The Great Dust Storm – A Musical Introduction to the Dust Bowl
4th or 5th Grade
by Michael Lovorn
Asst. Professor Teacher Education Dept.
California State University Long Beach
(California standards changed to Texas TEKS, other changes by Janie McClam)
Students will be introduced to the Great American Dust Bowl of the 1930s first by
viewing and discussing photographs of the era and then by listening to and
analyzing Woody Guthrie’s The Great Dust Storm. Working with a partner, as
well as independently, students will be able to tell when the Dust Bowl occurred,
locate affected areas on a map, and discuss the basic short-term and long-term
ramifications of this event on the environment, the economy, and mass migration
What can be learned from photographs and songs from the Dust Bowl and Great
Estimated Lesson Timeframe:
1930s imagery PowerPoint, Woody Guthrie CD (Dust Bowl Ballads), CD player,
partially-labeled maps of the United States, Woody Guthrie lyrics handouts, Dust Bowl
vocabulary matching handouts, markers, pencils, paper. There are two maps to choose
from for the map activity. Teacher chooses which one to use with the students.
Literature List: Leah’s Pony by Elizabeth Friedrich
Connection to Esparanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan can be made as to how the
Mexican workers were affected by the migration of the farmers to California.
Standards: Next Page
All the Texas TEKS can apply, however, the teacher will choose which ones she/he
will teach to the students.
Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills
K,1, 2, 3rd Grades
1. 101-K.L;1.3A;2.2B3.3A: The student understands the concept of chronology: Uses vocabulary
related to chronology…past, present and future. B T5*
2. 205-K.L; 1.5A The student understands how to construct and interpret maps and other
graphics: Create and use simple maps to identify the location of places in the classroom, school,
community, and beyond.
3. 301-K.6A: The students understands how basic human needs are met through the production
of goods and services: Identify basic human needs.
4. 712-K.L,1.L: The student understands the impact of technology on the cultural development of
societies, past and present:Explain how science and technology have changed the ways in which
people meet basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter.
5. 804-K.16A, 1.18A, 2.18A, 3.17A: The student understands how to express ideas orally:
Express ideas orally based on knowledge and experiences.
6. 808-K.15A, 1.17A, 2.17A, 3.L: The student understands how to obtain information using a
variety of oral resources: Obtain information about a topic using a variety of oral sources such as
conversations, interviews, music.
7. 809-K.15B, 1.17B, 2.17B, 3.16A: The student understands how to obtain information using a
variety of visual resources: Obtain information about a topic using a variety of visual sources such
as pictures, symbols, television, maps, computer images, print material, and artifacts.
8. 824-K.15.D,1.19A, 2.17E: The student understands how to identify and interpret main ideas:
Identify main ideas from oral, visual and print sources.
9. 222-1.6B:The student understands how humans rely on natural resources: Identify examples of
and uses for natural resources such as water, land…in the community, state, and nation.
10. 702-1.16C The student understands how technology has affected daily lives, past and
present: Explain how science and technology have changed the ways in which people meet basic
needs such as food, clothing, and shelter.
11. 203-2.5A: The student understands how to use the basic tools of geography: Use symbols,
find locations, and determine directions on maps and globes. B T5*
12. 220-2.7A: The student understands how the physical environment affects and interacts with
the human environment: Describe how weather patterns, natural resources, seasonal patterns,
and natural hazards affect activities and settlement patterns. B T2
13. 223-2.7B: The student understand how humans have adapted to, and modified, the physical
environment: Explain how people depend on the physical environment and its natural resources
to satisfy their basic needs, suc as food, clothing, and shelter. B T5*
14. 224-2.8A: The student understand how humans have adapted to, and modified, the physical
environment: Identify ways in which people depend on the physical environment including natural
resources to meet basic needs, such as food, clothing, and shelter. B T5* <WG8G>
15. 226-2.8C: The student understands how humans have adapted to, and modified, the physical
environment: Identify consequences of human modification of the physical environment such as
the use of irrigation to improve crop yields. B T5* <WG8G>
16. 702-2.L, 3.L: The student understands how technology has affected daily lives, past and
present: Describe how technology has changed the way people work.
