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Lesson Plan

Looking at Landmarks: Using a Picture Book to Guide Research

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Looking at Landmarks: Using a Picture Book to Guide Research

Grades 3 – 5
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Four 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Lisa Storm Fink

Lisa Storm Fink

Urbana, Illinois


National Council of Teachers of English


Student Objectives

Session One

Sessions Two and Three

Session Four


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • examine picture book illustrations, looking for clues.

  • use reference materials to research landmarks.

  • work in cooperative pairs or groups.

  • write and publish their research of each landmark.

  • share their research with the class.

  • locate each landmark on a world map, noting their location.

  • draw conclusions based upon the global location of the landmarks.

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Session One

  1. Read Ben's Dream by Chris Van Allsburg to students, showing all of the illustrations as you read the story aloud.

  2. At the end of the book, invite students to share their thoughts and observations about the story. Some of the students may know the names of the landmarks and where they are located. Others may discuss design and architectural styles.

  3. If desired, read the book again.

  4. After this reading of the story, go back and provide the students with the official name of each of the landmarks. As you name the landmarks, show a photograph or printout showing what the real landmark looks like.

  5. Pass out the Where Does Ben Go In His Dream? handout and using the list, help students name the landmarks that are illustrated in Ben's Dream.

  6. Invite students to share more about these landmarks now that they are named.

  7. Provide students with a variety of reference materials, such as nonfiction books, atlases, encyclopedias, Internet printouts, etc. Make sure that all of the landmarks are represented in those materials.

  8. Invite students to peruse these materials, looking specifically for landmarks mentioned in Ben's Dream. If desired, show photos of the landmarks, using the Looking at Landmarks student interactive.

  9. As the students are skimming and searching, ask them to think about one landmark they would like to learn more about. In the following sessions, they will be conducting research on one or more of the landmarks presented in the book.

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Sessions Two and Three

  1. To begin the session, invite students to recall the names of the landmarks illustrated in Ben's Dream.

  2. In pairs or small groups, ask students to choose a landmark to learn more about.

  3. Pass out copies of the guiding questions, which students will use as they conduct their research.

  4. Encourage students to find additional information about their landmarks as well as the answers to the required questions.

  5. Model the research process using the Looking at Landmarks student interactive, which shows illustrations of each of the landmarks illustrated in Ben's Dream and provides an area for notetaking.

  6. Pass out copies of the Landmark Websites for students to refer to as they research their landmark.

  7. When each pair or group believes they have collected enough information, ask students to work together to write a description of their landmark.

  8. Publish students findings in one of the following ways:

    • The class can work together to create a flip book. Since there can be ten pages in the flip book, each page can highlight a different landmark.

    • Again, using the Flip Book, each pair or group of students can make their own flip book on their selected landmark. Each page can address some of the prompts from the list of guiding questions.

    • Using the Multigenre Mapper, students can draw a picture of their landmark, and use the other three spaces to detail information they have learned about their landmark. In true multigenre fashion, students can include a newspaper clipping about their landmark, a poem written about the monument, song lyrics, an advertisement for the location, and so forth.

    • Using the Timeline Tool students can visually show the history of their selected landmark.

    • Students can use the Graphic Map to show the ups and downs of the monument.

    • Students can use Book Cover Creator to illustrate the books they compose to highlight a monument.

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Session Four

  1. Pass out a blank world map and the rubric to each student.

  2. Have each group share their published project with the class.

  3. As each group is sharing, ask class members to note the location of each of the landmarks on their blank world map.

  4. After each presentation, provide time for the students to ask questions or clarify any information that was shared.

  5. When all of the student groups have shared their research, ask students to share their observations of the placement of the landmarks in Ben's Dream, using the following questions to guide discussion:

    • Is there a pattern or a path?

    • Do they think it was random or planned?
  6. If desired, the students can write more about their thoughts of Ben's path of travel.

  7. At the end of the discussion and presentations, assess the students' work using the rubric.

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  • The class can work together to create a book similar to Ben's Dream. In their class book, students can highlight landmarks from their own community, region, or state. Their book can include historical monuments, courthouses, churches, schools and universities, and so on.

  • Invite students who require a more challenging project to explore landmarks that are frequently underrepresented or to research the inaccuracies that are found related to landmarks. This lesson idea is based on James Loewen's book, Lies Across America: What Our Historic Sites Get Wrong. Since students will be looking at landmarks with a more critical eye, use Loewen's List of Ten Questions to Ask at a Historic Site to guide students' research.

  • Ask students to make a list of landmarks Ben could also have visited. Some examples are the White House, the Colosseum, the Golden Gate Bridge, Stonehenge, St. Peter's Basilica, the Wailing Wall, Mesa Verde, the House of Slaves in Ghana, or Easter Island. Using the list of guiding questions, students can learn more about these locations.
  • For a contemporary twist on this lesson, invite students to research more about the monument at Ground Zero, an excellent example of a landmark that stands where something used to be. Many students will recall the event that the monument memorializes, and numerous documents are available that explore the steps to create the monument.

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Observe participation during studentsí exploration and discussion of the landmarks mentioned in Benís Dream, as well as while students use reference materials as a part of their research. Monitor studentsí progress and process as they conduct their research about the different landmarks. As students present their published research to the class, take notes and assess their work using the rubric. Observe the students as they complete their map on Benís travels.

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