One 50-minute class period

The Power of Music

Essential Questions

  • What role does music play in your life?
  • How might music inspire and comfort individuals during difficult moments?
  • How might music be used to fight against oppression or injustice?

Learning Objectives

  • Students will understand how music can help to provide comfort and inspiration to individuals and groups, especially during times of fear, injustice, or danger.
  • Students will be able to connect the role of music in their own lives to the role music has played in other historical moments.


In order for students to explore the role of music in Jewish resistance to the Holocaust, it is helpful first to ask them to consider the role that music plays in their own lives. This lesson provides that opportunity by encouraging students to think about the power of music to provide comfort and inspiration, both to them as individuals and to groups or communities to which they may belong. Their reflections in this lesson will help students begin to better understand the idea of “spiritual” resistance and the role that music can play in it.



  1. Reflect in Journals
    Have students respond in their journals to the following prompt:
    Where do you turn for inspiration or comfort in difficult times? Have you turned to music? If so, what particular genres or songs have inspired you?

  2. Discuss the Power of Music

    Following the Think, Pair, Share strategy, have students share part or all of their responses to the prompt above with a partner. Ask the pairs to list the ways that music affects and influences each of their lives.

    Now lead a class discussion in which students share either parts of their journal entries or insights and observations from their pair discussions. The class discussion should focus on the following questions:

    • What are some common themes that emerge from this discussion? 
    • What are some songs or types of music that have helped you? What is it about those songs or types of music that connected with you?
    • Why do you think music has the potential to sustain people through hard times?

    If possible, include some music clips in this discussion. You might play clips from songs or genres that come up multiple times in the discussion, or you might play clips from a song or genre that a student brings up that is unfamiliar to other students.

  3. Broaden the Discussion

    Pause the class discussion for a few minutes and ask students to think or write quietly about the role that music can play in communities. Can they think of moments from current events or history when music has played a role in sustaining a community of people or has served as a tool of protest, or when it has served to rally a nation?

    Then continue the class discussion, asking students to share their thoughts in response to the question about music and communities.

  4. Return to the Essential Questions
    Conclude this lesson by returning to the essential questions to reflect on what students have learned from each other about the role of music. Let students know that they will continue to consider the role of music—although the songs and instruments might sound and look different—as they explore the history of Europe after World War I.


Research Protest Songs

Folk and popular music in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries has provided a vehicle for many individuals and groups to protest against injustice. Students are likely aware of some protest songs, and they may also be familiar with some songs that they did not realize were written as protests. Consider having students dig deeper into the history and effects of specific songs that have been used to protest injustice. If students are not able to come up with these songs or moments on their own, a simple internet search for “protest songs” can provide plenty of examples and information to get them started.

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