Find what you need fast!  Type in your keyword and search.

Isobel the Illustrator

Context for this Lesson


TOPIC: Language Arts 


GRADE: 1st Grade



  • What is job of an illustrator?
  • How can we use context clues and background knowledge to improve comprehension, make inferences about characters and to relate the story to our own lives?
  • How can we represent our understanding through an image made with our bodies and on paper?





§110.12. English Language Arts and Reading Grade 1 


Knowledge and Skills

  • (1)(F) identify the information that different parts of a book provide (e.g., title, author, illustrator, table of contents).
  • (4)(C) establish purpose for reading selected texts and monitor comprehension, making corrections and adjustments when that understanding breaks down (e.g., identifying clues, using background knowledge, generating questions, re-reading a portion aloud).
  • (7)(A) connect the meaning of a well-known story or fable to personal experience
  • (9)(B) describe characters in a story and the reasons for their actions and feelings.



  • (2) Students imagine and clearly describe characters, their relationships, and their environments
  • (3) Students visualize environments and construct designs to communicate locale and mood using visual elements (space, color, line, shape, texture) and aural aspects using a variety of sounds

Common Core State Standards:


Reading Standards for Literature Grade 1


Key Ideas and Details:

  • (3) Describe characters, settings, and major events in a story, using key details.

Craft and Structure:

  • (4) Identify words and phrases in stories or poems that suggest feelings or appeal to the senses.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas: 

  • (7) Use illustrations and details in a story to describe its characters, setting, or events.
  • (9) Compare and contrast the adventures and experiences of characters in stories.


NOTE TO FACILITATORS: The following lesson uses the book Elmer by David McKee. You are more than welcome to use any book to move through this lesson. Whatever artifact you choose should relate to the main character that students will embody in the narrative pantomime.




"I have a picture with me today that will give us a clue about today's story." Show students the photo of the elephant.
What do you see in this picture?
How would you describe this elephant: is it big or small? Do you think it’s light or heavy? What color is it? What do you think an elephant feels like? Smells like?
How do you think an elephant might connect to our story?

Transition:"In a minute I’m going to introduce you to Isobel the Illustrator. Let’s think about the word illustrator for a minute. What do you think an illustrator does?" (take some ideas, can break down the word illustrate if helpful). "Those are great predictions. In a moment, when I put on this scarf, I am going to become Isobel the Illustrator. I need your help to become this character, I need everyone to count down from 5 and by the time we get to 1 Isobel the Illustrator will be here. Any questions? Okay, let’s start counting: 5-4-3-2-1."


"Hello, hello. My name is Isobel the Illustrator, what a pleasure to meet you." (Isobel shakes hands with a few students. Then stops she’s overcome with sadness). "OH, I’m so sorry I just can’t say hello anymore because I feel so sad. You see, I’m an illustrator, a person who draws pictures for books, and well, I’m a very new illustrator and I just got my first assignment to draw the pictures for this story, and well I just can’t do it." (bursts into tears)  
"I need help imagining what the pictures look like for the book. My story is about an elephant. But not just any elephant. This is a special elephant. I need to try to see the picture in my head so I can draw it but I just can’t and now I can’t do her job. I heard you were all excellent artists, and I’m hoping you can help me. My boss wants me to draw a picture for each page of the story, AND draw the picture for the cover of the book. Do you think you can help me figure out what I should draw?"

"I think I have an idea! You probably need to know the story first before you can help me with my drawings. So let’s act our story out together. That way, I can see you do the things in the story, and maybe that’ll help? What do you think?"
"Let’s each find our own space on the carpet where our body is not touching any other body. Let’s see if we can do this, silently, on a count of five. Everyone needs to find their own space, on the carpet, silently. Any questions? Okay. 5-4-3-2-1."

NOTE TO FACILITATORS: Narrative Pantomime script should be based on whatever story you are using. Make sure to put the students in role all as the main character, and have them act out the major actions in the story. This will be a story they have not read before, so lots of detail is great. If you would like to use the Elmer story and do not have the book, an electronic copy of the blank book and an updated narrative pantomime script will be emailed to you.
"Now that you are in your own space, show me what your body would look like as an elephant. I see some people making round shapes (name whatever you see participants doing). Now, walk in place as an elephant. How do elephants walk? Do they take heavy or light steps? Slow or fast? Great job, everyone. And freeze as the elephant."

"In this story, elephants, your name is Elmer. You are a very happy elephant who smiles a lot and likes to make other elephants laugh. You are a special elephant because you are not gray- you are a multi-colored elephant with patches of every color all over your body! The other elephants love to laugh at your jokes, but you’re not very happy. Being different makes you feel sad and lonely."

"One day, you go for a walk through the jungle, looking up at the tall green trees, and waving to the animals you see as you pass by. Then you stop. You see a bush full of berries. But these berries are not red, not blue, not purple - they’re GRAY. Perfect! You pick as many berries as you can off the bush, throw them on the ground, and you roll around in them, getting as much of the gray berry juice as you can all over you. You stand up, and you think you look great."

"As you walk through the jungle, the other elephants don’t seem to notice you at all. This is a little strange, but you keep walking with them. You blend right in."

"But then a huge rain cloud bursts and all the gray berry juice washes off of you. The other elephants laugh and tell you that they LOVE this joke! They love it so much that they decide to celebrate this day by painting themselves lots of colors. You feel a lot better because your friends love your patchwork colors."

"Oh, thank you that was so helpful. Let’s all make a circle again on the count of five 5-4-3-2-1."

"Well seeing you tell the stories with your body was SO helpful. But, it all went so fast. I think I need to see one picture at a time. Let’s start with the beginning of the story." She flips to a page and read it aloud. Isobel works with a small group and audience as directors to create a frozen picture/statue based on the information they infer from the text. The rest of the group watches and offers thoughts or adjustments. Work quickly so students are not holding their freezes for too long. Students can be objects or people in the story too.
Once the picture is created the teacher as Illustrator might pretend to sketch the picture in her notebook as she asks:

  • "What is Elmer doing in this picture?"
  • "How do we think Elmer is feeling in this picture? Why? If he was thinking something, what might he be thinking? What sorts of feelings do we see in this picture? What colors might we use if we were drawing this picture? If there was sound added to this picture what might be like?(Have group make the sounds)"

Repeat with next part of the circle for a line from the middle of the story, and for a piece from the end of the story. Process image with questions each time.

After all the pictures are shared, the illustrator is happy but has one last major problem. Her boss wants her to choose one picture to go on the cover her book. She has one final request. "What picture might tell the readers what the story of Elmer the Elephant  is all about? What sort of picture should we put on the cover of our book? What is the most important thing (or main idea) that other people need to know about Elmer?" Take ideas. Could the students help her by drawing a picture of what they think should go on the cover of the story. She reminds them of the setting and details they added in each of their pictures which the students might want to add to their picture.
Students return to their seats and work on their pictures. They are encouraged to think about color to help tell the story and mood or feeling of the character. They can write the story title of and write Illustrated by: their name.

*Let participants know that this is a moment that can be extended to give students more time to work on their drawings.
After students have finished their drawings they can stand in front of their chair with their picture on the desk. As a group, students can walk silently around the desks and look at the pictures with the illustrator. The Illustrator can call out what she sees. After all the pictures are looked at, they discuss what types of choices the student illustrators made for the cover of the book. Isobel the Illustrator is thrilled with the help. She is inspired. She is ready to go home and work on her own version of the story. She asks the students to reminder her of the steps they followed to make their pictures (reading the text, looking for clues about what might be in the picture, making inferences and creating the picture/illustration).  The illustrator thanks the students. Teacher takes off hat and steps out of role.


The teacher thanks the students for their listening and participation. She asks:
D - "What was Isobel the illustrator’s problem in our drama work today?"
A - "How did we help her solve her problem?"
     "How do you know what to draw when you draw a picture?"
R - "What other people might need to draw pictures of things as part of their job? Where else do we see pictures?"