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Lesson Plan

A Picture's Worth a Thousand Words: From Image to Detailed Narrative

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A Picture's Worth a Thousand Words: From Image to Detailed Narrative

Grades 6 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Two 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Traci Gardner

Traci Gardner

Blacksburg, Virginia


National Council of Teachers of English



Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice



After looking at an image that tells a story, students brainstorm about the possible events and characters the image illustrates. Students then write from the point of view of one of the characters in the image, sharing the character's thoughts and feelings, describing the events that led up to the picture, or imagining the events that followed.

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Timeline Tool: Use this online tool to help students sketch out the sequence of events for their narratives.

Narrative Writing Rubric: This thorough rubric can be used to assess any piece of narrative writing.

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This lesson uses artworks as inspiration for narrative writing. Why use artwork? As Rochelle I. Frei (1999) explains, art "can be used the same way as written text can to expand children's knowledge of the world, and to understand what children do when they make sense of that world. . . . Art can provide a window into how children negotiate their understandings of images and their knowledge of the world" (386). In Frei's project, students explain their understanding of pieces of art, revealing details about their literacy processes and strategies. The same kinds of revelations, likely on a more advanced level, are revealed in this lesson, where students explore background actions and other narratives related to the art they study. All students can find success "where they are" through this exploration of culture, vocabulary, voice, and characterization in the specific context of the inspiration artwork. Because of the open-ended nature of this lesson, it is particularly appropriate for multi-leveled classrooms and classrooms with special-needs students and English Language Learners.

Further Reading

Frei, Rochelle I. "Making Meaning with Art: Children's Stories." Language Arts 76.5 (May 1999): 386-382.


This lesson is adapted from: O'Keefe, Alice M. 1996. Motivating Writing in Middle School. Urbana, IL: NCTE, 111-12.

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