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Teaching Guide

Teaching the 1960s

Stay groovy, Shmoopers.


The 1960s left a legacy of groovy music and out-of-this-world fashions, but it wasn't just the Age of Aquarius. It was a time of counterculture and social change. So shake off your bell-bottoms, and accessorize with this teaching guide.

In this guide you will find

  • activities analyzing historical documents, videos, and songs of the time.
  • discussion questions on ideology, labor, and culture.
  • historical resources from the history of rockin' and rollin' to a bio of JFK and the powerful Civil Rights movement.

Our wicked righteous teaching guide comes highly recommended. Wearing platform shoes to class: optional.

What's Inside Shmoop's History Teaching Guides

Shmoop is a labor of love from folks who love to teach. Our teaching guides will help you supplement in-classroom learning with fun, engaging, and relatable learning materials that bring history to life.

Inside each guide you'll find quizzes, activity ideas, discussion questions, and more—all written by experts and designed to save you time. Here are the deets on what you get with your teaching guide:

  • 3-5 Common Core-aligned activities (including quotation, image, and document analysis) to complete in class with your students, with detailed instructions for you and your students. 
  • Discussion and essay questions for all levels of students.
  • Reading quizzes to be sure students are looking at the material through various lenses.
  • Resources to help make the topic feel more relevant to your 21st-century students.
  • A note from Shmoop's teachers to you, telling you what to expect from teaching the topic and how you can overcome the hurdles.

Instructions for You

The 1960s produced several talented poet-songwriters, but Bob Dylan is generally recognized as the greatest of these. In this analytical exercise, your students will examine several of his songs from the decade and explore what they reveal about the values of the counterculture and youth movement.

1. Ask your students to select two songs from this list. Direct them to Dylan's official website, where they can read the lyrics. To hear a clip from the song, just click on the title.

2. Discuss with your students their observations of the music.

What was the message of the song?

Were its references allegorical or literal?
To what specific events or attitudes did the song refer?

Is the song political or personal?

What was the spirit of the song?
Was it hopeful and forward-looking or pessimistic?

Was there any overlap between your two songs?
Did they speak to a similar concern or hope?

Collectively, what constellation of values do these songs reflect?

Instructions for Your Students

Do you like Bob Dylan? Do you listen to Bob Dylan? Ever heard of Bob Dylan? He carries a lot of labels—the "poet laureate of the 60s," the "voice of his generation."  What did he have to say? And does he speak to your generation, in addition to his own? 

You will be exploring some of his music. You can get jump-started by listening to this classic.


Check out all the different parts of our corresponding learning guide.

Intro    Summary & Analysis    Timeline    People    Facts    Photos    Best of the Web    Citations    
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