My goal for this project was to allow my students to reconnect with some of the favourite childhood picture books that had an impact on them, as well as foster a love of the many sophisticated picture books that are available now. I wanted them to rediscover the genre of the illustrated picture book ’reading with new eyes’ so that they could produce their own illustrated picture books.

Suzy Brisson

Susan Brisson developed this inquiry project for her Cycle Three students around the question, "What makes a great illustrated picture book?" Over the course of approximately six weeks students were immersed in picture books as they worked together to establish criteria and produce their own books for students in Kindergarten and Cycle One. Having a real audience for their books was a powerful motivator and helped the students craft their own writing and illustrations.


During this stage of the project, the students develop an understanding about the author’s /illustrator’s craft by reading and discussing a variety of picture books. This is essential knowledge for creating their own books. By studying the role of illustrations students learn about visual language, narrative structures and features, and picture book design.

Have students:

  • share some of their favourite childhood picture

  • books and reflect on the importance of the illustrations in those early reading experiences through journal entries and small group discussion

  • listen to, read and discuss a variety of quality picture books in which the illustrations play an essential part in the creation of meaning

  • consider the question, "What makes a great illustrated picture book?"

  • come up with criteria for what makes a picture book great


  • Organize students into small groups. Media productions are always collaborative just as they are in the real world.

  • Each group should include writers, artists, colour and page layout designers, as well as a team editor in charge of all team discussions.

  • Show students how published authors/illustrators use storyboards to help shape their story.

  • Have students use storyboards to plan and organize their illustrations and text. The storyboard becomes the blueprint for the finished project and helps to keep all members of the team on task.

  • Have groups complete their storyboards and plan their individual page layouts before final production.

It is important to give students the time to play with colour, page layout and drawing in order for them to make the connections between the visual information they are producing and the meaning they are hoping to convey.


  • Students work on their individual tasks for completing the book. Writers could work in the computer lab typing, while colour design and artists work on the illustrations.

  • Guide the students in solving problems and offer feedback that will move them forward. For example, "What mood do you want to create?" "What is the most important idea in this picture?" "What will you do next?"

As the students developed their visual literacy, they began to understand that every choice the illustrator makes, every detail regarding subject and color and composition, conveys information that informs the reader.

Suzy Brisson

Click on the images below to listen to the students discuss some of the decisions they made with colour, page layout, composition and and continuity. They definitely see themselves as authors.

Students made use of many visual details to capture the dynamics of the classroom.

Students chose a close-up to emphasize the interruption of being called to the office.

Students chose to use a two-page spread to convey the mood of the moment.


  • Celebrate the finished productions.

  • Share finished books with a real audience, e.g. the kindergarten and grade one students for whom the books were written.

  • Have the students reflect on the entire process through interviews and journal writing.


  • Students evaluate their own learning process in journal reflections and interviews with the teacher.

  • Evaluation is based on the criteria developed at the beginning of the project.


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