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The History of Amazing Grace

Lesson Overview

Overview: Using primary source information, the students will learn about Amazing Grace as it evolved into one of America's most popular hymn tunes. The students will learn about the history, the variations and hear audio recordings of Amazing Grace from early American history.
Grade Range: 9-12
Objective: After completing this activity students will be able to:
  • Discuss the history of Amazing Grace including dates and time frames about the creation and publication of the tune.
  • Be able to provide historical data using primary source material to explain Amazing Grace's development in the United States.
  • Be able to give examples of different performing groups that performed Amazing Grace as a popular tune in the 20th Century and discuss how it evolved from a simple hymn tune to a popular music hit. 
Time Required: Four class periods of 40 minutes
Discipline/Subject: High School Music Theory
Topic/Subject: Performing Arts, Music
Era: The New Nation, 1783-1815, National Expansion and Reform, 1815-1860, Civil War and Reconstruction, 1861-1877, Rise of Industrial America, 1876-1900, Progressive Era to New Era, 1900-1929, Great Depression/World War II, 1929-1945



Illinois Learning Standards:
Common Core Standards:

                                  5. Performing and notating music.
                                  6. Listening to, analyzing and describing music.
                                  7. Evaluating music and music performances.
                                  9. Understanding music in relation to history and culture.



Handouts: Copy of the Southern Harmony, Baptist Chorals and a modern day version of Amazing Grace
Analysis Tools: Amazing Grace Analysis Sheet (available on PDF)
Rubric: Amazing Grace Analysis Grading Rubric (available on PDF)
PowerPoint: Available on PDF
Library of Congress Items: Library of Congress Performing Arts Encyclopedia: Amazing Grace
Online Resources: Library of Congress, Performing Arts Encyclopedia: Amazing Grace



1. Present class with PowerPoint presentation on the History of Amazing Grace. The presentation is broken down into the following areas:
  • History and Origin
  • First Publications of Amazing Grace
  • Recorded Examples of Amazing Grace
2. After completion of the presentation, introduce the Amazing Grace Analysis Assignment. The purpose of this assignment is:
  • Analyze what they hear in the recordings that they listen to.
  • Improve their written expression skills by having to explain their thoughts in writing.
  • Improve their listening skills by having to listen to the recordings with a critical ear.
  • comparing two contrasting works of music to find differences. 

Analysis Tool
Library of Congress Items 

3. Assess the quality of student work by using the Amazing Grace Analysis Rubric. Rubric



Student learning will be evaluated by completion of the analysis worksheet, and by their verbal participation in class.