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School of Education

NEH Landmarks Workshop

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

A Lincoln Portrait

Third Grade Music Class

Two 45-minute music class periods

Illinois State Board of Education Goals

Goal 25 " Language of the Arts"

Goal 27 " Understand the role of the arts in civilizations, past and present"

Introduction and Anticipatory Set

We've been discussing the importance of President Lincoln's role in preserving our United States in the 1800's. As we learn the music and songs from the Civil War, we open a window into the feelings and experiences of the soldiers, leaders, and citizens from that time.

Today we're going to "meet" one of the United States' most famous composers: Aaron Copland. After the United States entered World War II in 1941, Aaron Copland was asked to write a musical "portrait" of a great American.

What's a " portrait?" Turn to your partner and discuss your ideas.

Many of you have said a "portrait" is like a "picture." Hmmm….you SEE pictures. You HEAR music. So how can music be a portrait? Let's see how Mr. Copland created a musical portrait of President Lincoln.


Teacher-created poster/collage of newspaper clippings and photographs of Aaron Copland.

Biography: Meet Aaron Copland

CD recording: "A Lincoln Portrait"

Literature: Giant Illustrated Gettysburg Address, illu. by Sam Fink

Copy of the Lincoln Portrait narration


¨ Day One : Share in the reading circle Aaron Copland's biography and informational collage. Discuss reasons why President Lincoln would be a good choice as a "great American" during the outbreak of World War II. Explain how President Roosevelt, the president at that time, often quoted President Lincoln. The military printed posters with quotes from President Lincoln to help encourage the war, as well as honor the soldiers who had been killed. Both President Roosevelt and Aaron Copland felt that Abraham Lincoln's words were still true, almost 100 years later. So when Aaron Copland wrote "A Lincoln Portrait," he not only used the language of music…….he included the words of Abraham Lincoln.

¨ Share the Lincoln Portrait narration. Model-read, while the students follow. Explain that Aaron Copland really had to "do his homework," as he used small excerpts from President Lincoln's messages to Congress, Lincoln-Douglas debates, and the Gettysburg address.

¨ Explain that many famous American have been chosen as the narrator for this piece of music, such as James Earl Jones, Al Gore, and Coretta Scott King. Who do the students think would be a great narrator?

¨ Play the CD recording of "A Lincoln Portrait." While listening, share the Giant Illustrated Gettysburg Address.

¨ Day Two : Review the previous lesson. Using a Venn diagram, discuss ways President Lincoln and Aaron Copland were alike and different ( e.g. both were charismatic, well-known, respected, had strong feelings for the United States; differences in ethnic backgrounds, life-span, childhood experiences.)


At the piano, perform "Springfield Mountain" and "Camptown Races." Point out how Mr. Copland not only "borrowed" his narration from President Lincoln, he also "borrowed" portions of his music from two popular American songs, "Springfield Mountain" and "Camptown Races." He did this for a very important reason: to show two "picture/portraits" of Lincoln…….a wartime president, but also a humble backwoods rail splitter. "Springfield Mountain" is quiet and beautiful; "Camptown Races" is peppy and fun.

President Lincoln brought hope to the United States in the 1800's. Aaron Copland's composition, "A Lincoln Portrait," continues bringing that hope, as well as celebration, to us today!

The teacher will make real-time assessment with a yes/no student participation checklist.

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