17. 712-2.16B, 3.L: The student understands the impact of technology on the cultural
development of societies, past and present: Explain how science and technology have changed
the ways in which people meet basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter. B T2 <WH23A>
3rd Grade cont.
18. 204-3.5C: The student understands how to use the basic tools of geography: Identify and use
the compass rose, grid, and symbols to locate places on maps and globes. B T5*
19. 205-3.5D: The students understands how to construct and interpret maps and other graphics:
Draw maps of places and regions that contain map elements including a title, compass rose,
legend, scale, and grid system.
20. 207-3.4A: The student understands the physical characteristics of the environment: Describe
and explain variations in the physical environment including climate, landforms, natural
resources, and natural hazards.
21. 220-3.L: The student understands how the physical environment affects and interacts with the
human environment: Describe how weather patterns, natural resources, seasonal patterns, and
natural hazards affect activities and settlement patterns in the local community. B T2
22. 224-3.4C The student understands how humans have adapted to, and modified, the physical
environment: Describe the effects of physical and human processes in shaping the landscape
such as agriculture…. B T5* <WG8B>
24. 311-3.7A: The student understands the concept of scarcity: Define and identify examples of
25. 312 & 313-3.8B, 8C: The student understands the concept of supply and demand: Explain
how supply and demand affect the price of a good or service; 8C-Explain how the cost of
production and selling price affect profits. B T2
26. 811-3.16E & 3.17B: The student understands how to create visual and written materials from
a variety of sources: Interpret and create visuals including graphs, charts, tables, timelines,
illustrations, and maps; 17B Create written and visual material such as stories, poems, pictures,
maps, and graphic organizers to express ideas. B T5
27. 815-3.L: The student understands how to locate differentiate, and use primary and secondary
sources: Differentiate between, locate, and use primary and secondary sources in communities
throughout the world. B T5
28. 824-3.16C: The student understands how to identify and interpret main ideas: Interpret oral,
visual, and print material by identifying the main idea, identifying cause and effect, and
comparing and contrasting.
4th & 5th Grades
1. 108-4.L &5.L: The student understands how to sequence events in history: Apply absolute and
relative chronology through the sequencing of significant individuals, evens, and time periods. B
2. 205-4.6A & 5.6A: The student understands how to construct and interpret maps and other
graphics: Apply geographic tools, including grid systems, legends, symbols, scales, and compass
roses to construct and interpret maps.
3. 223-5.9C:The student understands how humans have adapted to, and modified, the physical
environment: Analyze the consequences of human modification of the environment in the United
States, past and present, such as farming and the Dust Bowl as well as the effects of
deforestation and industrialization B T5*
4. 807-4.22C & 5.25C: The student understands how to organize and interpret information:
Organize and interpret information in outlines, reports, databases, and visuals including graphs,
charts, timelines, and maps. B T5
5. 808-4.L & 5.L: The student understands how to obtain information using a variety of visual
resources: Obtain information about a topic using a variety of oral sources, such as
conversations, interviews, and music.
6. 809-4.L & 5.L: The student understands how to obtain information using a variety of visual
resources: Obtain information, including historical and geographic data using a variety of print,
oral, visual, and computer sources.
7. 811-4.26D &5.23D: The student understands how to create visual and written materials from a
variety of sources: Create written and visual material such as journal entries, reports, graphic
organizers, outlines, and bibliographies.
8. 15-4.22A & 5.25A: The student understands how to locate differentiate, and use primary and
secondary sources: Differentiate between, locate, and use primary and secondary sources such
as computer software, interviews;l biographies; oral, print, and visual material, and artifacts to
acquire information about the United States and Texas. B T5
9. 823-4.22B & 5.25B: The student understands how to apply critical thinking skills to gather and
analyze social studies information through a variety of strategies: Analyze information by
sequencing, categorizing, identifying, cause-and-effect relationships, comparing, contrasting,
finding the main idea, summarizing, making generalizations and predictions, and drawing
inferences and conclusions. B T5
National Center for History in the Schools: Standards in History for Grades K-4
Standard 5: The causes and nature of various movements of large groups of people into and
within the United States, now, and long ago.
