Set Design Lesson Plan

Instructor: Heather Jenkins

Heather has a bachelor's degree in elementary education and a master's degree in special education. She was a public school teacher and administrator for 11 years.

If your students are studying theater, this lesson introduces them to set design. Students will create posters about historical influences on set design, build their own model box sets for famous plays, and draw thumbnails for a set based on their favorite novels.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of the lesson, students will be able to:

  • Describe the history of set design and identify people and movements which influenced its development
  • Identify and describe the process set designers use to create sets for productions
  • Create a box set model and thumbnails for different scenes


2+ hours (additional time for the extension activity)

Curriculum Standards


Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas


Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including analyzing how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term over the course of a text (e.g., how Madison defines faction in Federalist No. 10).


  • Various art supplies (pencils, pens, color pencils, markers, construction paper, glue, scissors, clay, etc.) to complete posters, box set models, thumbnails, and ground plans
  • Poster board
  • Shoe boxes
  • Copies of lesson and/or lesson quiz (optional)


  • Asks the students to identify their favorite plays. If any students have acted in or seen a play, have them describe what the stage looked like.
  • Review the lesson What is Set Design? - History & Process with the students online or using paper copies.
  • After the section 'History of Set Design,' discuss:
    • How did theater and set design develop in ancient Greece?
    • How did the Italian Renaissance influence set design?
    • What did Giacomo Torelli contribute to set design?
    • What was introduced into the field of set design in the 19th century? What are box sets?
    • What did Adolf Appia contribute to set design in the 20th century?


  • Divide the class into partners and provide each pair with poster board and art supplies (pens, colored pencils, markers, etc.).
  • Each group should create a poster about how one of the following historical influences affected set design:
    • Greek theater
    • Italian Renaissance
    • Giacomo Torelli
    • 19th century realism
    • Adolf Appia
  • When the posters are finished, have the pairs present them to the class.

Back to the Lesson

  • Read the remainder of the lesson and discuss:
    • What process do set designers go through today to prepare for a production?
    • What is a thumbnail?
    • What is a ground plan? How do set designers develop it?
    • What are working drawings? How does the crew use these drawings?
    • What is the difference between stage design for live theater and stage design for films and television shows?

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