Unit I: Defining Terms

objectives materials technology background activities assessment resources

Louisiana Voices Educator's Guide  
Getting Started With This Guide  
Study Guide Summary  
Outline of the Study Guide  
Study Unit I Defining Terms  
Study Unit II Fieldwork Basics  
Study Unit III Discovering the Obvious: Our Lives as "The Folk"  
Study Unit IV The State of Our Lives: Being a Louisiana Neighbor  
Study Unit V Oral Traditions--Swapping Stories  
Study Unit VI Louisiana's Musical Landscape  
Study Unit VII Material Culture-The Stuff of Life  
Study Unit VIII The Worlds of Work and Play  
Study Unit IX The Seasonal Round and Life Cycles  
Educator's Links  
Louisiana Voices Milestones  
Educator's Guide Glossary  
Educator's Guide Credits
Educator's Opportunities For Professional Development  
Join The Community
Louisiana Folklife website

Louisiana Folklife Program

Louisiana's Living

            Traditions: Articles, Photos and Virtual Exhibits about Louisiana Folklife  

Unit II Outline:

Defining Terms Introduction

Lesson 1: What is Folklife?

Lesson 2: Folk Groups

Lesson 3: Folk Genres (this page)

Unit I Resources


Unit I
Defining Terms

Lesson 3 Folk Genres

I've been quilting since I was old enough to sew. My mother always done that, and I was a nosey little old girl, and I always stood in the way. Every scrap she'd drop, why, I'd pick it up and sew. I kept sewing until I got where I could make a good block, and she put it in her quilt as encouragement.

––Cloaner Smith, Claiborne Parish
from Traditional Quiltmaking in Louisiana

Grade Levels


Curriculum Areas

English Language Arts, Social Studies, Visual Art


Purpose of Lesson

Students are introduced to different folk genres. They hear personal narratives of people in Louisiana and identify their folklife. This lesson brings together the concepts of the unit: folklife, folk groups, and folk genres.


Lesson Objectives/Louisiana Content Standards, Benchmarks, and Foundation Skills

  1. Students classify folklife traditions into folk genres.
    H-1A-M6 Conducting research in efforts to answer historical questions. (1, 2, 3, 4)

    ELA-6-M3 Classifying various genres according to their unique characteristics. (1,2,4,5)

    ELA-7-M2 Problem solving by using reasoning skills, life experiences, accumulated knowledge, and relevant available information. (1, 2, 4)

    G-1C-E4 Identifying and comparing the cultural characteristics of different regions and people; (1, 2, 3, 4)

  2. Students connect folklife to places and people in Louisiana.
    ELA-6-E1 Recognizing and responding to United States and world literature that represents the experiences and traditions of diverse ethnic groups. (1, 4, 5)

    ELA-7-M2 Problem solving by using reasoning skills, life experiences, accumulated knowledge, and relevant available information. (1, 2, 4)

    ELA-1-E6 Interpreting texts to generate connections to real-life situations. (1,2,4)

  3. Students make decisions on how to use and communicate their findings.
    ELA-2-M6 Writing as a response to texts and life experiences (e.g., letters, journals, lists).(1, 2, 4)

    ELA-2-M4 Using narration, description, exposition, and persuasion to develop various modes of writing (e.g., notes, stories, poems, letters, essays, logs). (1, 4)

    CE-1VA-E2 Exploring techniques and technologies for visual expression and communication. (2, 3)

    CE-1VA-M5 Producing ideas for art productions while engaging in both individual and group activities. (1, 5)

    CE-1VA-M6 Identifying the relationships between the arts and other disciplines through art production. (4)

Time Required

5-7 days



Duplicate copies of Parts III and IV of What Is Folklife and Why Study It? Make one or more copies of the Some Basic Types of Folklife charts. This lesson provides a choice of several activities for extended development of concepts, so prepare materials for the ones you choose.

  • For the Folk Genre Museum activity, use postcards from around the state or images from the Louisiana Folklife Photo Gallery and cards with titles of each folk genre.
  • For the FOLKPATTERNS Card Game, print and cut up the cards.
  • For the Bingo activities, print and duplicate the Bingo cards. For Oreo cookie activity, provide Oreo cookies for all students.
  • For the Word Quilt activity, prepare one-inch wide strips of construction or colored paper in many dark and light colors, make duplicates of the Word Quilt Template, and provide glue sticks and posters or roll paper.

Put students' journals in an easily accessible place. Print and duplicate the worksheets and assessment tools listed below for the activities you choose.