Sub-standard 5-A: Identify reasons why groups such as freed African Americans,
Mexican and Puerto Rican migrant workers, and Dust Bowl farm families migrated to
of the country. [Consider multiple perspectives ]
National Council for Social Studies Curriculum and Content Area Standards
Thematic Strand III. People, Places, and Environments (Early Grades):
Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of people, places
and environments, so that the learner can:
examine the interaction of human beings and their physical environment, the use of land,
building of cities, and ecosystem changes in selected locales and regions;
observe and speculate about social and economic effects of environmental changes and
crises resulting from phenomena such as floods, storms, and drought
The Anticipatory Set (5-8 Minutes):
The teacher will engage students by inviting them to comment on a prearranged
PowerPoint montage of photographs from the Depression/Dust Bowl Era
(1930s). The photographs will include a combination of rural and urban images
(including long unemployment and relief lines, soup kitchens, family life, dust
covered farm equipment, etc.) with a primary emphasis on children’s experiences
and perceptions during the era. The teacher will ask students to describe various
elements in each photograph, during which time she/he will direct students’
attention to the dress, facial expressions, and socio-economic, social and cultural
status indicators of photo subjects. The teacher will call on students randomly
encouraging comments on and/or suppositions regarding what she/he thinks is
occurring in each photograph. If need be, the teacher will hint at what is
happening in the picture, and incorrect guesses will be carefully redirected to an
Instruction (50 Minutes):
The teacher will begin by briefly discussing, in a more pointed manner, the
impact of the great dust storm of 1935 and the consequences such an
environmentally detrimental phenomenon had on the land and the people of the
affected region. She/he will have the following vocabulary lists on the board:
Lesson Vocabulary: alarm, comrade, doom, dreadful, drought, dust
storm, foreclosure, Great Depression, huddle, jalopy, knell, migrant
farmer, mysterious, nation, oil boom shacks, relief, rippling, sundown,
Geography Vocabulary: Albuquerque, Arizona line, Boot Hill, Clovis,
Colorado, Dakota, Denver, Dodge City, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico,
Oklahoma City, Rio Grande (Each location is mentioned in the song.)
After a cursory discussion about the lesson vocabulary terms listed above, the
teacher will number students off (1,2,1,2) and place them in pairs. She/he will
explain that each student is to complete a two-sided Dust Bowl handout during
the lesson, and one culminating Dust Bowl handout at the end. The two-sided
handout is to be done in pairs, while the culminating handout will be done
The teacher will then pass out the two-sided worksheet (each student will receive
a copy of this handout), which has a partially-labeled map of the U.S. on one side
and a fill-in-the-blank lyrics sheet of Woody Guthrie’s The Great Dust Storm on
the other. Students will be informed that the lyrics the Guthrie’s song detail the
events of the 1935 dust storm. The teacher will explain that students will be
hearing the folk song twice in its entirety. During the first playing, all 1s will work
on the map side of the handout. All 2s will work on the lyrics sheet. During the
second playing, these assignments will be reversed. After both assignments
have been completed students will be allowed to compare notes and collaborate
on both sides of the handout.
During each playing of the Guthrie song, the teacher will stop periodically to
discuss vocabulary as it is used, address students’ understandings of the lyrics,
and answer relevant questions. Students will be encouraged to “think out loud”
about the lyrics. During each segment of the lesson, the teacher will move
around the room, pausing periodically to randomly check for understanding. To
accomplish this, she/he will ask a series of affirming questions around the room.
By way of these random questions, the teacher will verify that each student
comprehends the material on an adequate level.
Once students complete the collaboration activity and have worked together to
verify answers on the two-sided handout, the teacher will give them the
vocabulary matching handout. Students will work on this activity independently,
without help from partners or the teacher. Here, each student will be able to
demonstrate her/his comprehension of the Dust Bowl by way of identifying new
vocabulary and drawing a scene from the 1930s based on her/his perceptions of
the time. The teacher will move around the room monitoring progress at this
time, but the activity will be completed by students independently. About ten
minutes of the instruction time will be reserved for independent practice.
The teacher will check for understanding throughout the lesson by randomly
asking affirming questions while moving around the room. This will be her/his
special focus during the independent practice segment of the lesson. The
teacher will informally assess the progress of each student during this time, and
at the end of the lesson, vocabulary matching worksheets will be collected.
