Unit

The Children's Picture Book Project

Grades
9 - 12
Lesson Plan Type
Unit
Estimated Time
Eight 50-minute sessions
Publisher
NCTE
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Overview

In this lesson students plan, write, illustrate, and publish their own children's picture books. First, students review illustrated children's books to gain an understanding of the creative process and the elements that help make a children's book successful. Next, students use graphic organizers to brainstorm ideas for the character, setting, and conflict of their own stories. Students then pitch their stories to their peers and use peer feedback as they develop their stories. Students create storyboards to plan the relationship between the illustrations and text. Finally, students use a variety of methods to bind their books in an attractive manner and present their books to their peers.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

Diana Mitchell explains why lesson plans that focus on children's literature are so successful in the classroom: "When picture books appear in a secondary classroom, students behave differently. They paw over the books, oohing and aahing at the illustrations, the colors, and the topics. Enthusiasm creeps into their talk. They become unabashedly interested in the books . . ." (86-87) Mitchell explains that eventually students question why they are being asked to work with "baby" books, but she asserts that these texts are useful tools in the classroom because they build literacy skills and excitement simultaneously. As she concludes, "Since this is one genre accessible to all of our students, the payoff in terms of what they learn is usually great."

Further Reading

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
  • 2. Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.
  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Printouts

Websites

Preparation

  • Ask students to bring in their favorite illustrated children's book from childhood for the first session.

  • Gather enough copies of illustrated children's books for each student in your class. Use the books students brought in or check out multiple copies of illustrated children's books from the public library. It is important, however, that you select only acclaimed picture books that have been proven to be successful with young children. Refer to the Recommended Children's Picture Books list to identify books to use for this activity.

  • Make copies of the handouts that are used in the lesson.

  • Test the Story Map and Plot Diagram interactives on your computers to familiarize yourself with the tools and ensure that you have the Flash plug-in installed. You can download the plug-in from the technical support page.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • plan, write, illustrate, and publish their own children's picture books.

  • analyze and evaluate a work of literature.

  • participate in a review of a story written by a peer.

  • use literary devices in an original work of fiction.

Session One: Favorite Book Presentations

  1. Arrange students into groups of three members each.

  2. Have group members take turns reading their favorite picture books out loud to the other two group members.

  3. After reading the book, each reader should share three reasons why the book is their favorite from childhood.

  4. After the reading of each book ask group members to share concrete examples of how the book was or was not effective in each of the following three areas: plot, characterization, and illustrations.

  5. Encourage students to develop their own guidelines for the characteristics of effective plots, characterization, and illustrations.

  6. Gather the class and review students' findings, noting the details on chart paper or the board. Save this information for later reference, as students compose their own books.

Session Two: Book Reviews

  1. Review the guidelines that the groups compiled as they reviewed their favorite books in the previous session.

  2. Pass out the Children's Book Review Guide and additional books for students to review.

  3. Ask students to review a children's book and explore the general characteristics of children's books.

  4. If possible, move students to a larger area or a location where they can read the books out loud to themselves.

  5. After students have completed the review, return to the classroom and arrange the class in groups of three.

  6. Have students to identify the similarities among all of the books reviewed in the group.

  7. Gather the class, and have groups share their findings, comparing the results to the list from the previous session.

  8. Note the details as students share to create a revised list that the class can consult while writing their own texts.

Session Three: "I Remember" Journal Entry

  1. Explain the writing project that students will complete: composing the text and illustrations for their own children's picture books.

  2. Share the Grading Rubric and discuss the expectations for the activity. Answer any questions that students have.

  3. Ask students to brainstorm themes that they noticed in several of the books.

  4. To get students started, share one or more of the following themes and ask students to suggest how some of the books that they read fit these themes:

    • Acceptance of others

    • Concern of family dynamics

    • Physical growth (especially size)

    • Fear of the unknown
  5. Once the class has compiled a list of several themes, review the list and make any additions or revisions.

  6. Ask students to hypothesize why these themes resonate with young listeners, encouraging students to share any connections that they recall to the texts or to their own experiences.

  7. Have students describe the memory as a journal entry. Encourage students to address all five of the senses when recounting their memory.

  8. Explain that the memory does not have to be complete. If desired, encourage students to imagine or make up details that they cannot remember.