Technology Connections

Internet Resources

What Is Folklife and Why Study It?

Voices of Louisiana

Louisiana Folklife Photo Gallery

Louisiana Quilt Documentation Project

Louisiana Quilt Guilds

Quilt Guilds Worldwide

Adaptation Strategies

Some Basic Types of Folklife


Student Worksheets

Voices of Louisiana Worksheet


New Orleans Folklife Bingo

North Louisiana Folklife Bingo

South Louisiana Folklife Bingo

Bingo Worksheet (Blank)

Microsoft Word version of Bingo with suggestions

Louisiana Bingo Worksheet (Word Document)

Online Scavenger Hunt

Word Quilt Worksheet

Word Quilt Template

Letter From a Folklorist

Seasonal Round Worksheet

Life Cycle Poetry Worksheet


Assessment Tools

K–W–L Assessment Sheet

Creating an Exhibit Checklist

Creating an Exhibit - Group Checklist

Things I've Learned About Folklife Worksheet


Evaluation Tools/Opportunities


  1. K–W–L Assessment Sheet
  2. Journals
  3. Voices of Louisiana Worksheet
  4. Folk genre museum
  6. Folklife Bingo
  7. Word Quilt Worksheet



  1. K–W–L Assessment Sheet
  2. Creating an Exhibit Checklist
  3. Creating an Exhibit - Group Checklist
  4. Things I've Learned About Folklife Worksheet



  1. Voices of Louisiana Worksheet
  2. Online Scavenger Hunt Worksheet
  3. Some Basic Types of Folklife - student-designed posters
  4. Word Quilt Worksheets
  5. Word quilts
  6. Letter to a Folklorist
  7. Seasonal Round Worksheet
  8. Life Cycle Poetry Worksheet


Background Information for the Teacher

Review the Folk Genres section of the unit introduction of Unit I Defining Terms.


To Prepare

If the essay What Is Folklife and Why Study It? is written above your students' reading ability, refer to the Adaptation Strategies for ways to adjust and modify it to levels that students can understand. Select the appropriate Bingo worksheet for your class or make your own. Purchase a bag of Oreo cookies for the How to Eat an Oreo activity. Gather postcards of assorted images of folk genres or select and print images from the Louisiana Folklife Photo Gallery. For the Word Quilt activity, familiarize yourself with the various patterns that can be designed using the Word Quilt Template by reviewing the quilts on the Louisiana Quilt Documentation Project webpage. Bookmark these pages and access them on the classroom computers before students begin this activity, and assemble materials for Word Quilts. If possible, enlarge one or more copies of the Some Basic Types of Folklife chart on a copy machine to use as reference during this lesson. It would also be helpful to leave the charts on the wall for student reference. If students will be using the Letter From a Folklorist activity, locate individual or groups of folklorists to whom students may send their letters.


4th and 8th Grade Activities

Folk Genres

  1. Remind students that folklife consists of activities that we carry out within folk groups. Because there is so much folklore in our lives, we need a system for talking about it. Folklorists have defined certain folk genres–or categories–to help us categorize the folklore we want to discuss. As a pretest, use the K–W–L Assessment Sheets to have students brainstorm the topic of folk genres. Ask them to write down what they Know and what they Want to Know. It is likely that many have not heard of folk genres. If this is the case, be sure that they write some statements in the W - "Want to Know" - column.

  2. Have students read Part III Folk Genres and Part IV Why Study Folklife? of What Is Folklife and Why Study It? Use the teaching aid poster, Some Basic Types of Folklife, to review the different folk genres with students. Ask students to reflect on what has been discussed and write about one or more folk genres in their journals.

  3. Distribute the Voices of Louisiana Worksheet. Explain that these stories are taken from the Voices of Louisiana webpage and represent various kinds of folk traditions around the state. Review the definitions on Page 1. Then, read the first story on Page 2 aloud to students and review the folk groups and folk genres listed in the example. Challenge students to explain why they do or do not belong with this story.

    Divide students into groups and have them work together to identify the folk groups and folk genres in the remaining stories listed and write their findings in the charts provided on the worksheet. It is important to review the results of all the groups together as a class, because it is very likely that their answers will differ––and that they can all be correct. Encourage students to debate each group's findings.

  4. If you feel that students need further instruction and/or practice to develop the concept of folk genres fully, use one or more of the following activities:

    1. Help students analyze images and classify them into genres by creating a Folk Genre Museum with postcards or images from the Louisiana Folklife Photo Gallery.