Students who match 90%+ of their Dust Bowl vocabulary terms (that is to say
nine out of ten) with correct definitions will have demonstrated mastery of the
objective of this lesson. This activity will be formally graded as a daily
These differentiations will take place during the lesson.
For English Language Learners: During the collaborative segment of
this lesson, the teacher will accommodate for English Language Learners
by selectively placing them in pairings with proficient English speakers.
The teacher will also spend a substantial amount of one-on-one time with
each ELL in order to scaffold the activities, first modeling the activity, and
gradually leading each student to independent work.
For Vision-challenged Students: Vision-impaired students will be
presented with handouts of all lesson material covered in class. These
personal packets of materials will be assembled by the teacher in advance
and will include sizeable copies of each PowerPoint slide, as well as large
print song lyrics and handouts.
For Deaf or Hearing-impaired Students: Students in need of
accommodation for deafness or other hearing impairments will be
presented with PowerPoint packets with labeled images. The lyric sheet
handout will also be more detailed with vocabulary neatly identified.
Worksheets will be labeled and instructions will be clearly outlined. The
teacher will also spend substantial one-on-one time with each student to
If students finish early or if the teacher feels one or more students would benefit
from deeper investigation into this subject matter, extension and/or enrichment
activities may be employed. Students may research important people from the
Great Depression era, such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt,
Dorthea Lange, John Steinbeck, Woody Guthrie, and others. This may be
done on the classroom computer or in various books provided by the teacher.
Students who perform learning activities over and above what is expected for this
lesson will receive extra credit for their efforts. Students may also investigate the
impact of the Duct Bowl on Native American populations (such as the Cherokee
in Oklahoma and Sioux in South Dakota).
By way of the computer, students could also perform independent research from
home by accessing any of the following approved websites:
America (From the Great http://www.lcweb2.loc.gov
Depression to WWII)
American Experience www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/index.html
American Memory memory.loc.gov
American President www.americanpresident.org/
American Studies at the xroads.virginia.edu
University of Virginia
Center for the Liberal Arts www.virginia.edu/cla/
The Digital Classroom www.archives.gov/education/
(Archives & Records)
The Drought www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/dustbowl/peopleevents/pandeAMEX06.html
An Eyewitness Account www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/dustbowl/sfeature/eyewitness.html
FDR Presidential Library www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu
The Forgotten People www.loc.gov/exhibits/treasures/trm016.html
History Matters historymatters.gmu.edu/
Internet Public Library www.ipl.org
Library of Congress lcweb.loc.gov
The Migrant Experience memory.loc.gov/ammem/afctshtml/tsme.html
The New Deal Network newdeal.feri.org/
New Deal Photo Gallery newdeal.feri.org/library/5_1g_4r.htm
River of Song www.pbs.org/riverofsong/
Surviving the Dust Bowl www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/dustbowl/tguide/index.html
Voices from the Dust memory.loc.gov/ammem/afctshtml/tshome.html
For students who do not demonstrate mastery of the lesson objective, the teacher will re-
cover the material by sitting with them in small groups and engaging them in one-on-one
question and answer sessions about the Great American Dust Bowl. During this time,
students in need of re-teaching will be able to demonstrate the degree to which they
understand connections between Guthrie’s lyrics and plight of migrant farmers during the
Dust Bowl. During this exchange, the teacher will then be able to discern what lesson
element(s) is/are giving students difficulty. Once the teacher identifies the area(s) of
difficulty, he will coach students through the vocabulary handout. Finally, the teacher
will collect the handouts and verify students’ understanding by asking review questions.
Once students have demonstrated comprehension in these areas, the teacher may proceed
with the understanding that subject matter has been successfully re-taught.
The Great Dust Storm (Dust Storm Disaster)
Woody Guthrie (1912-1967)
On the fourteenth day of April of 1935,
there struck the worst of dust storms that ever filled the sky.
You could see that dust storm comin’, the cloud looked death-like black.
And through our mighty nation, it left a dreadful track.
From Oklahoma City, to the Arizona line,
Dakota and Nebraska to the lazy Rio Grande.
It fell across our cities, like a curtain of black rolled down.
We thought it was our judgment, we thought it was our doom!
The radio reported, we listened with alarm,
The wild and windy actions of this great mysterious storm.
