Lesson 1 Activity 2

Timeframe: Estimated at three (30-minute) sessions, 90-minutes total.

Overview of Activity

In this portion of the lesson, students will learn about different genres or categories of folk arts. As mentioned in the earlier overview of folklife categories, these classifications are by no means hard-and-fast rules. They tend to overlap somewhat, so that one type of folk art may fit into more than one category. For example, traditional types of knot tying, such as macramé and horsehair hitching, can be regarded as examples of material culture and also of occupational skills learned and used by fishermen, sailors and ranchers.

Also, we lack complete agreement on the exact descriptive categories to use, even from folklorist to folklorist, let alone between art historians and folklorists or between both types of scholars and the general public. However, we can make certain general distinctions and groupings. The point is to not get too hung up on fine distinctions, and to use the categories simply as a general "rule of thumb" to make folk arts easier to talk about, study and understand.

Objectives of the Activity

Students will:

  1. Investigate and discuss the five genres of folk arts outlined in this lesson.
  2. Understand and explain that the five categories are not rigidly exclusive, but instead are ways of making folk arts easier to study and understand.
  3. Identify examples from their own experiences or research of three or more of the five genres of folk arts studied in the lesson.

Planning and Preparation

Review the images and exercises to be used in this activity.

Background Information for Teachers

It might be difficult for students to think of some of these examples as arts until they have the opportunity to see how much creativity, artistic sensibility and skill are involved in making the objects, playing the traditional songs, or telling a traditional story. That's why there is really no substitute for actually being in the presence of skilled traditional artists and seeing, hearing or otherwise directly experiencing their art. Within this unit, there are audio resources that provide good alternatives, as well as suggestions for identifying and working with community people who know about local traditional arts.

Some art scholars prefer to refer to items of material culture as "crafts," rather than "arts", because of their practical, rather than purely decorative, character. Using the term "craft" rather than "art" is acceptable if the teacher can avoid creating confusion in the minds of students between the popular and commercial crafts they see in stores and craft shows, and those that are part of a longstanding, living cultural tradition. The latter are the ones we are studying in this unit. Among folklorists, scholars who specifically study these traditions, the roughly interchangeable terms "traditional arts" or "folk arts" are preferred.

Body of Instruction

  1. Introduce students to the following five genres or categories of folk arts, using some of the images and other examples from the curriculum materials. Include examples from the local news or from other topics the students are studying, when appropriate. Ask students to suggest examples of their own. You will notice that the genres fit within the five categories of folklife that were discussed in Activity 1. As these examples indicate, in most instances there is no hard-and-fast separation of these categories. For example, occupational jokes are a folk art that will fit under both the occupational and oral traditions categories.
    • Oral Traditions - These are things people say that, in general, are not written down or at least do not originate in written form. (Traditional stories, jokes, riddles and jump rope rhymes are some of the many types of oral traditions.)
    • Material Culture - This consists of the things people traditionally make. (Shelter, clothing, traditional forms of art/craft such as basketry, handmade furniture, saddles, quilts and traditional foods are all examples.)
    • Folk Beliefs, Rituals, Celebrations and Customs - These are things people traditionally believe or practice. (Examples are birthday customs, good luck rituals, faith healing, holiday celebrations and marriage rituals.)
    • Occupational and Recreational Skills and Lore - These are things people develop or learn from long association with others in their work or play groups. (Examples are planting traditions, how to nurse an ailment, how to shoot baskets, where to find fish or game, how to play hopscotch or how to find water.)
    • Traditional Music, Theater and Dance - These are things people perform. They most often are learned from person to person or by example. (Mariachi music, African American gospel singing, mock weddings, the Asian lion dance and Native American singing and drumming are good examples.)
  2. Play one or more of the audio excerpts (listed under Materials and Resources for this activity). In the excerpts, the traditional artist or tradition bearer is describing aspects of his or her art or other traditional practice. For each excerpt, instruct students to write down answers to the following suggested questions:
    1. Which of the five categories do you think the described art or tradition belongs to?
    2. How is the art or tradition similar to the other arts and traditions within that category or categories?
    3. What did you hear about:
      1. how the tradition was learned?
      2. how long the artist or tradition bearer had been practicing the art or tradition?
      3. what materials, tools, performance conditions or other special things are needed for the art or tradition?
    4. Who do you think would be interested in learning and practicing this tradition? Why?
    5. Describe any similar arts or traditions that you have experienced.
  3. Discuss the students' answers to the questions in class.

