Art Education: Incorporating the Arts into the Social Studies Classroom Post #3

by Caroline Forni on May 10, 2022

Lesson Plan Samples:

Through my research on Art Education, I have become a strong proponent of incorporating the arts into the classroom, and have tried to do so whenever possible in my History classes. This post will include several examples of how I incorporated art in my classroom over the last decade, in varying topics and grade levels. 

Sample 1:

Course Name: World History I     Grade:8      Date: 10/22/13

Unit Name: Civilizations of the Americas


WHI.13: Identify the three major pre-Columbian civilizations that existed in Central and South America (Maya, Aztec, and Inca) and their locations. Describe their political structures, religious practices, economies, art and architecture, and use of slaves. (H,G, E)


Students will examine the cultures of Middle America and explore their lasting legacies. 

Do Now:

Name the two cultures that settled in Middle America.  (3 mins)


-Students will be assigned their first quarter project.  Students will be expected to create a mosaic of the achievements of the Inca, Maya and Aztec.  Directions for the project are to take fragments (colored paper, magazine clippings, etc.) and put them together to create an image.  Each fragment should include a representation on it of an achievement of the Inca, Maya or Aztec (quipu, stele, terraces, sun, etc.)  The project must also include a descriptive label and should be color-coded. Students will see a sample and ask questions if they have them.   Students have one week to complete the project.  (10 mins)

-Students will listen to a lecture and take notes from the board on the cultures of Middle America.  Topics covered include slash and burn agriculture, hieroglyphics, Tenochtitlan, Moctezuma, etc.  

-Students will view images during slides of Mayan hieroglyphics and the Mexican flag (when learning the story of the settling of Tenochtitlan)

-Students will ask questions when appropriate and be expected to answer them when asked.  (25 mins)


How are the three cultures of central and south America similar?  How are they different?  What did you learn today that you might be able to put on your project? (5 mins)

Reflection: For this lesson, I had students both create hands-on visual representations, as well as analyze images through notes on the board. While the lesson itself was not solely focused on the art of the Maya and Aztec, it was important for me to incorporate mosaics, hieroglyphics, and the Mexican flag into my lesson to help students visualize how these items were and are important to the cultures of Mesoamerica. 


Sample 2: 

Course Name: World History II Grade:9 Date: 10/27/14

Unit Name: The Industrial Revolution


WHII.6 Summarize the social and economic impact of the Industrial Revolution. (H, E) A.  the vast increases in productivity and wealth

B.  population and urban growth 

C.  the growth of a middle class

D.  problems caused by urbanization and harsh working conditions 


Students will understand new cultural attitudes and values that developed from the Industrial Revolution.   

Do Now:

Name two new ideas that people had about cultures and daily life because of the Industrial Revolution.  (3 mins)


-Students will listen to a lecture and take notes on Changing attitudes and values.  Topics covered include the temperance movement, women's suffrage, Charles Darwin, social gospel, etc.  (20 mins)

-Throughout the slides students will also examine images from the Industrial Revolution.  They will see images of early public schools and women's suffrage marches

-Students will be asked to answer questions and be expected to ask questions to ensure understanding

-Students will spend the second half of class doing an image review of the Industrial Revolution.  Students will examine images seen throughout the lectures (Model T, tenements, factories, telephone, etc.)  When each image is displayed students will be given a few moments to think about what it is.  Students will be called on to give details about the image as well as the historical background. (15 mins) 


How did the Industrial Revolution change the world?  What could you not live without today that was invented then? (5 mins)

Reflection: I still vividly remember teaching this lesson to my freshman eight years ago. While the Industrial Revolution has always been one of my least favorite topics to teach in History, I loved this lesson that I called “Industrial Revolution Through Images”. We had looked at paintings, photographs, maps, etc. all unit, and then students were asked to tell me and the class what they were with no labels. Hearing students' reactions to seeing early cars and telephones, as well as seeing the tenements and clothing of the period, was such an “Aha!” moment for me as a teacher. We can have them read, we can lecture to them, but if students can’t visualize what these periods in history actually looked like, they can’t fully grapple with it. 


Sample 3: 

Course Name: Art History                 Date: 4/14/16

Unit Name: The Industrial Revolution


Students will be able to analyze and interpret Impressionist art through poetry.   

Do Now:

Name an Impressionist Artist and one of their masterpieces.    (3 mins)


-Students will spend the first half of the class period working in groups completing a station activity to learn about eight key Impressionist artists: Manet, Monet, Sisley, Renoir, Degas, Cassatt.

-At each station students will read a short biography of the artist.  Students will complete a station guide in which they detail key facts such as influences, legacy, aspects of style, etc. While working on stations students will also look through Impressionist art history books.  Students will use the books to examine the art of each artist and use learned vocabulary such as “brushstroke” and “optical realism” to describe the art.  (15 mins)

-For the second half of class students will be analyzing art through poetry.  Names of Impressionist artists will be posted around the room.  Renoir, Monet, Manet, Morisot, Pissarro, Sisley, Cassatt, and Degas.  Next to each artist's name will be 2 or 3 printouts of famous masterpieces. 