      1. Divide class into groups of eight students.
      2. For each group, prepare cards with titles of each folk genre and place them in a circle on the floor. Have students stand in a circle around the cards.
      3. Ask students to create Folk Genre Museums by laying down their images or postcards wherever they see a relationship.
      4. Give each an image to examine in depth. They must decide which folk genre it represents. Remind them that it is possible for an image to represent more than one genre, and players make decisions based on their previous experiences and the folk groups they belong to. In other words, there are no "correct" answers.
      5. Students take turns placing their images in one of the genres. They must also give a brief explanation of why they believe it belongs there.
      6. If desired, ask students to construct one class Folk Genre Museum. Place a new set of title cards in the center of the classroom and ask groups to place their postcards or images in the correct folk genre.
      7. Have students discuss as a group why they laid images where they did, make adjustments, and reach consensus on the final museum design.
      8. Students can assess their work on the Folk Genre Museum with the Creating an Exhibit Checklist. First, have them evaluate their own work in the "Self" column. Then, if desired, the teacher can evaluate their work in the "Teacher" column. Or, they can use the Creating an Exhibit - Group Checklist.

    2. Another way to help students discover the folklife around us is the FOLKPATTERNS Card Game from the FOLKPATTERNS 4-H Leader's Guide, Michigan 4-H Youth Programs. The activity is suitable for ages seven and up. Certain cards may be more suitable for younger or older students. Teachers may read the cards for pre-readers and have the students respond orally. You can make your own cards with suggestions more specific to Louisiana folk cultures listed on the Louisiana Bingo Worksheet. For suggestions, see the Microsoft Word version of Bingo.

      1. Make the card game by printing and cutting up the cards.
      2. To play, have the group form a circle and place the cards face down in the middle of it.
      3. Select a student to pick a card and answer the question on it. If he or she cannot answer it, ask for volunteers. There are no right or wrong answers! Continue the process until all the students in the circle have chosen a card and answered a question. Students may answer orally or in writing. Certain cards, such as "What is your favorite holiday? How does your family celebrate it?" may be suitable for longer written responses.
      4. If time permits, ask students to come up with additional examples for some of the questions, or see how many different variants the class has of the same tradition. Talk about the many traditions we all have.
    3. Explore folk genres by using this Folklife Bingo activity. Select New Orleans Folklife Bingo, North Louisiana Folklife Bingo, or South Louisiana Folklife Bingo, depending on the location of your school. Or make your own with the blank Bingo Worksheet provided.

      1. Have students check off the traditions that they have done.
      2. Ask students to explain the traditions.
      3. Ask them to talk about how they learned it. From whom? When? Where? Who else in their folk group does it? How long has it gone on?
      4. Together, classify traditions according to genres described in the essay. Students may also refer to the Some Basic Types of Folklife chart when classifying the traditions.
      5. You and the students might discuss how many answers should come from interviewing others in the classroom or outside the classroom as homework. One method is to ask them to put a person's initials in the box or write a brief description.
      6. As with conventional Bingo, all answers must be verified, which can lead to interesting discussion.
  1. Distribute the K–W–L Assessment Sheets that were used as a pretest and ask students to complete the L column to show what they learned about folk genres.
Review of Folklife, Folk Groups, Folk Genres
  1. Several activities for reviewing the three main concepts presented in Unit 1 are provided below. Use as many as needed to ensure that all students understand the concepts.
    1. How I Eat an Oreo Cookie.