Suggestions for Student Research

Included below are some Nebraska-related examples of each of the above categories. Some of the examples are included as handouts with this curriculum, and sources for others are cited as well.

Oral Traditions

Material Culture

  • Quilts - quiltstudy.org, the Web site of the International Quilt Study Center, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • Horsehair Hitching (ranching tradition)
  • African American Hair Braiding
  • Hmong Clothing and Needlework
  • Mexican Leatherwork
  • Piñata Making

Folk Beliefs, Rituals, Celebrations and Customs

  • Wedding Costumes and Customs
  • Baptism Traditions
  • Community Festivals
  • Home Altars
  • Ranch and Farm Signs
  • Holiday decorations

Occupational and Recreational Skills and Lore

  • Veterans' Personal Narratives - Collect these from friends and family; also see Experiencing War: Stories from the Veterans History Project.
  • Saddlemaking

Traditional Music and Dance

  • "Dutch Hop" Style Polka Music - Played by Germans from Russia. Two selections from Volga CD by the River Boys, Scottsbluff, Neb. and Greeley, Colo.
  • An example of a Dutch Hop style polka (also called a "hop" for short.) This is the traditional music of the Germans from Russia. From Volga by The River Boys, 2003. Band members are Bob Schmer from Scottsbluff Nebraska on accordion, Dave Beitz from Platteville Colorado on hammered dulcimer, Jerry Hergenreder from Longmont Colorado on trombone, and Steve Deines from Ault Colorado on bass guitar.

  • An example of a typical traditional waltz tune. From Volga by The River Boys, 2003.

  • Mariachi Music - Two selections from CD by Mariachi Zapata, Omaha, Neb.
  • "The Little Mornings" or "The Little Morning Songs," the traditional Mexican birthday and Saint's Day song, performed by Mariachi Zapata of Omaha, NE, 2004

  • "The White Horse," a corrido (ballad) by Jose Alfredo Jimenez, performed by Mariachi Zapata of Omaha, NE, 2004

  • Mexican Folklorico (regional traditional dances)
  • Native American Dancing
  • Czech Music
  • (Jetelicku v lese) By the Mark Vyhlidal Band of Fremont, Nebraska. From Deeper Polka, 2002, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. This selection has a very unique combination of horns and is characteristic of Mark Vyhlidal's style of arranging.

  • A polka written about the game of hide and seek. The accordion used is a button accordion, which is often used in Nebraska Czech polka bands. The band led by Math Sladky uses both kinds of accordions and occasionally a concertina. From the Math Sladky 50th Anniversary CD, 2003

  • African American Gospel
  • By the Hub of Harmony II from Omaha, directed by Raymond Davis. This Seventh Day Adventist group represents an older style of gospel singing that is in the tradition of southern African American acapella quartet singing. It is called quartet singing because there are four parts which can be sung by a group of any size. They are first tenor, second tenor, baritone and bass. Ancestors of many of Nebraska's African Americans moved north from states such as Alabama, Arkansas, and other parts of the South and brought their musical traditions with them. The recording is from a live performance for the Lincoln Association for Traditional Arts (LAFTA) in 1996.

  • By the Hub of Harmony II from Omaha, directed by Raymond Davis. The recording is from a live performance for the Lincoln Association for Traditional Arts (LAFTA) in 1996.

The above examples can be used in many different ways. Three alternate suggestions (grouped from least time required to most time required) are:

  1. After students have viewed the images, read about the examples and played audio excepts on the Internet, ask them create (in small groups or individually) drawings, audio tapes, or other artwork that incorporates elements such as symbols, sounds, colors or materials from one or more of the traditions they studied.
  2. Students can research one or more of the Nebraska-related traditions listed above either independently or in small groups. They can go to a performance, take photos or write a short report on the tradition. Set aside class time for students to share their reports, or do demonstrations on what they found out about the particular folk art or other folk tradition they researched.
  3. Students can help plan a classroom visit from a Nebraska traditional artist or tradition bearer. They will first research the tradition, and then formulate questions to ask during the visit. The artist/tradition bearer will engage the students in a hands-on experience of his or her art or tradition in the classroom.

Summary and Closure

This portion of the lesson concentrated on identification of five genres of folk arts and folklife, and on learning about Nebraska examples of these genres. Students can use this information in subsequent activities to identify examples of these genres from their own experience.

Assessment Suggestions

Using a generic rubric or other common assessment tool for assessing the students' learning from this part of the lesson, indicate the answers to the following questions:

To what extent were students able to:

  1. Investigate and discuss the five genres of folk arts outlined?
  2. Understand and explain that the five categories are not rigidly exclusive, but instead are ways of making folk arts easier to study and understand?
  3. Identify examples from their own experiences of three or more of the five genres of folk arts studied in the lesson?

