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Picture This!


  • Language Arts
  • Literature
  • Writing
  • Visual Arts


  • K-5
  • 6-8

Brief Description

Working with partners, students use sticky-notes as they write stories to accompany picture books.


Students will (depending on their grade level)
  • develop grade-appropriate writing skills (e.g., writing detail, describing settings, developing characters) as they write stories to accompany picture books.
  • use appropriate story elements.
  • exercise creativity.
  • use proper spelling and punctuation.


writing, literature, picture book, pancakes, Weisner, Anno, dePaola, dialogue, detail, description, setting, characters

Materials Needed

  • a variety of wordless picture books (suggestions included in lesson)
  • sticky-notes (3- x 5-inch size is ideal)
  • pencils

The Lesson

Note: Indented text in this lesson provides helpful tips for teachers of younger students.

Before the lesson, collect a variety of wordless picture books. Those might include titles such as

  • Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie DePaola
  • Tuesday by David Wiesner
  • Anno's Journey by Mitsumasa Anno
  • A Boy, a Dog, and a Frog by Mercer Mayer
  • The Great Cat Chase: A Wordless Picture Book by Mercer Mayer
You might consult with a primary-level teacher or librarian for additional popular titles. Other sources include

Display for students a variety of those picture books. Ideally, provide enough books so each student has a book to look through before starting the activity. If you do not have enough books to provide one for each student, arrange students into pairs to complete the activity.

If you teach younger students, you might want to pair them throughout the activity.

After they have had time to "read" their picture books, arrange students into groups so they can share their stories with the others in their group. Have each group appoint one student to share his or her story with the entire class; suggest they choose a student who wrote the most detailed story.

Gather students together. Invite the appointed member of each group to share his or her story with the class. As they share their stories, point out examples of how students used a book's illustrations -- such as the expressions on the characters' faces or elements of the setting -- to add details to the literal telling of the story.

At this point, you might want to model the kinds of questions students should ask themselves as they think about how to tell their stories. To do that, choose one of the shorter picture books and work with students to write text for it. Model for students how to think out loud about the illustrations and how to examine the pictures for details that might be important or interesting to include in the story. If you work together to write the text for an actual picture book, you might write the text on sticky-notes. (The 3- by 5-inch size notes is ideal for this activity.)

Writing text for a sample story is a good approach to use with younger students, and Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie dePaola is an ideal picture book for this activity. As an extension to the lesson, students might make butter and pancakes. The lesson could also be used as a opportunity to introduce/integrate a lesson in fractions!

Next, provide sticky-notes for students. Have students write words to go along with the picture(s) on each page or page spread in the book. If you teach students in grades 4 or above, emphasize the importance of including details beyond the simple retelling of the events pictured in the book.

If you teach younger students:
  • walk through a sample book page by page, writing the story as you go along.
  • have each student (or pair of students) write a version of the story.
  • ask students to share their stories.
  • have students explain what they liked best about other students' versions of their stories; for example, "I like that you wrote some detail about..." or "You did a good job of..." or "You really captured the..."
If students work in pairs, emphasize that each student should contribute ideas to the story.


Create a rubric to measure how well students met the goals of the assignment. Your rubric might include the following questions:
  • Is the writing creative and imaginative?
  • Are story elements -- such as characters, setting, and plot -- present?
  • Does the writing correspond with the pictures?
  • Are spelling and punctuation mostly correct?

Submitted By

This lesson is a compilation of ideas submitted by Kellie Slaughter of Belmont Hills Elementary in Smryna, Georgia, and Katrina Stroup of Alcorn Central Elementary School in Glen, Mississippi

Education World®
Copyright © 2009 Education World

Originally published 01/16/2004
Last updated 07/21/2009