  9. If additional time is needed, have students complete their journal entries for homework.

Session Four: Brainstorming Sessions

  1. Ask volunteers to share summaries of their memories from their journals.

  2. After each volunteer reads, connect the memories to the themes from the previous session.

  3. Remind students of the expectations of the assignment using the Grading Rubric.

  4. Overview the steps that students will follow: gathering details about their stories, developing plots, storyboarding, writing and illustrating, and then publishing the book.

  5. Explain that during this session, students will expand on the information from their memory journal entries by brainstorming additional details.

  6. Introduce one of the following options for students to use, depending upon the resources available in your classroom:

    • Have students to use the Story Map interactive to create and print out the following graphic organizers:

      • character map

      • conflict map

      • resolution map

      • setting map

    • Read through the Tips for Writing a Children's Picture Storybook handout and compare the observations to the books that students have read. Add or revise the guidelines as appropriate based on students' experiences with picture books. Have students complete the Brainstorming the Conflict chart to test out potential conflicts by identifying the complications that would or could result from attempting to solve them. Encourage students to discuss their findings with one another as they work.

Session Five: Developing a "Plot Pitch"

  1. Allow time for volunteers to share their work from the previous session with the class. Make connections to the class list of characteristics of effective plots, characterization, and illustrations as appropriate.

  2. Distribute the Plot Pitch Template, and have students follow the information on the sheet to develop the basic layout and details of their stories.

  3. Encourage collaboration and sharing as students develop their ideas. Circulate through the room, providing support and feedback during this work time.

  4. Once the basic templates are complete, have students graph their plots using the ReadWriteThink interactive Plot Diagram.

  5. If time allows, have students draw a sketch of their main character and the setting in which the story takes place. Encourage students to use colors in their sketches as well as labels that identify certain characteristics or details that might be revealed through the text of the story.

Session Six: Pitching the Plot

  1. Review the activities that the class has completed so far and the expectations for the project. Answer any questions.

  2. Arrange the class in pairs and have partners present their "plot pitch" to their each other.

  3. Ask students to answer the questions included on the Plot Pitch Template to provide written feedback to their partners.

  4. If time allows, students can exchange their work with more than one partner.

  5. Have students review the responses and add details or revisions to their work so far in the time remaining. Alternately, have students continue their work for homework.

Session Seven: Storyboards

  1. Have students prepare storyboard pages by dividing several 8.5 x 11 sheets of paper into four to six boxes. Suggest folding the sheets to create the lines easily. There should be enough boxes to represent each page of the book as well as the cover.

  2. Ask students to use only one side of the paper so that all thumbnails on the storyboard can be seen at once.

  3. Have students to sketch the illustrations and text for each page and the cover in a pane of the storyboard. The students' goal should be to create a balance of text and illustrations that tell their story.

  4. Remind students that these are rough sketches, not their final illustrations. Getting the idea across is the goal.

  5. Encourage students to experiment with the location, size, and amount of text and illustrations on each page.

  6. Once students have completed their storyboards, arrange the class in pairs or threes to discuss the planned layout for the books.

Session Eight: Producing the Book

  1. Review the expectations for the assignment using the Grading Rubric.

  2. Provide an overview of the publishing techniques that are available, using the information on the Publishing Tips handout and the Websites listed in the Resources section.

  3. Allow students to continue their work on their pages, writing and illustrating during this session.

  4. Station yourself near the materials for binding the books. Provide help with the bookbinding process as students reach this stage.

  5. As the books are completed, encourage students to read their stories to one another as a whole class or in small groups.

  6. Allow more than one session for this final publication work if appropriate.

Extensions

Arrange to visit a Pre-K, Kindergarten, or 1st grade class, and have your students read their books to the students. Select the best 5 to 8 books submitted. Divide students into groups of three and assign the following tasks to be completed during the visit: reader, page-turner, and master of ceremonies. Each group can also develop short skits, costumes, or other visual props to enhance the quality of their presentations.

Student Assessment / Reflections

  • Informally assess students’ participation in group and brainstorming sessions, book presentations, and journal writing.

  • Use the Grading Rubric to evaluate students’ picture books.

