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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


Student Objectives

Instruction and Activities

Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • demonstrate knowledge of the characteristics of narratives (e.g., sequence, storytelling).

  • explore connections between images and words.

  • use detailed vocabulary to write their text.

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Instruction and Activities

  1. Distribute the picture to the students.

  2. Ask students to examine the picture individually for a few minutes, jotting down on a piece of scratch paper or in their writer's notebooks any features or details that they notice.

  3. Consulting their notes as necessary, students brainstorm about the possible events and characters this picture illustrates. As students share their ideas, place the words or phrases under headings such as Character, Setting, Situation, and Vocabulary (see example). This is especially helpful for nonnative speakers, who may need help with vocabulary and spelling. Of course, this step may be only oral for native speakers.

  4. Ask students to write from one character's point of view. They may write about the character's feelings and thoughts, tell the story that leads up to the picture, or narrate the events that follow. Encourage students not only to describe the picture but to invent an original story related to the event illustrated. Students can sketch out the sequence of events for their narratives using the Timeline Tool.

  5. Remind students of the characteristics of narrative writing. You might write the information on a piece of chart paper or on the board so that writers can refer to the list while working.
    • Focuses a clear, well-defined incident or series of related events.

    • Develops plot, character, and setting with specific detail.

    • Orders events clearly.

    • Uses description and dialogue as appropriate to develop setting and character.

    • Shows events rather than just telling about them.

    • Establishes and maintains a tone and point of view.

    • Uses a logical and effective pattern of organization, such as chronological order, flashback, or flash-forward.

    • Uses transitional words and phrases to maintain coherence and establish sequence within and between paragraphs.
  6. Based on student need and experience with writing narratives, you might add one or more mini-lessons that will help students complete their work. Any of the following items would make excellent mini-lessons for writers composing narratives:

  7. If you want students to create a more formal piece of writing, allow additional class sessions for them to revise, type, and edit their papers. Alternately, you might have students do simple "first draft" writing, or write in their journals or writer's notebooks.

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The results of this activity range from a restatement of the vocabulary from the brainstorming on the board or chart paper to a detailed story with fleshed-out characterizations, depending upon the student and his or her abilities; therefore, a variety of finished products may result, each reflecting individual student's efforts.

  • If students write their stories in their journals, you might read and simply note things that stand out as specific and well-detailed.

  • If students complete multiple drafts of this piece, you could use the Peer Review: Narrative lesson plan to give students the chance to do self-assessment and revise their texts. Then use similar guidelines to respond to their writing.

  • For more formal feedback, use the Narrative Writing Rubric.


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