ARTSEDGE Lessons for Elementary School

Map it Out

Exploring how illustrations contribute to the telling of a story


Key Staff

Classroom Teacher

Key Skills

Creative Thinking: Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
Making Art: Producing, Executing and Performing
Developing Arts Literacies: Analyzing and Evaluating - Critique


Explore how illustrations contribute to the telling of a story by creating illustrations to accompany text, and then creating text to accompany illustrations. Students will explore picture books (without words) and discuss the specific elements of the illustrations that "tell" the story. They will learn to "read" illustrations as they look at the ways in which pictures reveal information about the characters, setting, and plot of a story.

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Create illustrations to accompany text.
  • "Read" a variety of illustrations for information.
  • Convey elements of a story such as character, setting, and plot through illustration.
  • Identify techniques and/or symbols used by illustrators to convey information.
  • Critique their own illustrations.
  • Participate in a variety of independent literacy-building activities.

Teaching Approach

Arts Integration

Teaching Methods

  • Discussion
  • Cooperative Learning
  • Guided Practice
  • Independent Practice

Assessment Type



What You'll Need

Lesson Setup

Teacher Background

Your choice of books can reflect other topics the students are studying or authors you are focusing on.

Prior Student Knowledge

No prior knowledge needed


  • Large Group Instruction
  • Small Group Instruction
  • Individualized Instruction


Set up desks/tables and chairs to accommodate small group work

Accessibility Notes

Students with physical disabilities may need modified movements.


Resources in Reach

Here are the resources you'll need for each activity, in order of instruction.



1. Read aloud a short excerpt from a book of your choosing. Do not share the book’s illustrations, but instead, have students listen carefully, and then create an illustration to go with the text.

2. Allow students to share their illustrations. Have students explain why they chose to depict what they did, and how the picture correlates with the story they just heard. Explain that pictures, or illustrations, are an important element of storybooks, and they can help us understand the elements of the story, including the characters, setting, and plot. Point out that illustrations can also provide valuable clues when one gets "stuck" on a word one doesn’t understand.

Build Knowledge

1. Explain that just as listening to a story creates a picture in our minds, looking at a picture can create a story in our minds. Show students a sample illustration from a large picture book of your choosing, preferably one that is unfamiliar to students. Cover up the text so that the students are focused on the illustration.

2. Discuss with students which elements of the story they can discern simply by looking at the picture. Can they identify who the characters are and what they might be like? What about the setting? Where or when might the story take place? Can they describe the action that is taking place? Can they guess what one or more of the characters is feeling and/or thinking?

3. Flip to the next page, again covering up the text. Based on the second illustration, see which ideas about the storyline seem to be correct. Can students discern something more about the storyline? What elements of the illustrations are most helpful in figuring out information about the story? Discuss specific techniques the illustrator used to “tell” the story. If students are having trouble coming up with specific techniques, point out facial expressions on characters, actions, body language, gestures, or clothing that help reveal information about the characters or action of the story.


1. Explain that some books rely entirely on pictures to tell a story. Divide the students into groups of two to three. Distribute a picture book to each group. Allow them to flip through the picture book to discern the characters, setting, storyline of the book. Have a reporter from each group to briefly share the plot of the story with classmates, along with one of the illustrations that most helped them to understand the story and why.

2. Have each student a character, setting, and plot map of their own creation. Their maps should reveal the characters, setting, and some part of the action of the story. You can use the Character, Setting, and Plot Maps in the Resource Carousel above. You may wish to have students use ReadWriteThink's interactive Story Map as a graphic organizer for their story elements. The maps help students put their stories into words and pictures. Students can create maps on their own paper, or on an interactive white board. Distribute copies of the Storyline Elements handout so students know what to discuss as they look through peer illustrations.


1. Have students share whether their partner correctly guessed the elements of the storyline. If not, what part of the story did they have a hard time understanding?

2. Discuss the hardest and easiest parts of telling a story without words. Allow students five minutes to go back and add to or revise their pictures as needed.


Assess the students' work using the Assessment Rubric located within the Resource Carousel.


Throughout the nation, standards of learning are being revised, published and adopted. During this time of transition, ARTSEDGE will continually add connections to the Common Core, Next Generation Science standards and other standards to our existing lessons, in addition to the previous versions of the National Standards across the subject areas.

The Arts Standards used in ARTSEDGE Lessons are the 1994 voluntary national arts standards. The Arts learning standards were revised in 2014; please visit the National Core Arts Standards (http://nationalartsstandards.org) for more. The Kennedy Center is working on developing new lessons to connect to these standards, while maintaining the existing lesson library aligned to the Common Core, other state standards, and the 1994 National Standards for Arts Education.

ArtsEdge Lessons connect to the National Standards for Arts Education, the Common Core Standards, and a range of other subject area standards.

Common Core/State Standards

Select state and grade(s) below, then click "Find" to display Common Core and state standards.

National Standards For Arts Education
Visual Arts

Grade K-4 Visual Arts Standard 3: Choosing and evaluating a range of subject matter, symbols, and ideas

Grade K-4 Visual Arts Standard 5: Reflecting upon and assessing the characteristics and merits of their work and the work of others

National Standards in Other Subjects
Language Arts

Language Arts Standard 5: Uses the general skills and strategies of the reading process

Language Arts Standard 6: Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of literary texts

Language Arts Standard 9: Uses viewing skills and strategies to understand and interpret visual media



Amy Heathcott

Email Print Share


- +
Email a link to this page
Share This Page



Use this collection of resources and articles to devise an approach for supporting individual needs in the classroom: from English Language Learners or students with disabilities, to conflict resolution and giving feedback.



© 1996-2019 John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts  

ArtsEdge is an education program of

The Kennedy Center 

with the support of

The US Department of Education 

ARTSEDGE, part of the Rubenstein Arts Access Program, is generously funded by David Rubenstein.

Additional support is provided by the U.S. Department of Education.

Kennedy Center education and related artistic programming is made possible through the generosity of the National Committee
for the Performing Arts and the President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts.

The contents of this Web site were developed under a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. However, those contents do not
necessarily represent the policy of the U.S. Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal government.
Unless otherwise stated, ArtsEdge materials may be copied, modified and otherwise utilized for non-commercial educational purposes
provided that ArtsEdge and any authors listed in the materials are credited and provided that you permit others to use them in the same manner.

Change Background:

Connect with us!    EMAIL US | YouTube | Facebook | iTunes | MORE!

© 1996-2019 John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts  
    Privacy Policy
| Terms and Conditions


You are now leaving the ArtsEdge website. Thank you for visiting!

If you are not automatically transferred, please click the link below:

ArtsEdge and The Kennedy Center are in no way responsible for the content of the destination site, its ongoing availability, links to other site or the legality or accuracy of information on the site or its resources.