Writing lesson plans doesn’t have to be a big chore.
In fact, writing a great arts integration lesson plan is simply a checklist of essential elements within a given space. To begin this process, I always start with the objective. What is it I want these students to know? Many teachers I know are guided by the assessment: what must they be able to demonstrate. In my opinion, that’s just plain wrong. Sure, I want my students to be able to achieve. But more importantly, I want them to KNOW and this starts with setting my goal (objective) right from the start. And since arts integration lessons are my particular area of interest, that means that I need two objectives that connect with one another: math/music, reading/drama, etc. They must make a natural connection and weave together in order to be used.
After figuring out my objective(s), then I figure out my “spark”.
What am I going to use or focus on to teach this goal that will engage my students right from the start? Lessons have to be relevant. Lessons have to speak the language of your students. If you teach in an urban school, starting your lesson with a conversation about the local farm might not be the best choice.
Start with what they know and what they like. This means that you will need to become versed in what is a part of your student’s culture right now. I so dislike that I know who Justin Bieber is and can sing some of his songs, but that is what my kids are listening to. I need to be able to relate to them in order to bring them through my lessons. And I can use the syncopated rhythms in Justin Bieber’s songs to help me introduce iambic pentameter in writing. Find something that will truly engage their interest to use as a way to kick start their learning. Use the arts as your guide: visual art, drama, music and dance are all things that all students know about to some degree. Then comes the next big step for me….
Writing the Assessment.
Nope….I didn’t skip a step. I know that the lesson plan still needs to be written. But by writing my assessment immediately after my objectives and my “spark” that my objectives will travel through, I am making sure that I’m meeting both sets of objectives and that my assessment relates to my objectives. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen teachers write great objectives and then write an assessment that has nothing to do with those goals. Ugh. Both must match, so I tend to write the assessment next. Make sure that the assessment uses the spark that you’re focusing on in a way that students can demonstrate what they have truly learned from the lesson.
Finally….the lesson plan gets tackled last.
At this point, I’m just filling in the path from the objectives to the assessment in small, sequential steps. As I write the plan, I make sure that there are plenty of opportunities for transitions, check to ensure that I’m engaging my kinesthetic, visual and auditory learners, providing opportunity for right brain and left brain transitions and that each step is clear and manageable.
I actually have a checklist that I refer to when I write my lesson plans, just to make sure that I didn’t forget anything. Usually, I can run through it pretty quickly in my head, but I still like to look it over before I put the lesson in the book. Please feel free to download it if you feel it would help you. Happy lesson writing!
Susan Riley is the founder and President of EducationCloset.com. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, Common Core State Standards, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and Arts and the Common Core.
Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter.