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March 22

Composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim was born today.

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Composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim was born today.

Grades 4 – 12
Calendar Activity Type Author & Text





Along with his collaborators, composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim has written musicals inspired by fairy tales (Into the Woods), historical figures (Assassins), folk legends (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street), and even works of art (Sunday in the Park with George).† His work has won him many Tony Awards for achievement in the theater, and in 2014 he was honored with a Presidential Medal of Freedom.† His collected lyrics have been published in a two-volume edition.




Sondheimís 1984 musical Sunday in the Park with George features the character Georges Seurat and brings to life the figures in Seuratís 1884 painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.

After explaining the relationship between the painting and Sondheimís work, have students examine the painting and imagine who the figures in the painting might be and what they are doing in the image.† Then have them research work by artists such as Romare Bearden or Pierre-August Renoir and create backstories and dialogues for the figures in a painting of their choice.



  • The Stephen Sondheim Society

    The webpage of the Stephen Sondheim Society, a charitable group established to promote the public knowledge and appreciation of the works of Stephen Sondheim.† Here students can find information about his life and works, as well as the Sondheim magazine.

  • Stephen Sondheim - Living Legends

    This site contains links to resources on Sondheim and his work hosted at the Library of Congress.

  • The Stephen Sondheim Reference Guide

    On this site, students can find well-organized lists and links about Sondheimís shows, songs, recordings, and more.

  • Searching for Cinderella

    This ArtsEdge resource asks students to use skills to identify the Cinderella story Sondheim used for Into the Woods and develop a performance piece based on it


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Grades   5 – 9  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Fairy Tale Autobiographies

Students read and analyze fairy tales from several cultures, identifying common elements. Choosing common situations, students write original fairy tales, using picture books as models and a peer review process.


Grades   3 – 5  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Once Upon a Time Rethought: Writing Fractured Fairy Tales

Students read and analyze fairy tales, identifying their common elements. They then write their own "fractured" fairy tales by changing one of the literary elements found in the original.


Grades   6 – 8  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Enchanting Readers with Revisionist Fairy Tales

Students examine three examples of revisionist fairy tales in which female characters act in empowered roles rather than behaving helpless and submissive.


Grades   K – 2  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Teaching About Story Structure Using Fairy Tales

From "once upon a time" to "happily ever after," students learn to recognize story structure in fairy tales and create a logical sequence of events when writing original stories.


Grades   6 – 8  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

A Picture's Worth a Thousand Words: From Image to Detailed Narrative

The old cliche, "A picture is worth a thousand words" is put to the test when students write their own narrative interpretations of events shown in an image.


Grades   9 – 12  |  Lesson Plan  |  Unit

Ekphrasis: Using Art to Inspire Poetry

In this lesson, students explore ekphrasis—writing inspired by art. Students find pieces of art that inspire them and compose a booklet of poems about the pieces they have chosen.