Narrative & Descriptive Writing Lesson Plan with Visual Illustrations

Objective: To enhance narrative and descriptive writing using illustrations cut into parts; showing a beginning, middle, and ending

Age: 5+              Time: 40 minutes (writing varies)         Grades: k-4


  • Pictures of animals, people, places (optional)
  • Colored pencils, markers, crayons or paint
  • White paper and construction paper
  • Lined paper
  • Pencil
  • Glue
  • Scissors (see other ways to use this lesson)

Visual Illustrations

Visual Illustrations can present an entire picture in parts. Imagine being able to teach and enhance action (verbs), adjectives, nouns, story or topic settings, characters, descriptive writing, poetry, non-fiction and narrative writing all with one visual illustration. Just step back and view the whole picture. Look closely and see the parts.

writing activity kim waltmire

Full scenery with character showing action in each section; 1st grade; January writing: 22 minutes

Lesson:  Narrative Visual Illustration

Notice the character shows movement just like a narrative story.  A story moves with its elements from the beginning, then to the middle and finally the end. The visual illustration allows the children to see ‘movement.’ And it is from their creation that they will form their own descriptive language.

Note: Younger children may need to dictate their story until their writing application becomes more fluent. See other ways to use this lesson.

1) Draw your scenery (pre-determined topic) with no character; just a background on a piece of 8 ½ x 11 inch of white paper. Use details and color or paint the entire page. If time restraints occur, allow children to use sceneries from magazines, cards, photographs or coloring pages instead.

2) Fold the picture into thirds or fourths (ruler optional). Cut along each fold or traced line, separating the picture into parts. (Note- 3 sections represent beginning, middle, ending or 4 sections can represent beginning, middle, problem and solution)

3) Draw your character on separate paper in 3 or 4 different actions. Color in detail, cut and glue onto 3 or 4 different scenery sections. Notice the scenery is the same (constant), yet the character shows movement (action) in your story.

4) Glue pieces onto larger colored construction paper, leaving space between the pieces. Step back and you will see the entire scene (story) unfold.

5) Encourage the children to write their narrative, utilizing the details in each section. They should pay particular attention to the character and how the character changes (moves or relocates) throughout the story. All they need to do is look at the first section and begin their story. Continue the story by focusing on the middle section and now the ending. Be sure to remind the children to use transitional words and phrases as they move from one section to another in their scene. (See other ways to use this lesson for character development).

6) Concentrate on your lesson. If you are trying to teach the use of verbs, then discuss and model action words before you assign the writing. You can teach settings, use of adjectives, nouns and character development. What a creative way to write a narrative.

7) Note: Let experienced writers enter the writing process from a position of strength. If they don’t need brainstorming or extra attention during a mini-lesson, let them write on their own.

8) Allow the children to write their descriptive narrative on lined paper (typing optional), cut, glue and attach to the bottom of the visual illustration or to the side of the picture. Perhaps the children studied seasons like ’winter’. Encourage the children to emphasize the character, along with the topic in order to show action. The more details used, the more there is to write about; especially when children rely on previous knowledge.

9) Edit work and bring to a final composition. Embellish the visual illustration creatively, share aloud and display for others to admire.


Move throughout the room to monitor, assess and confer when needed in order for incidental learning to occur. Depending on the skill you are reinforcing, this activity lends itself easily to assessing descriptive sentences, elaborative sentences (answering: who, what, where, why, when, and how), and use of adjectives, verbs and nouns, poetic, expository and narrative writing, as well as character development. Be sure to inform your students about your expectations. Perhaps you can orally assess a particular skill. Their written application will already be completed. Another way to organize your anecdotal notes can be to create a skill chart and check off the skills that have been mastered or need more improvement. See other ways to use this lesson.

classroom writing

Other Ways to Use This Lesson

Remember to allow the opportunity for your learners to write “visually”. Let them see the picture or parts before they write. Train them early to ‘visualize’ and see the details then they can eventually transfer visual imagery to visual memory. Guaranteed, your students will feel more confident with this approach.

As stated earlier, this lesson can focus on one skill at a time. When you are introducing verbs, nouns, adjectives, or descriptive phrases, have a brainstorm session and list their responses for an on-going chart. Now, they can use the words to inspire their descriptive writing. Older and more fluent writers may not need any brainstorming at all. The children can use action words to enhance their character development. This activity can give you an on-going assessment as well. Similarly, allow each child to write a descriptive sentence about the character as it develops through each section. Rather than write a narrative, they could write 1 or 2 descriptive sentences or phrases for each section. Remind the children to use the verbs to describe the character’s action as well. Sometimes it is easier to tell them to use ‘doing’ words: verbs with ‘ing.’  You decide what suffixes to include: ly, es, ed, etc.

Try this activity with colorful detail for the character only. If the study or focus is about baseball, color the background (scenery) in black and white and color the character with lots of detail and action. Inspire the children’s writing in a new way.  Now the children are only focused on the character and movement. More challenged writers may want to include 2 main characters and do the same. To extend the activity, have the children create a Venn Diagram and do a compare and contrast of characters. (see attached worksheet) Additionally, if you want to ‘think out of the box’, try detailing craft-sticks as characters and attach them to each section. If you have time, you will love this activity!

Lastly, you can use this activity every week for practice along with reinforcing various topics throughout the year. For instance, you may be reading about bats one week. So, allow the children to do a similar activity using pictures of bats or pre-cut bat shapes.

If you want to save time, allow the children to use pre-cut animal or people shapes as characters. Let them detail the shapes and glue onto sections.  If time is a challenge, keep pictures of animals, people, and places available, with or without a background for your students to use rather than spending time illustrating. If you have time to illustrate, try stencils to trace and add details as needed. Just cut the visual into parts, glue to a background and be creative. Your narrative writing will undoubtedly come to life.

Remember, this is a strategy. It is a fun and easy way to excite children throughout the writing process.  Encourage the children to explore variations on their own. Share their work and display their creative results as the year progresses.

Character Comparisons

Character 1: ____________________   Story Title: ______________________        Character 2: ____________________

Venn Diagram

You may choose to use this character comparison chart with historical figures as well. Compare characters from the same written narrative, anthology story, or different books.

1) Choose characters and name them for #1 & #2. Write the name of the story as well.

2) Compare the characters in contrast and fill in the diagram with the differences.

3) Compare the characters and what they have in common. List those attributes in the inside section.

4) Have a class discussion and talk about your observations.

About the Author:

Kim Waltmire

Kim Waltmire is a state and national award-winning educator. She holds an honorary seat with the 2006 USA Today All-Star Teacher team. Kim is a graduate from CCSU with a Masters in Early Childhood Education. She published a writing & literacy book; Picturesque Writing, now self-published as The Art of Visual Writing for elementary teachers K-5. Kim also published a Read-Along Series for primary grades, coupled with spelling, grammar, science and social studies lessons for k-12 with a home-school company. Her writing and Project Based Learning strategies were recognized and published in the Creative Classroom Teacher’s magazine; May/June 1998 issue. She was recognized for her educational contributions and Project Based Learning by Oprah Winfrey, interviewed on CNN, Fox News, and honored by the CT State Governor several times. Kim has taught elementary school for 28 years and presently an Educational Literacy Consultant. Kim’s passion is teaching writing literacy for all learning styles.

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