A Little Light Music

Grade Level
6-8; 9-12; C-U

Selection: This Little Light of Mine, Tyro
Recorded: Tyro, Mississippi, September 22, 1959
Performers: James Shorter and the congregation of the Independence Church

Activity 1: Singing The Spiritual (Grades 6-8, 9-12, C-U)

1. Play the recording, asking students to listen in order to respond to these questions:

* Who is singing? (A solo male singer and a mixed choir)
* What instruments are playing? (There are no instruments)
* What is the pattern of the body percussion? (stamp-clap-stamp-clap, throughout the song)

2. Practice the body percussion while listening to the recording.

3. Listen again to the recording, and follow these lyrics of this African American spiritual song. Note that "this little light" refers to the spirit of God or goodness residing inside an individual; this is a typical sentiment in spiritual songs.

1.This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine. (3 times)
Let it shine, shine, shine, let it shine.
2. Lord, in my heart, I'm gonna let it shine. (3 times)
Let it shine, shine, shine, let it shine.
3. God give it to me, I'm gonna let it shine. (3 times)
Let it shine, shine, shine, let it shine.
4. Everywhere I go, I'm gonna let it shine. (3 times)
Let it shine, shine, shine, let it shine.

4. Sing the song softly with the recording, attempting to match the slow tempo and elongated pronunciation of the words.

5. Add the stamp-clap pattern while singing (and swinging) the song at a slow-tempo without and then with the recording.

6. Experiment with vocal harmonies that fit the melody's progression of I-IV-I-V-I chords.

Activity 2: Spiritual Song and Freedom Song (Grades 6-8, C-U)

1. Describe "This Little Light of Mine" as a gospel song composed by Harry Dixon Loes in the early 1920s. It has been described as being of the quality of a spiritual due its religious text, with mentions of God, Lord, and the shining light of the holy spirit which Christians believe resides inside each person.

2. Consider the meaning and use of the spiritual, an African American song with a Christian text. The traditional spiritual was a religious song created by enslaved African-Americans, sometimes in verse after verse, sometimes utilizing call and response forms, and sometimes featuring "shouts" which were singing practices that involved jumping, or waiving the hands in the air, or shouting out praise phrases.

3. Discover various online performances of "This Little Light of Mine" by folk and popular musicians such as Odetta, the Boys' Choir of Harlem, Bruce Springsteen, Christina Ricci, and LZ7. Compare the versions to the recording from Tyro, Mississippi, in 1959, for instrumentation, voices (unison or harmony), lyrics, formal organization, and lyrics.

4. Explore the use of this song in the African-American Civil Rights Movement of the late 1950s and 1960s, along with "We Shall Overcome", "Go Tell It on the Mountain", "Hold On", "If You Miss Me at the Back of the Bus", and "A Change is Gonna Come". These were considered to be "Freedom Songs", or Civil Rights anthems, both of which spoke to the function of the songs as expression of the struggle for equal and fair treatment and of the value and inalienable rights of every person in a free and democratic society.

Lesson plan by Patricia Shehan Campbell