Illustrations in The Man Who Walked Between The Towers

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SWBAT analyze the illustrations in a text to describe the characters, setting, and events.

Big Idea

Teach students to look closely at the illustrations in the text to describe the characters, setting, and events.


10 minutes

Common Core Connection

Preparing students for college is one of the goals of Common Core, and the standard RL1.7 really helps students learn to gain knowledge about the character, setting, and events in a story by analyzing illustrations.  The ability analyze and evaluate illustrations is a higher order thinking skill that really helps students learn about the characters, setting, and events.  To meet the standard, students need to go beyond understanding just what is happening in the illustration and analyze how the illustration deepens their understanding of the characters, setting, and events.

This lesson allows me to use some really neat and complex text to help students analyze the character, setting, and events.  Actually, I have been wanting to use this book for over a year, but could not find a lesson to fit it into.  So, I can finally use, The Man Who Walked Between The Towers, to allow my students to describe the characters, setting, and events in the text by analyzing the illustrations. For the partner work, I also looked for another really neat book on the Caldecott list and found, One Really Cool Kid.  The illustrations are so unique and to topic will allow all of my students to connect to the story. Everybody knows a cool kid, right?  Both of the texts in this lesson will allow the students to reflect on real life situations and characters through illustrations/photos.

Lesson Overview

We begin in the lounge where my students are close together, so I can easily assess their discussions during the introductory activity. Then we move to the desks for the guided practice, so the students can see the board easily. Next, the class transitions to the center tables for the partner work.  We close the lesson on the lounge.  I find that moving first graders every twenty minutes really helps them stay fresh and engaged.

Another thing we do is work in small mixed ability groups, because students learn from each other and are social by nature. I am trying to create a positive environment where I am more of a facilitator opposed to the person who tells them all the information or answers.  The groups are based on the oral reading fluency scores on DIBELS. I call one partner the peanut butter and one the jelly as a fun way to organize communication. I might tell the jelly partners to read the text and the peanut butter partners will write. 

Introductory Activity

The students look at the cover of the book and describe the setting to their partner. This is a nice time for me to assess the students prior knowledge and see what they have retained from previous lessons on identifying story elements like setting. I also ask them to remind me what we worked on in the previous lesson, hoping they remember the illustrations can show character development, emotions, and emphasis for what the author/illustrator wants the reader to know about the story.  By assessing this quickly, I can determine at this point how much support and prompting I am going to need to add to the lesson. 

Then I share that we will read a text and analyze the pictures together, and then you will do it with your partner. Last, we will share and evaluate our work on the lounge.  To help students remember what we are learning I ask them to chant the lesson goal three times during each transition.  We are ready for a Transition now so they chant, "I can understand the characters, setting, and events in a text by analyzing the pictures."

Guided Practice

20 minutes

I do read the text to the class to give them some insight about the story, and then they are prepared to analyze the illustrations with a partner.  I feel like reading the text to the class is so important in the primary grades, because many students are not ready to read a text independently. Although, some students cannot read a text independently at this point, they can comprehend stories that are read to them.

Now, the students work with their partner to describe the character, setting, and events using the illustrations (Towers Picture 1Towers Picture 2Towers Picture 3Towers Picture 4).  I allow the groups to discuss the cover and each page of the text.  The students then share their ideas for illustrations that describe the character, setting, or events. As they share their ideas they evidence the illustrations to justify their reasoning.  My students are using the illustrations at this time.  After we have a great deal of details about the story, I reread the chat (Board Work). Here is a link to the chart I made (What the Illustrations Mean).  Then I read the story aloud and we confirm our predictions based on the text. Now we are using the text as evidence.

Here are some of my questions to get the students thinking if I notice a group is struggling.

  • Who is the main character? How do you know? (the man, the pictures)
  • Where is he? How do you know? (on top of the tower, a city- New York, the picture)
  • How does the man feel? How do you know? (anxious, brave, determined- he does not give up despite the consequences of going to jail)
  • How does the character feel? What are his emotions? How does he change?
  • How does the illustration show character growth?

The last two questions go deeper into analyzing the illustrations, instead of using them to describe the character, setting, and events. I think it is important to try to create deeper questions for students, although it can be a teaching challenge. When I design my questions I try to make them text specific.

Partner Work

20 minutes


I first read the text to the class to give them an overview of the story. It helps to read to students in the primary grades, because many time I find they get stuck when trying to read independently. When I read they are able to concentrate on comprehending the text, instead of decoding words.

Then the students use the illustrations (Friend Picture 1Friend Picture 2Friend Picture 3Friend Picture 4Friend Picture 5) in this text to make a chart just like the one in the guided practice.  They  use the illustrations to analyze the characters, setting, and events.  While they are working I walk around and monitor their progress. 

For struggling groups I start asking questions:

  • Who are the characters? How do you know?
  • Where are they? How do you know?
  • How do they feel? What are their emotions? How do you know?
  • How do the characters change?

Student Reflection

5 minutes

Now it is time to work on speaking and listening skills and evaluating each other's work.  I go over all the rules I can think of for speaking, listening, and evaluation.  Speak loud, clear, and enunciate your words. Listen and think about what the person is saying. Then I model some correct and incorrect behavior.  After all this, I rarely have to correct any behavior, but students must be told what is expected of them in the beginning.

So, I select about three students to share their work in a presentation.  After each child share then I ask other students to evaluate their work.  Then we usually have a discussion about whatever the child said.   


5 minutes

Now the lesson is about to be over and I need to do some formative assessment to drive my future instruction.  I ask the students to tell their partner one thing they learned about illustrations from this lesson.  Then I listen attentively so I can assess their understanding, and I restate some proficient things that I hear.

I then share the plan for future lessons, and I ask the students to restate the lesson goal.  I can analyze the character, setting, and events using illustrations.