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Lesson Plan

Postmodern Picture Books in Middle School

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Grades 6 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time 45 minutes
Lesson Author

Laurie A. Henry, Ph.D.

Laurie A. Henry, Ph.D.

Lexington, Kentucky


International Literacy Association


Student Objectives

Instruction and Activities


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • Explore unfamiliar text formats

  • Interpret multiple meanings from a text

  • Analyze writer's craft and writing techniques

  • Discuss relationships between literacy and artistic techniques

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Instruction and Activities


Discuss the basis and format for a picture book. Tell students that they will be reading a picture book that is different than what they would expect from a traditional text.

Opening Activity

Divide students into five groups. Explain that you have a picture book that you would like them to read together in their groups. Assign four out of the five groups one story line presented in the text (ignoring the other three story lines). Assign the fifth group all four story lines presented in the text. This group should read the book as they would read a traditional picture book, page-by-page in its entirety. Although the reading is not directed, student should "discover" the unfamiliar format of the text.

Group A follows the story line in the upper left corner of each page.
Group B follows the story line in the upper right corner of each page.
Group C follows the story line in the lower left corner of each page.
Group D follows the story line in the lower right corner of each page.
Group E follows all four story lines together.

Small Groups

Provide directions for students to complete a plot summary based on the portion of the text that their group is reading. Students may use the plot summary graphic organizer. Each group will record setting, characters, and events as stipulated on the story map and to the best of their ability. Explain that some areas of the story map may be left blank depending on the story line their group is following.

Mixed Groups

When each group has finished reading and preparing a plot summary, mix the groups by having one student from each of the previous groups meet to share their plot summaries. After sharing their plot summaries, students discuss how each story line is tied together by comparing the individual plot summaries with the plot summary prepared by Group E. Students make notes as they discuss relationships between the story lines, words, and illustrations. Notes can be made on the back of the plot summary sheet for reference during the whole class discussion. The notes should indicate what students discovered about the format of the text and how the story lines interacted with one another.

Whole Class

Each group reports back to the whole class what they discovered about the picture book Black and White. Discussions continue in reference to connections between the four story lines and how they interact with one another. Carol Hurst's Children's Literature Site will provide you with an overview of the topics to discuss. In addition, questions are presented that will initiate discussion of the relationship between literacy and artistic technique.

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  • Explore other postmodern picture books to further develop this lesson, such as The Three Pigs by David Wiesner and Rome Antics by David Macaulay.

  • Students can use Black and White as a model to write their own picture book. Divide students into groups of four. Each student in the group develops a basic story line and then the group works together to make connections among the four story lines. Depending on the level of your students, they can either develop their own original story lines or make changes to the story lines presented in the picture book Black and White. For example, the scenes on the train could be changed to occur on a subway or bus. The story with the cows could be changed to focus on a different animal. Collaborate with the art teacher so that students write the story lines in your class and develop the illustrations in the art room.

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  • Teacher observation of dialogue between students

  • Anecdotal notes based on group and class discussions

  • Students' plot summaries and recorded notes


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