Visual Arts: Music Study

Lesson Plan: Visual Art / Music Study
Grade level: 6-12
Duration: 2 class periods
Media Type: media (computer access), paper, pencil
Subject Integration: Music
National Standards for Visual Arts: (see bottom of page)
Objectives: To have students interpret music express its meaning through drawing thumbnail sketches.

(website for help with writing rubrics)


4 - Standards are exceeded
3 - Standards are met
2 - Standards may be met at a very low quality or with some exceptions
1 - Standards are not met

Vocabulary (Visual Arts Elements/Principles):

  • color
  • shape
  • line
  • texture
  • balance
  • unity
  • proportion
  • form
  • value
  • space
  • contrast
  • emphasis
  • movement
  • pattern
  • rhythm

Materials and Procedure:

Day 1:
Give each student a copy of this handout: Also: copy below.

Discuss meaning of the handout “The PlayList: Interpreting Pieces of Music” and how to access website WDSE: The PlayList.

Discussion Questions:

Important questions to ask students: “What do you see/hear?” “How does this artwork make you feel?” “What was the artist trying to show you?” “Compare and contrast visual artists and musicians. How are they alike? How are they different?” A Venn diagram could be used here for further discussion. Image below.

Students use The PlayList website as a tool to access many local Duluth and regional musical bands to familiarize themselves with. Some students may recognize these bands and share their experience about local musicians. Post a list of possible band videos students can explore to fulfill content on student handout:

  • Southwire
  • Red Mountain
  • Boku Frequency
  • Lion or Gazelle
  • Trampled by Turtles
  • Feeding LeRoy
  • Woodblind
  • The Murder of Crows
  • Superior Siren
  • Big Wave Dave and the Ripples

Students listen to various bands, choose three, and then respond to questions on student handout. Each student is to respond to three different songs by writing down name of band, name of song, and to draw a “thumbnail sketch” of what the song/lyrics/ rhythm reminds them of. Interpretations will be quite varied: hooray!

Day 2: Students take additional time if needed to listen to recordings, complete thumbnail sketches.

Day 3:
Take this lesson further, and have students complete a large artwork based upon their first choice band / song / lyrics, etc. Students may use varied visual art materials depending on what is available, for example, media arts (computer generated images), paint, paper, colored pencils, markers, collage, etc. For example, the Minnesota band, Cloud Cult, often has one of two of their band members create a live painting in front of their audience while the rest of the band is performing. (Cloud Cult with live painter) (Cloud Cult with live painter)



National Standards for Visual Arts:

Sample National Visual Arts Standards: More could be covered. See link above.

VA:Cr2.1.6a: Demonstrate openness in trying new ideas, materials, methods, and approaches in making works of art and design.
VA:Cr3.1.6a: Reflect on whether personal artwork conveys the intended meaning and revise accordingly.
VA:Cr1.2.5a: Identify and demonstrate diverse methods of artistic investigation to choose an approach for beginning a work of art.
VA:Re.7.2.8a: Compare and contrast contexts and media in which viewers encounter images that influence ideas, emotions, and actions.
VA:Cr2.3.7a: Apply visual organizational strategies to design and produce a work of art, design, or media that clearly communicates information or ideas.

Worksheet Example:


The PlayList, Interpreting Pieces of Music:

Choose three pieces of music from WDSE's The PlayList that are very different from one another. Write the band and song title below. Draw a small sketch of each song as interpreted by you and what you heard. (Hint: What did the song remind you of? What could you draw to symbolize the meaning of the song? Think about how differently you might interpret a song versus a friend who listened to the same song...)

Band/Title of song:

What do you see/hear?


Band/Title of song:

What do you see/hear?


Band/Title of song:

What do you see/hear?


Band/Title of song:

What do you see/hear?


Funding for this program is provided by the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. Click here for more information or visit the Minnesota Legacy website.

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