Learning Description

The class will examine an illustration in a picture book, without knowing the context, articulating the illustrator’s choices in using visual elements to convey ideas. Then students imagine story elements to go with the illustration. After sharing ideas, the class will read the book to understand the actual story and how the illustration helps to tell it.


Learning Targets


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"I Can" Statements

“I Can…”

  • I can understand that an illustration is a result of artistic choices.
  • I can imagine story elements and dialogue based on my examination of an illustration.

Essential Questions

  • How can we utilize visual images to connect with language arts concepts?


Georgia Standards

Curriculum Standards

Grade 1:

ELACC1RL7: Use illustrations and details in a story to describe its characters, setting, or events.

Arts Standards

Grade 1:

VA1MC.1: Engages in the creative process to generate and visualize ideas.

VA1MC.2: Formulates personal responses.

TAES1.2: Developing scripts through improvisation and other theatrical methods.


South Carolina Standards

Curriculum Standards

Grade 1:

Standard 5: Determine meaning and develop logical interpretations by making predictions, inferring, drawing conclusions, analyzing, synthesizing, providing evidence, and investigating multipleinterpretations.5.1 Ask and answer who, what, when, where, why, and how questions to demonstrate understanding of a text; use key details to make inferences and draw conclusions in texts heard or read.5.2 Make predictions using prior knowledge, pictures, illustrations, title, andinformation about author and illustrator.

Arts Standards

Grade 1:

Visual Art:Anchor Standard 1: I can use the elements and principles of art to create artwork.

Anchor Standard 5: I can interpret and evaluate the meaning of an artwork.

Theatre:Anchor Standard 1: I can create scenes and write scripts using story elements and structure.


Key Vocabulary

Content Vocabulary

Illustration - The value of where the digit is in the number, such as units, tens, hundreds, etc.

Character - A person or animal in a story who takes part in the action.

Setting - The time and place of a story (when and where).

Plot - The series of related events that together form a story.

Theme - The main idea, subject or topic of a story.

Illustration - A drawing, painting, photograph, or other image that is created to depict a story, poem, or newspaper article.

Prediction - A guess as to what might happen in the future.

Inference - A conclusion reached based on observation, evidence and reasoning.

Arts Vocabulary

Elements of Visual Arts - the aspects of an image that convey an idea or a story, including color, shape, line, composition, and perspective.

Composition - how an image is put together; how the different parts of an illustration relate to one another and work together to convey an idea or story.

Perspective - The angle from which the subjects in an image are viewed.

Focus - Where the viewer’s eye looks when seeing an illustration, and how the viewer looks from one part of an illustration to another.

Tableau - A frozen picture created by a group of actors.

Dialogue - Words that are spoken by a character in a scene or story.

Emotion - Feeling; how a character feels in a scene or story.



An illustration from a picture book (see notes below about possible illustrations to use, and criteria for choosing an illustration for the lesson)


Instructional Design

Opening/Activating Strategy

“Slide Show” – theatre exercise that uses Tableau.

    • Explain that a small group will be invited to the front of the class to create an interesting tableau – a tableau is a frozen picture created by a group of actors. Invite 4 students and line them up, side by side, with some space between. Tell them they will all freeze in interesting positions – perhaps model several positions that engage the full body: arms, legs, and facial expressions. Count to 5 and have the students freeze. Remind them to be still, and to focus their eyes on a fixed point, and to allow themselves to breathe and blink. Then explain that you will look at the shapes and expressions and imagine what the tableau might be a picture of, based on the details you see. Describe the tableau as a picture (e.g., “This is a picture of a scene in a rainforest. Tracy is a jaguar looking for something to eat. Martin is a tree with vines hanging down. Stella is a monkey in the tree. Oscar is a hummingbird flying from flower to flower.”)
    • Repeat the process again with a different group of students, describing a new scene in a different setting, e.g., people at a store, children on a playground, a family at the beach.
    • Possibly, repeat the process one or two more times inviting a student to describe a picture inspired by the tableau.


Work Session


      • Explain that the class will engage in a similar process with an illustration from an unfamiliar text. Remind students that illustrations are works of art. Discuss and define the elements of visual arts, to include: color, line, shape, composition, and perspective.
      • Show an illustration. Ask the students about the different elements. Questions might include:
        - What colors did the illustrator use to create the illustration? What colors stand out? Are the colors warm or cool? Bright or dull? How do the colors make you feel?
        - Where do you see lines in the illustration? Are they straight or curved? Thick or thin? How do they guide your eyes as you look at the illustration?
        - What shapes do you see? How do they create the objects and characters? Which shapes are the most interesting?
        - How did the illustrator put all the elements together? Are there empty spaces, and what effect do they have? What might we see outside the borders of the illustration?
        - How does the illustration focus your attention? What did you look at first? Second? Third? What is the most important part of the illustration?
        (Note: choose any or all of the above elements, as appropriate.)
      • Remind the students that the illustration is part of a story they are probably not familiar with yet. Tell them the class will read the story after the exercise. Explain that the class will brainstorm lots of ideas for the story the picture might go with. (If there are students familiar with the book, ask them to wait and let others make predictions and inferences.)
      • Discuss and define predictions and inferences. Remind the students that all ideas should be based on something in the illustration.
      • Remind students of the elements of stories and take ideas from the students, making sure that the connection to the illustration is clear (whether implicitly or explicitly).
        - Characters: What characters do we see in the illustration? Who are they? What do you think their names might be? How are they related to each other? What other characters might there be that we don’t see in this particular illustration?
        - Setting: Where and when is this happening? What would you see, hear, smell, or feel if you were there? What would we see beyond the borders of the illustration? Would the setting change?
        - Plot: What is happening in the illustration? What might have happened right before? What might happen right after?
        - Theme: Based on this illustration, what might the story be about? What might the message or lesson of the story be?
        (Note: choose any or all of the above elements, as appropriate.)
      • Discuss and define dialogue. Tell the students that, based on all the ideas that have been generated, the class will imagine dialogue – things that might be said by the characters in the illustration, or others who might be nearby. Give several examples. Change voice and body position to become a character, and express what the character may be thinking or saying.
      • Have students share their ideas, saying bits of dialogue in character (with vocal and physical expression). Encourage students to bring a variety of ideas (avoid their possible tendency to repeat the same idea over and over). Comment on their vocal and physical choices, and how their lines of dialogue connect with the illustration.
      • Put students in pairs and have them develop a short conversation between two characters from the illustration. Give them time to develop and rehearse.
      • Have volunteer pairs come to the front and perform their short dialogues. Remind them to use their physical and vocal character choices. Encourage a range of choices, and
      • comment on how the acting and story choices connect with specific elements of the illustration.

Possible extension:

Have students draw a picture of their dialogue, recreating the artistic style of the illustration and putting the dialogue in speech bubbles above the characters.

(Note: Have a variety of ideas prepared ahead of the lesson to model for and prompt the students, if necessary.)


Closing Reflection

Ask students: How did you use your bodies to create letter and number statues and addition sentence tableaux? Which were more challenging, letter statues or number statues? How do we determine the name and value of a 2- or 3-digit number? How did you determine your place or role in the number sentence?




      • Students should be able to calculate answers to the mathematical problems.
      • Students should accurately represent the numbers with their bodies.



Assign various addition problems to the students at the level reflected in the lesson, and gauge their ability to visualize and complete the problems.



Acceleration: Acceleration and remediation are built into the lesson in terms of how far into the sequence of complexity the lesson goes, and how much students are asked to create and calculate the numbers and addition sentences on their own. For acceleration, there should be greater complexity and more independent (unguided, in pairs, trios, quads, and more) work.

Remediation: Acceleration and remediation are built into the lesson in terms of how far into the sequence of complexity the lesson goes, and how much students are asked to create and calculate the numbers and addition sentences on their own. For remediation, there should be less complexity, more modeling, and more full-class, guided work.


Additional Resources

“Learning Visual Thinking Strategies,” an Aperture video about Visual Thinking Strategies, a parallel process for looking at images (5:30):,vid:d-YVvNiAm6Q

“What Do Pictures Bring To a Story,” a Khan Academy video about illustrations in stories (2:40):,vid:0zoZmYbJ3tE

*This integrated lesson provides differentiated ideas and activities for educators that are aligned to a sampling of standards. Standards referenced at the time of publishing may differ based on each state’s adoption of new standards.

Ideas contributed by: Carolynn Stoddard and Barry Stewart Mann

Revised and copyright: March 2023 @ ArtsNOW

Possible illustrations to be used in the lesson:

From Abuela, written by Arthur Dorros and illustrated by Elisa Kleven: the one-page illustration in which Abuela and Rosalba are sitting in a cloud chair in the sky.

From Jabari Jumps, written and illustrated by Gaia Cornwall: the illustration with a perspective looking down at feet on the diving board and the pool below (show only the illustration page).

From King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub, written and illustrated by Audrey Wood and Don Wood: the two-page spread with the text “Today we lunch in the tub” (with the text covered up).

From The Knight and the Dragon, written and illustrated by Tomie DePaola: the two-page textless illustration in which the dragon is smoldering in a pond, the knight is stuck in a tree, and the princess looks on.

From Maybe Something Beautiful, by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell, Illustrated by Rafael Lopez: the 2-page illustration with the text, “Even Mira’s mama painted and danced . . .” (with the text covered up).

From The Story of Ferdinand, written by Munro Leaf and illustrated by Robert Lawson: the single-page illustration of the bumble bee looking up at Ferdinand’s fur.

From Two of Everything, written and illustrated by Lily Toy Hong: the two-page illustration with the text beginning “Both Mrs. Haktaks rushed to rescue him.” (with the text covered up)

From Verdi, written and illustrated by Janell Cannon: the illustration in which Verdi is launched in the air, making a spiral, and parrots look on and flee (show only the illustration page).

Choosing an illustration: look for an illustration that has bright colors and interesting visual elements, and that offers some particulars of character, setting, and plot, but can still be interpreted in various ways, with interesting colors and visual elements.