Scott Joplin Lesson Plan for Elementary School

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Use this lesson plan to help you teach your students about the musician Scott Joplin. Students will read a text lesson that outlines his life and musical career before they practice their sequencing skills and then show their understanding with an activity.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • provide a biography of Scott Joplin, naming key events and explaining their importance
  • listen to and describe ragtime music and explain Joplin's contribution to the genre
  • discuss Scott Joplin's success and struggles related to race and limited opportunities


1 - 1.5 hours


Key Vocabulary

  • Cornet
  • Compose
  • Ragtime

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.1

Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.2

Determine the main idea of a text and explain how it is supported by key details; summarize the text.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.3

Explain events, procedures, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text, including what happened and why, based on specific information in the text.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.4

Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words or phrases in a text relevant to a grade 4 topic or subject area.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.5

Describe the overall structure (e.g., chronology, comparison, cause/effect, problem/solution) of events, ideas, concepts, or information in a text or part of a text.

Warm Up and Preparation

  • Play a music sample by Scott Joplin. As students listen, ask them to jot down notes about what they notice about the music and their reactions to it.
  • Divide students into small groups and allow them to share their notes.
  • Discuss as a whole class, asking:
    • What did you notice about the music?
    • How is it like music we hear and enjoy today?
    • What did you like about the music?
  • Ask if anyone knows who wrote the music and let them know it was Scott Joplin. Allow students to share any prior knowledge, then preview vocabulary.

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