Correlated Nebraska Educational Standards

Reading/Writing

  • (8.1.2) By the end of the eighth grade, students will identify, locate, and use multiple resources to access information on an assigned or self-selected topic.
  • (8.2.5) By the end of the eighth grade, students will demonstrate the use of self-generated questions, note taking, summarizing and outlining while learning.
  • (8.3.1) By the end of the eighth grade, students will participate in group discussions by asking questions and contributing information and ideas

Social Studies/History

  • (8.1.9) By the end of the eighth grade, students will describe key people, events, and ideas since World War II.
  • (8.2.4) By the end of the eighth grade, students will describe the development and cultural impact of major religions.
  • (8.4.2) By the end of the eighth grade, students will demonstrate skills for historical analysis.

Visual and Performing Arts

  • (12.4.1) (Essential Learnings 4) Students exhibit a variety of creative skills in their own artistic expressions and in response to others.
  • (12.7.1) Essential Learnings 7. Students recognize diverse perspectives in the creation, performance, interpretation, and evaluation of the arts.

Materials and Resources

Worksheets and Handouts

Click on the handout/worksheet, once it opens up, right click and choose "save as" to download documents in PDF. If you don't already have it, you will need Adobe Reader.

Images

Click on the picture to access a printable image. All images are at a moderate resolution (150 dpi) but may vary in usable size. Most images will fill an 8.5 x 11" sheet of paper when printed.

Audio/Video

Click on the audio/video, once it opens up, right click and choose "save as" to download MP3 and MOV files.

  • The Tree Family: A traditional tale of the Germans from Russia about the importance of family. Told by Rosalinda Kloberdanz, Fargo, North Dakota. From Spirit Woods: Traditional Stories of Forests and Trees by the North Dakota Council on the Arts and the North Dakota Forest Service, 2004.

  • Video interview of Ms. Synovec of Lincoln about how she learned to do this type of needlework and about her family tradition of fillet lace crochet. At the Lincoln Senior Center Traditional Arts Day, Lincoln, NE, 1993. Interviewed by Gwen Meister, produced by Lynn Rogers.

  • Video interview of Mr. Matthews of Lincoln about how he learned tatting and how he used the hobby to occupy himself while on the road as a professional ballroom dancer. At the Lincoln Senior Center Traditional Arts Day, Lincoln, NE, 1993. Interviewed by Gwen Meister, produced by Lynn Rogers.

  • Video interview of Mr. Connell, of Tryon Nebraska, about his horsehair hitching, which he taught to his daughter, Joyce Snyder. At the Lincoln Senior Center Traditional Arts Day, Lincoln, NE, 1993. Interviewed by Gwen Meister, produced by Lynn Rogers.

  • Excerpt of audio Interview with saddlemaker Dennis Rose in his shop, the Rose Saddlery, in Arthur Nebraska. Mr. Rose had been making saddles and doing other leatherwork since 1976. See PDF (pending) of transcript for details. Interviewed by Gwen Meister.

  • An example of a Dutch Hop style polka (also called a "hop" for short.) This is the traditional music of the Germans from Russia. From Volga by The River Boys, 2003. Band members are Bob Schmer from Scottsbluff Nebraska on accordion, Dave Beitz from Platteville Colorado on hammered dulcimer, Jerry Hergenreder from Longmont Colorado on trombone, and Steve Deines from Ault Colorado on bass guitar.

  • An example of a typical traditional waltz tune. From Volga by The River Boys, 2003.

  • "The Little Mornings" or "The Little Morning Songs," the traditional Mexican birthday and Saint's Day song, performed by Mariachi Zapata of Omaha, NE, 2004

  • "The White Horse," a corrido (ballad) by Jose Alfredo Jimenez, performed by Mariachi Zapata of Omaha, NE, 2004

  • A feature piece on Mr. White, from Macy, Nebraska, who is an elder of the Omaha Tribe and a keeper of traditional songs.

  • A polka written about the game of hide and seek. The accordion used is a button accordion, which is often used in Nebraska Czech polka bands. The band led by Math Sladky uses both kinds of accordions and occasionally a concertina. From the Math Sladky 50th Anniversary CD, 2003

  • Played by Elmer Nemec and the Polka Joy Orchestra of Omaha. From A Salute to the American Farmer and Rancher CD, 2004. An example of one of the many humorous polkas played by Czech and other polka bands.