      1. Have students write a description of "How I Eat an Oreo Cookie."
      2. After they write about the process, ask several students to come to the front of the room to eat an Oreo. Do they simply bite into it? Do they unscrew it? Do they want to dip it in milk? How did they learn how to eat an Oreo? From a family member? From a television commercial? Is this the "best" way to eat an Oreo cookie? (Having students defend the way they eat the cookie may reveal values of their folk groups.) If they learned from both a family member and television, this is an example of how a mass-produced, commercially advertised item can be part of both folk and popular culture.
      3. Continue discussing the Oreo cookie in relation to genres: The cookie is NOT folk material culture because it is mass-produced for commercial purposes. However, it may be eaten in a traditional manner, when one person takes the time to teach another person a "special way" to eat an Oreo or someone observes a new way of eating an Oreo and adapts it.
      4. Ask students if they have a personal narrative about a time when they ate an Oreo cookie to show how it may overlap with oral traditions. Also, ask if there is a family recipe that uses Oreos. Do any students have any special beliefs about Oreos? Do they eat them for good luck, for example? Explore the possibilities for classifying their use of the cookie into different folk genres.
      5. Continue discussion of the "best" way to eat an Oreo cookie. Put the "unscrewers" in one group; the "dunkers" in another; the "unscrewers + dunkers" in another; the "biters" in another, etc. Form as many groups as ways of eating the cookie. Have them list on a sheet of paper the things they share in common about eating Oreos they way they do. How did they learn? Why have they chosen this way?
      6. Have students discover what they have in common as a folk group. Have one member of each group present their discussion to the rest of the class.
    2. The Online Scavenger Hunt is another activity that pulls together the concepts of folklife, folk groups, and folk genres. Students must find examples of folklife on several webpages and check off the ones they can locate. Have students conduct the scavenger hunt and give a prize to the student who can locate the most resources.
    3. Use the teaching aid poster, Some Basic Types of Folklife, to review concepts with students, then have them design their own posters using information they have learned in this lesson.
Communicate Findings
  1. After breaking down the study of folklife, folk groups, and folk genres into three lessons, it is a good idea to do activities that bring the concepts all together. The Word Quilt Worksheet is a creative activity that allows students to address all three concepts at once. For this activity, you will need strips of construction paper or dark and light colored paper cut in one-inch wide strips; the Word Quilt Template, glue sticks, and poster or bulletin board. See the Word Quilt Example.

    Explain that the Log Cabin design is a very old pattern used by American quilt makers for a very long time. Students create poems about folklife, write the lines of the poems on strips of colored paper, then paste them on Word Quilt templates to form quilt squares. They then combine the squares artistically to create a "quilt" on posters or the bulletin board.

    1. Distribute the Word Quilt Worksheet to students and have them complete Steps 1, 2, and 3 in which they write their own definition and what they mean in students' lives and then choose two examples.
    2. Have them review the poem in the Example on Page 3, then write their own poems on the blank lines.
    3. Copy the poem on the Word Quilt Template, with the title in the center square and one line of the poem in each rectangle. The poem should be written in a "circle" around the center. This will allow them the flexibility of choosing different designs and/or colors in later steps, because correct phrases can then be copied on the colors chosen for each rectangle in the block.
    4. Have students view examples of traditional Log Cabin quilts on the Louisiana Quilt Documentation Project webpage. From the homepage, select "Search Database." Encourage students to notice the variations that can be made by different placements of light and dark strips.
    5. Students choose one of the designs and select paper strips in the colors that are needed for the design.
    6. Have them cut the paper strips in the correct lengths to fit the spaces where they will be pasted, write the phrases of the poem on the colored strips, and glue the strips to the template.
    7. Assemble all the Word Quilt blocks on roll paper or poster board to make a large "Word Quilt." Post it on the bulletin board.
    8. You can consider alternative procedures such as having students work individually, creating their own Word Quilt poems and blocks. This makes for a better class quilt. They could also use family photos instead of definitions, or type the poems on a page with the quilt square and publish a class book.
    9. If students are interested in learning more about quilting, find a quilter or quilt groups in your area and have students interview them about their traditions. Some resources are Louisiana Quilt Guilds and Quilt Guilds Worldwide.
    10. Students can assess their work on the Word Quilts with the Creating an Exhibit Checklist. First, have them evaluate their own work in the "Self" column. Then, if desired, the teacher can evaluate their work in the "Teacher" column.

  2. Distribute the Letter From a Folklorist. Ask students to read the letter and write their own responses. In their response letters, students can use the poetry they wrote for the Word Quilt Worksheet as a starting point. The letter should describe any tradition that is important to the student. It should cover at least two points: 1) a description of the tradition, and 2) an explanation of why the tradition is important. The length of the letter should be established by the teacher, based on students' ages and performance levels. Locate individual or groups of folklorists to whom students may send their letters, and help them mail the letters.

  3. As a final assessment for the unit, have students complete the Things I've Learned About Folklife Worksheet and have an informal sharing of information.

4th and 8th Grade Explorations and Extensions

  1. Complete a Seasonal Round Worksheet to discover traditions and customs you practice through the year. Then classify the customs into folk genres.

  2. Complete the Life Cycle Poetry Worksheet to read about an important tradition to one person and then to write a poem about a tradition of your own.


Unit I Resources

Unit I Outline


National Endowment for

            the Arts.

Folklife in Louisiana Home | Living Traditions Home | Louisiana Voices Educator's Guide
Overview of Louisiana's Traditional Cultures | Folklife Program Introduction |
Planning and Funding Folklife Projects | Opportunities for Professional Development
Links | Credits | Contact Us/Link to Us

Questions about this site? Contact Maida Owens, folklife@crt.la.gov.