  • Rely on the informal feedback from younger listeners to the stories to provide additional assessment if you complete the extension.
Diana Bradbury
K-12 Teacher
This looks brilliant. I've been teaching English Language Arts for 30 years and I am always looking for different ways to engage kids in writing. I'll let you know how it goes.
Diana
K-12 Teacher
This was very well organized and very helpful. He gave great details, resources and tips! Thank you. I will keep you posted on the outcome of this lesson.
Stacey Doerr
K-12 Teacher
I have taught this unit the past two years. My students write their final book in an actual hardcover bound 32-page book. They interviewed a kindergartner at a local elementary and designed most aspects of the story based on their little buddy. My 8th grade students then gift their book to their little buddy on their third and final visit. It is a fantastic authentic writing experience.
Diana
K-12 Teacher
This was very well organized and very helpful. He gave great details, resources and tips! Thank you. I will keep you posted on the outcome of this lesson.
Molly Scanlon
K-12 Teacher
I used this assignment in a 9th grade academic reading class. After students composed their books, we walked to the nearby elementary school to read to their students. It made the students write for a very real audience. I also added the caveat that the narratives had to contain a social message/moral of some type. The results were some of the best writing I had seen from students all year. Great resources!
R. Schomburg
K-12 Teacher
This is an outstanding lesson/unit. I use it annually as a culminating writing project for the end of our fall semester. My Pre-AP English students are completely engaged throughout the process and many have actually asked to keep their published pieces to give as gifts for Christmas! Aint it sweet!
D.A.
K-12 Teacher
This will be my 5th year using this project. My students write original stories in Spanish for a unit grade. We "bind" them in clear-front report covers and send them to Guatemala for the impoverished children there. My students love helping those children! Muchas gracias for simplifying a rewarding lesson!
R. Schomburg
K-12 Teacher
This is an outstanding lesson/unit. I use it annually as a culminating writing project for the end of our fall semester. My Pre-AP English students are completely engaged throughout the process and many have actually asked to keep their published pieces to give as gifts for Christmas! Aint it sweet!
Diana Bradbury
K-12 Teacher
This looks brilliant. I've been teaching English Language Arts for 30 years and I am always looking for different ways to engage kids in writing. I'll let you know how it goes.
Diana
K-12 Teacher
This was very well organized and very helpful. He gave great details, resources and tips! Thank you. I will keep you posted on the outcome of this lesson.
Stacey Doerr
K-12 Teacher
I have taught this unit the past two years. My students write their final book in an actual hardcover bound 32-page book. They interviewed a kindergartner at a local elementary and designed most aspects of the story based on their little buddy. My 8th grade students then gift their book to their little buddy on their third and final visit. It is a fantastic authentic writing experience.
Stacey Doerr
K-12 Teacher
I have taught this unit the past two years. My students write their final book in an actual hardcover bound 32-page book. They interviewed a kindergartner at a local elementary and designed most aspects of the story based on their little buddy. My 8th grade students then gift their book to their little buddy on their third and final visit. It is a fantastic authentic writing experience.
Molly Scanlon
K-12 Teacher
I used this assignment in a 9th grade academic reading class. After students composed their books, we walked to the nearby elementary school to read to their students. It made the students write for a very real audience. I also added the caveat that the narratives had to contain a social message/moral of some type. The results were some of the best writing I had seen from students all year. Great resources!
R. Schomburg
K-12 Teacher
This is an outstanding lesson/unit. I use it annually as a culminating writing project for the end of our fall semester. My Pre-AP English students are completely engaged throughout the process and many have actually asked to keep their published pieces to give as gifts for Christmas! Aint it sweet!
Molly Scanlon
K-12 Teacher
I used this assignment in a 9th grade academic reading class. After students composed their books, we walked to the nearby elementary school to read to their students. It made the students write for a very real audience. I also added the caveat that the narratives had to contain a social message/moral of some type. The results were some of the best writing I had seen from students all year. Great resources!
D.A.
K-12 Teacher
This will be my 5th year using this project. My students write original stories in Spanish for a unit grade. We "bind" them in clear-front report covers and send them to Guatemala for the impoverished children there. My students love helping those children! Muchas gracias for simplifying a rewarding lesson!
D.A.
K-12 Teacher
This will be my 5th year using this project. My students write original stories in Spanish for a unit grade. We "bind" them in clear-front report covers and send them to Guatemala for the impoverished children there. My students love helping those children! Muchas gracias for simplifying a rewarding lesson!
Diana Bradbury
K-12 Teacher
This looks brilliant. I've been teaching English Language Arts for 30 years and I am always looking for different ways to engage kids in writing. I'll let you know how it goes.

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