From Albuquerque and Clovis, and all New Mexico,
they said it was the blackest, that ever they had saw.
From ol’ Dodge City, Kansas, the dust had rung their knell,
and a few more comrades sleeping, on top of ol’ Boot Hill.
From Denver, Colorado, they said it blew so strong,
they thought that they could hold out, but they didn’t know how long!
Our relatives were huddled into their oil boom shacks,
and the children they was cryin’ as it whistled through the cracks!
And the family it was crowded, into their little room,
they thought the world had ended, and they thought it was their doom.
The storm took place at sundown, it lasted through the night.
When we looked out next morning, we saw a terrible sight!
We saw outside our window, where wheat-fields they had grown,
was now a rippling ocean of dust the wind had blown.
It covered up our fences, it covered up our barns.
It covered up our tractors in this wild and dusty storm!
We loaded our jalopies and piled our families in.
We rattled down that highway to never come back again.
The Great Dust Storm (Dust Storm Disaster)
We will listen to this song twice. Listen carefully and fill in the blanks using terms from the word
bank at the bottom of the page. When we get to the word (STOP!), we will pause for you to ask
questions and complete your answers. Have fun! I hope you like the song!
On the fourteenth day of April of 19____, there struck the worst of
dust storms that ever filled the sky. You could see that dust storm
coming, the cloud looked death-like black. And through our mighty
____________, it left a dreadful track. (STOP!)
From Oklahoma City, to the Arizona line, Dakota and Nebraska to the
lazy Rio Grande. It fell across our cities, like a curtain of black rolled
down. We thought it was our judgment, we thought it was our
_________! The radio reported, we listened with alarm to the wild
and windy actions of this great, ____________ storm. (STOP!)
From Albuquerque and Clovis and all New Mexico, they said it was
the blackest, that ever they had saw. From ol’ Dodge City, Kansas,
the dust had rung their ____________, and a few more
____________ sleeping, on top of ol’ Boot Hill. (STOP!)
From Denver, Colorado, they said it blew so strong, they thought that
they could hold out, but they didn’t know how long! Our relatives
were huddled into their _________ ____________ shacks. And the
children, they were crying as it whistled through the cracks! And the
family, it was crowded, into their little rooms. They thought the world
had ended, and they thought it was their doom. (STOP!)
The storm took place at ____________, it lasted through the night.
When we looked out next morning, we saw a terrible sight! We saw
outside our window, where ____________ they had grown, was now
a ____________ ocean of dust the wind had blown. It covered up
our fences, it covered up our barns. It covered up our ____________
in this wild and dusty storm! (STOP!)
We loaded our ____________ and piled our families in. We rattled
down that highway to never come back again. (STOP!)
alarm comrades doom dreadful dust storm
huddle jalopies knell mysterious nation
rippling oil boom shacks sundown tractors wheat fields
The Great American Dust Bowl
We will listen to this song twice. Listen carefully and mark each of the cities and states mentioned in the song.
We will stop several times so you can ask questions and complete your answers. When you are finished marking
the cities and states, connect the outer marks and shade in the space in the middle. You will have a map of the
Great American Dust Bowl of 1935!
Places affected by The Great Dust Storm
Cities: States: Other Places:
Oklahoma City, OK Arizona Rio Grande (River)
Albuquerque, NM Colorado Boot Hill (Cemetery)
Clovis, NM Dakota (South Dakota)
Dodge City, KS Kansas
Denver, CO Nebraska
The Dust Bowl Name: __________________
Match the terms you have just learned with their correct definitions or descriptions. When you
finish with the matching section, draw your own Dust Bowl scene in the box below.
_____ 1. Comrade A. River between Texas & Mexico
_____ 2. Jalopy B. Unknown, confusing
_____ 3. Boot Hill C. Small, wooden house
_____ 4. Tractors D. Grain crop used to make bread
_____ 5. Oil Boom Shack E. Close friend
_____ 6. Knell F. Old, clunky car
_____ 7. Rio Grande G. Country (The United States)
_____ 8. Nation H. Funeral bell
_____ 9. Mysterious I. Old cemetery
_____ 10. Wheat J. Farm machine
Now draw your own Dust Bowl picture here: