Framing the Lesson Plan

Framing the Lesson Plan

Yesterday, we discussed framing the lesson as a two-part process for giving students a clear map and goal for each lesson. Making students aware of their goal at the beginning of the rehearsaland showing how they accomplished that goal at the endhelps engage students and ensures you’re teaching to standards.

It also helps you lesson plan.

Framing the lesson gives you a built-in hook and wrap-up portion of the lesson that you know addresses standards, helps check for understanding, and improves classroom management (by beginning and ending class efficiently). Today we’ll discuss nine ways you can frame the lessonthree ways to frame at the beginning of class, three ways to frame at the end of class, and three ways to connect your frame.

The Opening Frame

Framing the lesson at the beginning of class inevitably involves students taking ownership of the lesson’s goal with an activity. Students need to show, with their work, that they understand the job to be done during this rehearsal.

Have students transcribe the learning goal

Simply having students write down the learning goal (for example, copying text from a rehearsal slide) can be an effective way to frame the lesson. Agenda books or learning logs are great for this. They provide a semi-permanent record of the goalsuseful when a parent or administrator wants clarification about your class.

Guided “choral” reading

Another option is to read or sing the goal out loud and have the class join in for underlined words or phrases. In an ensemble classroom, singing or speaking the goal with a given rhythm can also provide bonus sight-reading practice.

Have students take turns

Provide the learning goal to a pair of students ahead of time and have them present the goal to the class in a unique, creative, and accurate way. A short skit works well for this. Technology can work even betterhave students create a short 5-minute podcast explaining the learning goal and play it while the class gets out their instruments (silently, of course).

The Closing Frame

Framing the lesson is a two-step process, and reinforcing the learning goal at the end of class is just as important as illustrating it for students at the beginning of the lesson. These wrap-up activities also double as useful “exit slips” for assessment.

Summary sentence

Have students write a single sentence summarizing the day’s learning. Once everyone has finished, have students partner up and share their sentence with a peer. This “Think-Pair-Share” approach works best when you provide a question to answer and a stem sentence orally and in writing. For example:

  • What do you need to do when you see a fermata?
  • When I see a fermata in my part, I need to remember to _____________________

“I used to think, now I think”

These exit slips are another simple way to check for student understanding and reinforce the learning target for the day. Tailor the sentence to your learning target, then have students fill it in:

I used to think that syncopated rhythms __________________, now I think they __________________

Student ownership

One way to give students input into the lesson planning process (and to see if they’ve mastered the material) is to read the learning goal and then have students offer suggestions for the next lesson on this topic. What do they think the next step is?

Student mastery

If you already have evidence that suggests that all your students met the learning goal, ask a reflection question about how the student learned the material or which cognitive strategies work best when performing the new skill.

Connecting The Frame

The ways that you connect the frame throughout the lesson determine how strong it is. These activities will help you connect the opening and closing of the lesson so that students (and you) can track their progress toward the learning goal.

Learning board

Have students create and update a “learning board” in your classroom. A learning board has three columns“To Learn,” “Learning,” and “Learned”and topics or skills on magnets that can be moved from column to column to track the ensemble’s progress as the lesson progresses. This works best when the learning goal has steps or the sequence of the learning is inherent in the skill.

Sole Mates

This is a variation on the “Think-Pair-Share” approach. At predetermined intervals, students share with a partner who is wearing shoes that are similar to theirs. This gets students out of their instrumental sections – and gets them discussing the learning goal. Students should share what they think the most important part of the lesson has been so far and one question they still have.


When students get lostperhaps because the music became too difficultthey indicate this to the teacher by putting a sticky note in the place where they became confused. This way the teacher knows when to support struggling learnersor when a majority of kids aren’t getting it and the lesson could be adjusted.

Framing the lesson for students makes learning targetsand the standards they represent – a consistent part of your rehearsal by putting the goal foremost in the students’ mind. May you and your students accomplish all your learning goals this school year!

Editor’s note: Check out these follow-up posts on using framing strategies to teach rhythm and improve intonation through singing, then begin framing your lesson plan using our free lesson plan template.

get the template

As an instructional coach and dean at James Madison High School in San Antonio, Heather Sargent works primarily with literacy teachers and students, supporting academic achievement.

For more than 25 years she has worked as a trainer of teachers, curriculum developer, and instructional support coach in both public schools and through community health education organizations.

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