Salsa Music Lesson Plan

Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

This lesson plan will help students understand the history of salsa music and teach them to recognize some of the basic characteristics inherent in salsa music.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • understand the fundamental characteristics of salsa music.
  • understand the basic history of salsa music.
  • recognize instruments and other features of salsa music.


40 minutes


  • salsa music (either on CD or streamed online via YouTube, Pandora, etc.)
  • salsa sheet music (print out graphic in lesson if necessary)
  • small drums or tambourines (optional)

Key Vocabulary

At the conclusion of this lesson, students should be able define the following vocabulary terms:

  • salsa music
  • clave

Curriculum Standards


Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.


Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally), evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source.


  • Play some salsa music (either on a CD player or your computer speakers) as students enter the classroom.
  • Explain to your students that today they will learn about the history and characteristics of salsa music. Write salsa music on the board. You may also choose to print pictures of salsa dancers and/or salsa sheet music before class, to display on the board.
  • Have students read the lesson: Salsa Music: History & Instruments
  • Play a few examples of salsa music again for your students (3-5 minutes). Ask them to listen for the themes highlighted in the lesson.
  • Hold a short class discussion (10-15 minutes) on salsa music and the clave beat. Some example discussion questions include:
    • What do you feel is the most important characteristic of salsa music?
    • Does salsa music remind you of any other musical genres?
    • Do you like salsa music? Why do you think salsa appeals to so many people?
    • What makes the clave beat different than other musical styles?
    • Does the clave beat remind you of any other types of music?
  • Note: When discussing the clave beat, it can help your students if you demonstrate it on the board or a desk, and ask them to do the same.

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