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Lesson Plan

Picture Books as Framing Texts: Research Paper Strategies for Struggling Writers

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Picture Books as Framing Texts: Research Paper Strategies for Struggling Writers

Grades 6 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Five 50-minute sessions plus independent writing and research time
Lesson Author

Traci Gardner

Traci Gardner

Blacksburg, Virginia


National Council of Teachers of English


Materials and Technology

Student Interactives






  • Several copies of the framing picture book, ideally one for each small group of 4 to 5 students (see booklist)

  • Access to reference books and Internet sites matching the writing project (e.g., geographical facts about other countries for McDonald's and Smith's books)

  • Chart paper, markers, and tape

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Printing Press

Grades   K – 12  |  Student Interactive  |  Writing & Publishing Prose

Printing Press

The interactive Printing Press is designed to assist students in creating newspapers, brochures, and flyers.


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  • Choose a framing picture book (or books) for students. Megan McDonald's My House Has Stars and David Smith's If the World Were a Village are ideal for this project. Other possible framing texts are also available.

  • Read the sample brainstorming list and research questions for McDonald's My House Has Stars, and determine the kinds of opening questions and prompts to ask students as they compile lists and research questions of their own for the project.

  • Customize discussion starters and tasks for the particular picture book that you've chosen:

    • McDonald's My House Has Stars includes similar information for each house, so a shared list and search guide is appropriate for the class.

    • David Smith's If the World Were a Village includes a different topic on each page. Students might brainstorm their lists and establish guiding research questions in small groups, based on the topic for the pages their group will create. The unifying focus for projects modeled on Smith's book will be finding numerical data that can be calculated for a village of 100 (e.g., a village of 100 in your state or county).

    • If you choose one of the framing texts that is based on calendar dates (such as Burleigh's Black Whiteness or McKissack and McKissack's Christmas in the Big House, Christmas in the Quarters), students can identify key dates as they are brainstorming their lists.

  • Customize the Picture-Book Research Paper Rubric as necessary to match the framing picture books that your students are using for this project.

  • Build in time during this lesson for students to complete their research, draft their pages, and share their drafts with peers. Work can be completed as homework or you may provide independent or group research time in class. Allowing time for library and Internet research is highly recommended. This lesson includes details for the formal group sessions only.

  • Test the ReadWriteThink Printing Press on your computers to familiarize yourself with the tool and ensure that you have the Flash plug-in installed. You can download the plug-in from the technical support page. Explore the options that the tool provides so that you can guide students' decisions during Session Five, matching the available templates to the picture book frame that you are using for the project. In most cases, the Flyer or the Newspaper template will be most appropriate.

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