The Joy of Teaching – An Evan-Moor Blog

Sharing creative ideas and lessons to help children learn

Common Core and More: A Fun Weekly Lesson Integrates Standards Across the Curriculum


When the school year ends, the “What Is It?” lesson may prove to have been your favorite for integrating standards across the ELA and SL curriculum. The “What Is It?” weekly lesson asks students to turn a doodle (such as a shape or line) into a drawing that corresponds with a particular theme or unit, and then explain their drawing orally or in writing. WhatisIt?

For example, for an immigration unit, a student might turn a wavy line into the walkway where all of the immigrants waited in line at Ellis Island. EllisFor a holiday or thematic unit such as Earth Day, a student might turn a circle into a drawing such as this:


Students then explain their drawing in a short writing sample or by sharing it in small groups or with the whole class.

Benefits of this lesson:

  • “What Is It?” can teach point of view, perspective, interpretation, critical- and creative-thinking skills, and speaking and listening skills. In Common Core language, that could be CCSS.ELA-SL 4.1, 4.4, or 4.5.
  • You can integrate this lesson into a theme, holiday, school event, or any subject—the possibilities are endless!
  • “What Is It?” is the fastest weekly lesson you’ll ever create—maybe 45 seconds a week!

What you need to do to get started:

  • Get a piece of 8 ½ x 11 paper and a black marking pen
  • Draw a simple line(s), shape(s), or dot(s) in the middle of the page


  • Next, make copies for each student in class.

Guidelines for students:

As for any new project, establish ground rules for students, such as:

1)  Turn the shape into anything—with these guidelines:

  • The drawing must be presentable to the class, your parents at open house, or the hallway bulletin board. (You get the idea!)
  • Be prepared to explain your picture.
  • Color the whole page with marking pens, colored pencils, or crayons.
  • You can add anything else to the picture—make it tell us a story!

2)  A new “What Is It?” will be given each Monday. Your finished picture is due on Friday.

3)  You are not graded by how well you draw/color.

4)  The focus each week may change. (You might need to turn it into something from the novel we are reading or a social studies passage.)

Ideas for teachers:

Keep student submissions, making them into a spiral-bound book. Present the book to students on the last day of the year—a complete surprise. They’ll love it!

We hope you’ll give the “What Is It?” lesson a try, and share how you integrated this fun lesson into your curriculum!

Contributing Writer

Image of Blog Contributor Patty ClarkPatty Clark has been a classroom teacher for grades K-6, and District Librarian for grades K-8 for the past 25 years.  She is passionate about helping others find and use information.  Her philosophy is, “It’s not about the amount or the subject matter learned, it’s about the learner discovering the joy in the process that led them to it.”

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  1. Pingback: Lesson Roundup: Activities for the End of the School Year and Summer Learning | The Joy of Teaching - An Evan-Moor Blog

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