Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8, 9-12

In this lesson plan, adaptable for grades 3-12, students use BrainPOP resources to learn about the birth of Motown, its role in racial integration of popular entertainment, and how it became the “sound of young America.” After exploring this topic, students imagine they are music critics in the early 1960s, and write a review of the new label Motown, describing its musical style and referencing specific musicians.  

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Participate in a KWL activity, sharing what they know and what they want to know about Motown, and later share what they learned.
  2. Watch a movie about Motown and learn its history and positive cultural effect on society.
  3. Identify important details about Motown using a 5Ws graphic organizer.
  4. Write an article reviewing/critiquing Motown using notes.
  5. Make a BrainPOP movie about a Motown musician. (extension activity)


Lesson Procedure:

  1. Tell students that today they will watch a movie about Motown and how its music brought people together at time of division. For background, you can read aloud or have students read the Related Readings.  If you were able to bring in books about Motown artists, allow time for students to explore them.  
  2. Present the KWL chart to the class (see Preparation). Ask students what they know about Motown, including what kind of music it is, how it got its start, sample musicians, and more. Jot their responses in the K column. Then ask what they hope to learn about Motown. Write responses in the W column of the KWL chart.
  3. Show the movie Motown on an interactive whiteboard or other large display to the whole class once through without pausing.
  4. Next, distribute the 5W’s graphic organizer. Have students watch the movie again on their own devices (or as a whole class on the whiteboard if limited access to individual devices) and complete the 5W’s graphic organizer as they watch. Encourage them to pause so they can take notes.
  5. Next have students review the Related Readings, and add any more relevant details to their graphic organizers.
  6. Now tell students to imagine it is the early 1960s and they are music critics--journalists who review music for a newspaper. Explain that they’ve been given the assignment to write an article reviewing the new music of Motown. Remind them that Motown was growing in popularity around the country, becoming the sound of young America. Explain that they are to use their notes from the 5W’s graphic organizer to write their articles. If you brought in books, encourage students to review them for ideas to add to their articles, or as reference for specific musicians.
  7. Have students swap their first drafts with a partner to edit. Then allow time for revisions.
  8. Put the articles on display for other students to read.
  9. Lastly, return to the KWL chart, and invite students to share what they learned. Jot their responses on in the L column.

Extension Activities:

For classes with My BrainPOP accounts, invite students to use the Make-a-Movie tool to make a movie featuring a Motown artist.