short summary identifying the relationship of each performance practice to an affiliated social institution or cultural practice that either is present in the video or is known from previous readings about other contexts. Based specifically on the video representations, the second section of the write-up includes each group's collective evaluation. For example, one direction would be to ask students if they feel the performances are currently meaningful and operative to the culture group or communities in question, if they think the performances are merely representations of past practice, or if these performances have elements of both present and past meanings.

Lesson Two
On the second day students work from a new set of video examples. They are asked to consider the possibilities of gendered meanings imbedded in selected performances by writing down their own ideas on possible meanings. The instructor then summarizes what the depositor of each collection wrote about gender and the performances. Following the instructor's comments, students discuss and write down any similarities or discrepancies between their own ideas and those they learned from the depositor's explanation. The brief write-up is collected at the end of class.

After writing a comparison between their views and those of the depositors, students view the videos a second time. They then contribute to a class discussion by collectively generating a list that identifies and describes (1) the most common markers of gender and (2) some of the strategies used to communicate them. The instructor first should actively solicit from the students their ideas about markers of gender or strategies of communication and then compile a list from those contributions.

Case Studies:

Examples of EVIA Project collections are listed below under the depositor's name, followed by the world area and performance type or genre. Instructors should select any number of collection segments that seem best suited to the educational goals under consideration and organize the segments into two different playlists.

Suggested Collections for Lesson One

  • Lisa Urkevich: Arabian Peninsula, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, (live performances of folk troupes, including dance)
  • Clara Henderson: Southern Africa, Malawi, Blantyre (songs and dances of women's guild of the Church of Central African Presbyterian [CCAP])
  • Alan Burdette: North America, USA, Indiana (German Americans / German American singing society)
  • Tony Seeger: South America, Brazil, Mato Grosso (Suyá Indians featuring men's and women's ceremonial songs and dances
  • Lisa Gilman: Southern Africa, Malawi, Nkhata Bay District (a women's circle dance; malipenga, a male militaristic dance form)
  • Daniel Reed: West Africa, Côte d'Ivoire, Western semi-mountainous region (music and mask performance among Dan peoples)
  • Kimberly Hart: Eurasia, Western Turkey, Manisa (Yuntdag region) (marriage and folk rituals)
  • David McDonald: Middle East, Jordan, Amman (Palestinian refugee songs and dances)
  • Polina Proutskova: Eurasia, Northern Russia, Arkhangelskaja Oblast (women's singing traditions)

Suggested Collections for Lesson Two

  • Kelly Askew: East Africa, Tanzania, Northern coastal region, Tanga (wedding songs)
  • Jessica Anderson Turner: Southern China, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region (includes footage of all female groups; see love song "Duige" and discussion of gender roles in annotations)
  • Richard Wolf: South Asia, India and Pakistan (life cycle ceremonies and religious rituals)
  • Lisa Gillman: Southern Africa, Malawi, Nkhata Bay District (dances for political rallies)
  • John Fenn: Southern Africa, Malawi (rap and ragga musical culture among youth)
  • Margaret Dorsey: North America, USA, South Texas (conjunto music, female performer)
  • Susan Reed: South Asia, Sri Lanka, mountainous Kandyran region (ritual dances)
  • Ami Dilip Ahalpara: South Asia, Western India, Gujarat (Bhavai performance, social satire)

Further Applications:

Other Issues to Explore

  • Generate examples of specific female (or male) performers who are establishing a presence in a male (or female) dominated field.
  • Depending on the case study, identify which genders control certain areas of musical/performative knowledge.

Related Outside Assignments

  • A student could be directed to do the following as a homework assignment or larger research project. Login to the EVIA Project archive and access one of the collections either presented in class or from a playlist generated by the instructor. Search through the collection for sections of video containing performance events that engage issues of gender. Based on the depositor's annotations and any other outside reading, write a brief historical framework concerning the onset and development of that performance practice or tradition. Include any details that might relate to notions of cultural continuity or change.
  • This same assignment could be adapted based on the "Other Issues to Explore" section or other topics based on the "Overarching Concepts," "Musical Elements," or "Cultural Themes" sections above, as well as topics conceived by the instructor.

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