-Students will be rotating around the room visiting each artist.  Students will be asked to choose one masterpiece by the artist and complete a “Diamond Poem.”  A diamond poem has students creating a poem using nouns, adjectives, adverbs, verbs, etc. to describe the art. 

-Students will rotate around the room at their own pace (the poem writing should be independent but some collaboration will be encouraged) and be expected to create a poem for at least one masterpiece per artist. (20 mins) 

-Teacher will monitor student work, encouraging active writing and analysis of the artwork.  


Students will each be expected to share at least one of their poems in which they are interpreting Impressionist art.   (5 mins)

Reflection: Art History was obviously a course in which I incorporated art into my lessons and classroom on a daily basis. This lesson in particular was unique in that I had students think more for themselves and interpret the art for themselves through poetry writing. For this lesson, I brought in my old college Art History textbooks and let students explore the art of the Impressionists. This was the first unit where particular artwork wasn’t chosen for them to learn, they could explore the artists and their work on their own, and then create their own understanding and poetic description of it. Sometimes we as teachers feel the need to explain everything to our students, but especially when it comes to art and visual representations it’s important to take a step back and let students develop their own understandings. 


Sample 4: 

Course Name: Modern European History                   Date: 6/13/17

Unit Name: Into the 21st Century



Students will be able to explore how a product as simple as a sneaker can show the impact of globalization around the world.     

Do Now:

Students will answer the following prompt: “Look at your shoes.  Can you tell from the label or sole where they were made? How does that relate to globalization?”   (3 mins)


-Teacher will introduce and class will discuss today’s objective.  Students will be cold-called to discuss the concept of Globalization and how they get many of the items they use every day.  

-Students will read together as a class the Introduction and Geographic Setting of "The Global Sneaker: From Asia to Everywhere" from the Geography Alive! TCI program.  Students will be cold-called to read. 

-Teacher will introduce and talk briefly about the steps for globalizing sneakers = Designing, Locating, Manufacturing, Distributing.

-Students will be divided into four prearranged groups of 2-3 students.  Each group will start at one of four stations.  Each station focuses on one of the steps of globalizing sneakers.  At each station students will read about the step, fill in on a map where the step took place, and then answer questions like "What are the three parts of the sneaker? What materials is each part made of?" and "Where were sneakers manufactured until the 1960s? What changes occurred in the 1970s that caused sneaker companies to no longer make shoes at home?"

-Students will have about 6 minutes at each station.  Teacher will monitor student work, encouraging active discussion.  Teacher will also time stations and be sure that students rotate every six minutes. 

-Class will re-group and read the conclusion: Beginning to Think Globally.  This has pros and cons of globalization class will discuss.


Class will discuss: “What are the pros and cons of Globalization?”  Students will be encouraged to use accountable talk to answer the question.      (5 mins)

Reflection: One thing that is important to emphasize in terms of art and imagery in the classroom is the importance of realia. I started this lesson off by having students look at something real that they owned - their sneakers. I used that as a diving-in point. The second major “imagery” I used in this lesson was the map. I love using maps in history class and do so often. For this lesson, however, I used a map in which the Pacific Ocean was central. This allowed for students to map where the different parts of sneakers are made, and how it eventually gets to us in Massachusetts. Students struggled with the map, and it was an interesting learning experience for them to see a map look different than what they’re used to on their classroom walls. 


Sample 5: 

Course Name:  Global Connections Grade: 12 Date: 5/13/22

Unit Name: Philosophies of Government and Society




Students will be able to visualize the art of the 16th and 17th centuries, inspired by historical topics covered in class.   

Do Now:

What do you picture the palaces of the Enlightened Despots to look like? Why?  (3 mins)


I do: Teacher will introduce the lesson and review the WHY (2 mins)

We do: Together as a class, we will look at the art of the Barque and Rococo eras, during the period of the Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment. Students will answer questions as we go through the art. There will also be short video clips. (40 mins) 

Accountable Talk on HOTS: How does culture impact art? How does art impact culture? (13 mins)


We will watch a video on the Hermitage museum in Russia, and the art that can be seen there. (7 mins) 

Reflection: I have not taught this lesson yet, as it is planned for the end of this week. This year, with my Global Connections class, I have incorporated an Art History lesson into almost every unit. For most of my seniors, they remember the facts and historical importance of the World History I curriculum. I wanted to add something new for them that they may or may not have seen or heard of before. Much of history’s art was influenced by society at the time in which it was created. Because we’ve been learning about the Counter-Reformation, the Scientific Revolution, and the Enlightenment, I want students to be able to visualize how these time periods influenced artists. Students will see the splendor of the Rococo palaces, but they will also see the dark and highly religious tones of the Baroque era. My hope is that by having incorporated lessons like this throughout the year, these students will someday visit an art museum and feel a sense of understanding and appreciation for the work they view. 


In conclusion, I hope readers can see that there are multitudes of ways to bring the arts into the classroom. Whether in Social Studies or in any other discipline, visual aids go a long way in helping students to achieve a well-rounded understanding of the topic. In Social Studies, in particular, photographs, paintings, maps, etc. all help to strengthen the foundation of historical learning that students are obtaining in the classroom. I encourage all teachers to bring one image into their next lesson, creating an Accountable Talk in which students apply their understanding of the image to the day’s objective.