Teach the Beat!

Bringing the distinctive D.C. sound of go-go into the classroom.

Teaching for Change is honored to work with D.C.  area schools and the authors of The Beat! Go-Go Music from Washington, D.C. to develop lessons and share teaching ideas for infusing the history and music of go-go in middle and high school social studies, language arts, math, music, and/or D.C. history classes, and to bring renowned go-go performers into D.C. classrooms.

"Go-go has stayed true to time-honored cultural scripts such as live call-and-response, live instrumentation, as well as its locally rooted fashions, slang, dance, distribution and economic systems. Simply put: Go-Go never sold out. There is a grit and texture to the music that gives voice to the communities where it was created." –Natalie Hopkinson


Lesson from a Go-Go Beat: How it all comes together?

Time Period

  • Two to four 50 minute periods to read, collect information and organize it
  • One to three 50 minute periods to draft a statement and present it.

Essential Questions

  • Is anything ever completely independent of the influence of others?
  • In what ways do we connect with each other?


  • Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
  • Analyze in detail how an author’s ideas or claims are developed and refined by particular sentences, paragraphs, or larger portions of a text (e.g., a section or chapter).
  • Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is valid and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; identify false statements and fallacious reasoning.


Students will be able to identify elements from other musical and cultural traditions that have been incorporated into go-go. (Identify elements that influence the creation of something new)

Students will be able to make an argument for which elements adapted by go-go were the most influential and necessary in the development of go-go music.

Final Product

One page outline for argument that defends student statement around the most important musical influences on gogo this argument should include: a clear position, a statement describing go-go, quotes from the text, references to video or audio clips

Students should be prepared to present their statements in whole class or small group presentation, or formal class discussion.

Prior Learning

Before embarking on this lesson students should already know how to identify valid supporting evidence, know the structures used in class for formal discussion, and how to craft a clear a clear position statement.

Lesson Plan - Hook

Option 1

Have students create comparison charts in which they compare themselves to parents and/or grandparents identifying features both physical and behavioral that they have inherited and then identify those elements that are strictly their own. 

Option 2

Show images of a modern instrument and its predecessors allowing students to identify the elements that were kept and those that are unique to the modern instrument.

(This comparison will allow the teacher to facilitate a conversation, where students are able to notice how particular elements taken from one place can influence the development of something new.)

Mini Lesson

Vocabulary Pre-Load

counterpart, syncopation, antiphony, lineage, vernacular, disenfranchised, predecessor, secular, traits

Teachers will provide students with student friendly definitions of the terms above and then have them provide examples and non-examples of each.  As they read students will locate and record sentences in the text where the words are used.

Read Aloud and Modeling

Teacher will provide students with a chart/timeline/or map, that allows them to record the different types of musical traditions influential to the development of go-go, mentioned in the text.  Teacher will read the first two paragraphs of “The Roots and Emergence of Go-Go” Pg. 11-12 and model his/her thinking:

She/he will identify the musical tradition, then list the elements of that tradition that can be found in go-go music.  The teacher should chart this example so that students may use it as a reference.

Guided Practice

The teacher will ask students to read pages 12-15 and identify either a new musical tradition that influenced Go-Go or a particular element within the already identified musical tradition to add to the list already charted.

Independent Practice

After a set period of time students will be broken up into groups and assigned a section or sections of the chapter and tasked with looking for musical traditions and the elements in these that were influential in the development of Go-Go, they may also identify similarities in the development of other musical styles.

After students have read their sections they should chart and post their findings and present to the class.  Students listening to the presentation should have a format for collecting the information presented by their classmates.

Teacher will then show students clips of the different types of music mentioned in the chapter and students will add to their lists based on the visual and/or audio clips presented.

Video Clips and Audio Clips of Live performances from each of these genres: West African Ju-Ju http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NC0Tw4PmarA, R&B, Afro-Cuban/Latino, DC High School Marching Bands, Funk, Hip Hop, Latin, Go-Go

Once students have collected all of their information they will be asked to choose one of the musical traditions that they believe was the most influential in the development of go-go and prepare for discussion by identifying textual evidence as well as evidence from the video and audio selection that will support their claim.

Students will organize this information into an outline and use this outline as a guide for a class discussion (format to be determined by teacher). 

This outline and notes from the discussion may then be used to develop on page papers that show students ability to state a claim and support that claim with evidence.

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Image credits: Thomas Sayers Ellis