30 Essential Questions through the Creative Process

5 Min Read  •  Arts Integration

Have you ever tried writing essential questions for your lessons or curriculum?  Some people find this to be a breeze while others struggle with the process.  Certainly, coming up with a high-quality essential question can be a challenge all on its own.  But try to write an integrated essential question – one that you can use to tie together standards from 2 different content areas – adds a whole new layer of complexity.

In fact, this issue comes up frequently with our certification participants.  In their coaching sessions, we see so many people confused or frustrated at trying to come up with an essential question that really sparks discussion, inquiry and problem-solving.  So today, we’re sharing 30 examples that you can use to start this process!

These 30 questions are connected through the 7 steps of the creative process.  This helps to narrow down which set of questions would be most beneficial.  Additionally, using these steps to inform your lesson framework will make selecting and crafting your essential question even easier.  Be sure to scroll down to download the one-pager PDF we’ve created!

DESCRIBE (Develop Focus)

  • How are the arts experienced?
  • How do we gather evidence?
  • What is the purpose of this work?
  • What do you wonder about this piece?

ANALYZE (Explore Details)

  • How are the arts understood?
  • How do artists compose?
  • How do arts elements effect the overall composition?
  • What tools could you use to explore this work?

INTERPRET (Develop Personal Meaning)

  • How is this art form interpreted?
  • How does interaction with this work provoke thinking?
  • What connections do you see?
  • How are connections represented?

CREATE (Apply and Link Meaning)

  • What influences choice-making?
  • How can we compare and connect this with other work?
  • Why is this work important?
  • What limitations are present?
  • What is creativity?
  • How does an artist create meaning?

PRESENTATION (Share your Creation)

  • How do we use the arts to communicate?
  • How can a viewer/listener comprehend what they are seeing/hearing?
  • What makes this work effective?
  • How can we use the arts to inspire action?

EVALUATE (How Others Perceive Our Work)

  • Do audiences have responsibilities towards artists? If so, what are they?
  • What can this work teach us about the world?
  • What makes a thoughtful critique?
  • Why does the artist choose to include this point of view?

REFLECT (How You Perceive Your Work)

  • How does this work deepen our understanding of ourselves?
  • How does your observation influence your interpretation?
  • Why does this work make sense to you?
  • How does this work make you feel or think differently?

essential questions


Essential questions can definitely be tricky, but also an excellent driver for a meaningful and comprehensive lesson.

About the Author

Susan Riley is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Institute for Arts Integration and STEAM. This is the world’s largest online resource for educators interested in integrating the arts. She has presented at events and authored articles for many educational organizations including The US Department of Education, Palmetto State Arts Education, Edutopia, Education Week, Americans for the Arts, ASCD, and NPR. She regularly presents at national and international events each year. She is the author of three books and is a sought-after collaborator for innovative educational projects around the globe. Susan brings creativity, practicality, dedication and passion to the education landscape. She is well-respected for her pioneering work in the fields of Arts Integration and STEAM education with a standards-based approach. As an educator who taught for 10 years in public schools, as well as served in central office leadership, she understands the fast-paced change, challenges and promise of 21st century schools. As an entrepreneur, she has successfully taken what was once a simple education blog and developed it into a rapidly-growing and highly-respected educational institution. Her team of 15+ teachers, leaders and coaches support over over 500,000 educators each month worldwide. Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter. Email Susan

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