Thirteen Ed Online
Lesson Plans
It Ain't Necessarily So
Overview Procedures for Teachers Organizers for Students

Using wNetStation's GREAT PERFORMANCES Web piece, Porgy and Bess: An American Voice, and other sites on the Web, students will explore ways in which cultural, social, and historical perceptions shape and color characters in literature and drama. With the Gershwin opera PORGY AND BESS as its focal point, this lesson encourages students to examine the issues surrounding the characterization of African-Americans in books, film, and theater over the last century. The lesson also looks at the role African-American folk culture has played in our national arts and consciousness. A look at the historical, cultural, and literary contexts of PORGY AND BESS will serve as a springboard toward exploring the complex nature of stereotypes.

Grade Level:


Subject Matter:

Social Studies, English, Media Literacy, Music

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:

  • Describe the plot, characters, and historical and literary origins of the opera PORGY AND BESS.
  • Articulate the controversy surrounding the characterizations of African-Americans in PORGY AND BESS.
  • Investigate the stereotypes that have plagued the portrayal of African-Americans in books and drama.
  • Research the role Black folklore and folk culture has played in the American arts and mythologies.
  • Identify writers who have effectively used African-American folkways in their work.

    Optional Objectives:

  • Forge strategies for deconstructing and analyzing stereotypes in media.
  • Analyze their own stereotypical views.
  • Describe how stereotypes become self-referential and perpetuate themselves.