Lesson plan

Analyzing Visual Elements

Give students many opportunities to see how visuals can influence a story's meaning. Show off your acting skills and read a great book to help them learn!
Need extra help for EL students? Try the Inferring with Visual Elements pre-lesson.
EL Adjustments
Grade Subject View aligned standards

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Need extra help for EL students? Try the Inferring with Visual Elements pre-lesson.

Students will be able to determine how visual elements influence the meaning of a text. Students will be able to make connections between visual elements and the text. Students will be able to draw inferences from a text.

The adjustment to the whole group lesson is a modification to differentiate for children who are English learners.
EL adjustments
(15 minutes)
  • Set the stage for the lesson by acting like you have a stomachache. Walk around holding your stomach!
  • Prompt your students to ask what's wrong. Act like your stomachache is bad but getting better.
  • Ask your students questions about what they thought. For example:
    • What did you think was wrong with me?
    • Why did you think that's what it was?
    • How did it make you feel to see me feeling ill?
  • Tell them that making inferences, or conclusions based on evidence, from what they saw when they noticed you were sick is exactly what they are supposed to do while they are reading.
  • Tell them that by using all the clues (inferring and any visual elements) they can fully understand what the author wants them to know.
  • Have your students discuss and record their thinking on the What I Saw worksheet.
  • Ask your students the overarching question of the lesson. A potential question includes, "How do visual elements add to the author's message?"
  • Tell your students that you are not looking for what the picture shows but what the picture adds that was not already in the text.
  • Explain that this matters because authors are very purposeful in their writing and illustrating, and they want to increase readers' understanding and enjoyment of the text.
(30 minutes)
  • Explain to your students that they will need to make connections in Freedom Summer just like they made connections with how you were acting. For example, they saw you looking distraught when you were holding your stomach, so they concluded that you were most likely having a stomachache.
  • When you read, tell them you want them to be listening to the story, thinking about what they already know and looking at the visual elements to get the whole picture the author intended.
  • Show the students the book cover and have them predict what it could be about.
  • Read the first two pages.
  • Ask your students to point to John Henry just to make sure they are following along. Ask your students to identify the narrator.
  • Continue reading. Read and stop at the page with the picture of the private pool opposite the kids jumping in the water.
  • Direct your students to look at the visual element. Ask your students to make an inference about why John Henry isn't allowed at the pool.
  • Continue reading, and stop at the page where John Henry's friend goes into the store and buys something, but don't show the picture of John Henry waiting outside.
  • After you read the page, have a whole group discussion while you take notes down on the poster.
  • Now, show the picture of John Henry waiting outside. Ask your students if anything changed for them, such as what they think is going on in the story.
  • Record their responses.
  • Explain that those small additions in thinking were added when considering the visual along with the text. Explain that the author meant them to be analyzed together.
  • Read the next page without showing the picture. Ask students what they are visualizing.
  • Once you discuss what they are seeing, show the picture and record what changed in their mental image of the story.
(15 minutes)
  • Continue reading and showing all the pictures at the same time.
  • Ask your students other questions based on the pictures.
  • Pair your students up and have them discuss what they gained from seeing pictures.
  • Finish reading the story.
  • Recap what they learned.
(20 minutes)
  • Have students read the poem on the At the Zoo worksheet and answer the first two questions.
  • Instruct your students to discuss the poem in groups for a few minutes and share out their answers.
  • Show students the Visual Element document. Now, have them answer questions 3 and 4. Make sure they fully explain their responses.
  • Have them discuss their responses in their groups. A potential guiding question includes, "How has your mental image of the poem changed now that you know the ant was talking?"
  • Discuss the worksheet as a group.


  • Have students look back over the book and write down how the pictures help them think about the setting, characters, and events in the story. Then, ask them to describe how the pictures add to what happened in the story.


  • Ask your students to think of additional pictures that the author could have included in the book to add meaning to the story.
(10 minutes)
  • Ask your students how the picture of John waiting outside of the store added meaning to the author's story about two boys who were living in a time where they didn't have the same privileges.
  • Have your students answer this on a sticky note.
(5 minutes)
  • Summarize the lesson by restating the learning objectives.

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