Please illustrate your point

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SWBAT use illustrations in a descriptive poem to describe its characters, setting, or events.

Big Idea

What better way of understanding the purpose of an illustration, than to illustrate your own work?


10 minutes

One of the many things I have enjoyed in the shift to CCSS is the attention to illustration contained within RL.1.7 and RI.1.7. I love children's books, both fiction and non-fiction, and some of my enjoyment comes from the amazing illustrations. In the past, I have pointed out the beauty and different techniques in the illustrations, but really just in passing. But now with the shift to CCSS, I pay more attention to the why the author chose a particular illustration or photograph over other possibilities. RL.1.7 and RI.1.7 ask students to analyze illustrations to understand characters, settings, or events (in narrative selections) and key details (in expository text). Understanding and analyzing the author's choice in using a certain illustration is the key here (and why the standard is grouped under "Integration of knowledge and Ideas), not just using the illustration to understand the key details in the story.

I liked the idea of making my students think about the reasons an author used a certain illustration to make more details about characters and events come to the forefront, and I was confident that discussing the choice of illustrations would be a way to lead my class to think critically about stories and books. You can see a clip of our conversation in the resource section.

In this lesson, I wanted my students to think about what authors had written by taking on the role of the author and choosing how to illustrate and justifying this decision to the class. This was going to set the stage to later lessons where they had to try to figure out why authors had decided to illustrate their work in a certain way. 

At the time of this lesson, my students were studying seasons in science, and they had written free verse poems about them.

I showed some poetry books, a story, and the seasons chapter in the science textbook, and I thought aloud about the illustrations and the possible reasons the authors could have for choosing those. After a couple examples, I invited them to add to my ideas. Then I explained that I wanted them to act like those authors and choose how to illustrate their poems; later they would tell the class why they had decided to illustrate the poem that way.

Guided Practice

5 minutes

To model what I wanted them to do, I put a poem under the document camera and made a quick sketch to go with it. Then I explained my reasons for that illustration. I asked them if any of them would have done it differently. I told them that we had just done what they would be doing by themselves and emphasized that they would have to explain why they had chosen to do that picture and in that particular way. 

Independent Practice

20 minutes

For independent practice I had a hard choice to make. I could give my students a variety of media choices, which would have transformed this into an art period with quite a bit of prep involved; or limit it to crayons and markers. I took the easy, practical way out and chose the second option. We have an art lesson every Friday, but at the time of the year I taught this lesson, my students were not independent enough in collages, pastels and water colors to be efficient and effective independently. I will give them more choices in similar lessons later in the year. Limiting them to crayon and marker had the additional advantage of giving me the opportunity to work with small reading groups.

I passed out their poems that they had written (you can use any recent piece of writing that the kids have done), and I asked them to use the crayons and markers to create a corresponding illustration. I reminded them to keep in mind that they would need to be able to explain their choices as they illustrated to help us understand the purpose behind their decisions.


5 minutes

We formed two lines with students facing each other, and they explained to their partner the rationale behind their illustration. I then told the class that the purpose behind this lesson was to teach them how to analyze about the author's choices in illustrating and the possible reasons for choosing that illustration in particular (linking to the standards I wanted to address).