Musical Theatre Lesson Plan

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Use this lesson plan to teach your students about musical theatre. In this two-day lesson, students start by reading an informational text explaining the history and characteristics of musical theatre, then watch a video lesson on Stephen Sondheim.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to

  • define 'musical theatre'
  • explain the characteristics of musical theatre
  • discuss Stephen Sondheim's influence on musical theatre


Two 1-1.5 hour lessons


Key Vocabulary

  • Musical theatre
  • Ballets
  • Operas
  • Operettas
  • Minstrel shows
  • Vaudeville
  • Burlesque theatre
  • The Black Crook
  • Show Boat
  • Book musical
  • Stephen Sondheim
  • Oscar Hammerstein II

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.9-10.1

Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts, attending to the precise details of explanations or descriptions.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.9-10.2

Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; trace the text's explanation or depiction of a complex process, phenomenon, or concept; provide an accurate summary of the text.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.9-10.4

Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 9-10 texts and topics.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1

Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9-10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

Instructions - Day One

  • Connect students to the topic and increase engagement by playing a game of 'Name that Musical!' In a game-show-like set-up, play audio clips from various songs taken from musicals.
    • You may find that searching songs on YouTube is the easiest way to gain access to a wide array of samples.
  • To play the game, allow a song clip to play until someone can name the musical production it was from.
    • Start off with easy samples such as 'If I Were a Rich Man' from Fiddler on the Roof or 'Oklahoma!' from Oklahoma. As students catch on, play more challenging clips.
  • Now that students are 'warmed up,' distribute the text lesson What Is Musical Theater? - History & Terms.
  • Read 'Musical Theatre' and 'Defining a Musical' together. Define key terms and ask:
    • Why do you think musical theatre remains popular in America?
    • What are the three main types of musical theatre?
    • Which types of musical theatre do you enjoy most? Least? Why?
  • Compare and contrast the characteristic of operas, ballets, and musicals using a t-chart on the board. Have students contribute content to complete the comparison.
  • Now have students read 'History of the Musical' and 'A Musical Is Born.'
  • With students, trace the evolution of musical theatre on a timeline you co-create with students on the board.
  • Discuss:
    • What were some forms of early opera?
    • Why did Americans favor things such as minstrel shows?
    • What was the format of a minstrel show?
    • How did the minstrel show evolve into a musical?
    • What made The Black Crook popular?
    • How did jazz impact musicals?
    • What unique aspects did Showboat have?
  • Have students read the 'Lesson Summary.'
  • For homework, have students watch a musical of their choice. Consider providing the students with a list of movies. If possible, you may choose to allow students to check out musicals from your school or class library. Also consider sources such as NetFlix and Hulu.

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