Ballad of Tom Dooley #1

Download Ballad of Tom Dooley #1 Lesson Plan

Ballad of Tom Dooley Lesson Plan #1 (PDF)


By Wendy Kimbrell, Brandy Huffman, and Penny Jenkins

Learning Outcomes

Students will:

  • Research cultural legends from their individual backgrounds and share with the class differing styles of music, dance, and/or stories from their family’s origins
  • Research native North Carolinian Tom “Dooley” Dula and create a song or poem based on their research
  • Develop an appreciation for global and local cultural diversity
  • Analyze a primary and secondary document

Teacher Planning

Time Required for Lesson: 2-3 days

Materials Needed: laptops/ipad

Copies of materials:

Technology Resources Needed

  • High-speed internet access and computers/iPad with a music making app (Some great examples of useful music apps - Sing! Karaoke by Smule, Magic Piano by Smule, AutoRap by Smule, Guitar by Smule, Songify, GarageBand)
  • Stereo headphones for each student
  • Speakers, or some kind of small sound system (for presenting student songs)

Background Information / Pre-Activities

  • Introduce the term “culture” and have a brief class discussion about what culture means to each student.
  • For homework, students will find something, artifact or information, unique to their background, to briefly share with the class.
  • Introduce the term “ballad” and share examples (The Ballad of Omie Wise, The Ballad of Frankie Silver). Discuss with the class how the formation of a ballad can be influenced by the culture from which the story comes.
  • To familiarize yourselves with the ballad and the story surrounding it, watch this UNC-TV production on the ballad and the lore and copyright issues surrounding it.


  1. Students will share with the class items or stories that reflect their cultural background.
  2. Working in groups of three, students will read the three articles provided (Our State Magazine “Lift Up Your Head,” North Carolina Visitor’s Center article on Tom Dooley, and the Tom Dula Court papers) and create a list of facts, a list of similarities and differences between the three articles.
  3. Students will create a song or poem about the events surrounding the account of the Tom Dula story. The song/poem must include at least 10 facts.
  4. After class presentations of song/poem, teacher will play and discuss various versions of The Ballad of Tom Dula (The Kingston Trio, Frank Proffitt, Grateful Dead, Grayson and Whitter 1929 version, etc).
  5. Assessment
  6. Student groups share their song/poem with the class pointing out the 10 facts from their included readings.

Critical Vocabulary

  • Ballad
  • Child Ballads
  • Native American Ballads
  • Guilt
  • Proving
  • Syphilis
  • Folk Process
  • Murder Ballad

See definitions

North Carolina Essential Standards - SOCIAL STUDIES Grade 8

8.H.1.1 Construct charts, graphs, and historical narratives to explain particular events or issues

8.H.1.2 Summarize the literal meaning of historical documents in order to establish context
8.H.1.3 Use primary and secondary sources to interpret various historical perspectives
8.H.1.4 Use historical inquiry to evaluate the validity of sources used to construct historical narratives
8.C.1.1 Explain how influences from Africa, Europe, and the Americas impacted North Carolina and the United States
8.C.1.2 Summarize the origin of beliefs, practices, and traditions that represent various groups within North Carolina and the United States
8.TT.1 Use technology and other resources for assigned tasks