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Classroom Activities 1

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Activity 1

STEP 1:  Begin with the familiar
The teacher and students will bring in a copy of their favorite picture book. If students are unable to bring in a book, the teacher should provide samples. The grade level of the book is not relevant. Working in small groups, the students should be able to:

  • Explain why they like this book.
  • Identify the key elements of a good picture book as a well-told story with visuals that enhance or complement the story.
  • Discuss the use of pictures and words to evoke images, thoughts, and feelings.
  • Model how to read aloud a picture book.

STEP 2:  Provide an example
One excellent example of this technique is the picture book The Legend of New Amsterdam by Peter Spier (New York: Doubleday, 1979). This book was the source of inspiration for this lesson.

Students will study four sample pages from either the teacher’s or a student’s picture book to discuss the concept of using an actual historical event as the basis or inspiration for a picture story. As each page is read, the students should be able to:

  •  Identify the historical event.
  •  Comment on the accuracy or authenticity of the drawings.
  •  Discuss how the text and pictures are used to complement each other.
  •  Construct a list of possible resources that the author/illustrator might have used to research the event (remember that many picture books were written pre-internet).

STEP 3:  Story boarding
The students will now do an exercise in story boarding. Images from the picture book entitled A Time of Change, created for this learning experience, have been placed below. Teachers may copy, enlarge, and paste each picture on a separate sheet of paper. Teachers may also create an electronic file and have the students complete this activity as a PowerPoint. There is no accompanying text. Students should arrange the pictures in a way which tells a story. There is no right or wrong way.

picture 1 picture 2
picture 3 picture 4
picture 5 picture 6

After they have created their own story in picture form, they should now tell their story by adding text to each picture. They will decide what the story is about – that is part of their creative or decision-making power. When students are finished, they should share their stories with the rest of the class. At this time, the students should review the complete picture book, A Time of Change.

Sample Student Picture Book Assignment

You are responsible for creating a picture book about the life of Henry Hudson. Your book should include information about:

  •  His personal life.
  •  His accomplishments as an explorer.
  •  How his accomplishments in trade and transportation affected or changed life for  

       people who settled and lived in what is present-day New York State.

It is important that your picture book contain historically-accurate information and illustrations which show what life was like during the 1600’s. In order to accomplish the task you must research several different sources and record the information you find.

It is very challenging to find primary sources from the 17th century. A balance of both primary and secondary resources is acceptable. All sources should have appropriate citations. Check to make sure that all sources accurately depict the events surrounding Henry Hudson and his exploration as much as possible. While finding sources, consider the following:

  • Who wrote the source?
  • Who was the intended audience?
  • Why was the source created?
  • What was the context in which the source was created?
  • What were the basic assumptions made by the creator?
  • How might the creator have been biased?
  • To what extent do other sources corroborate [confirm] this source?
  • Is the source credible?
  • What is one conclusion about the society that produced the source?

This learning experience provides a forum to generate student understanding of general terms and phrases including copyright protection; fair use; plagiarism; and public domain.  Students should recognize appropriate uses of others’ work as the basis of their own. In conjunction with this learning experience and your school’s library media specialists and/or instructional technologists, teach specific tips and strategies for locating, using, and citing primary and secondary source documents from print and online media.  Students should be aware of any terms and conditions that apply to the images and text they select. Most copyright rules allow for non-commercial, one-time educational use of sources.  If students create picture books for general public distribution or for sale, copyright issues may arise.

For more information, please visit the following Web sites of the U.S. Copyright Office:

  • Fair Use


  • Reproduction of Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians (Circular 21)


You are now ready to begin the first part of the picture book task in that you will provide information about the life of Henry Hudson through pictures. Go back and review the three goals listed under the task. Below and on the next page are pictures or drawings. You are to rearrange them to visually describe the life of Henry Hudson. You may also use pictures from:

  •  a teacher-created file
  •  images you found on the internet
  •  images scanned from the picture and chapter book

You now must add text to your picture story. The text should come from information you recorded during your research and should complement the picture. Your text should fully develop the three goals connected to the task.

STEP 4:  Practice what you preach
The students should have developed a mindset regarding the technique of creating a picture book. They should be able to create their own books about Hudson, Champlain, and Fulton – or about the lives and times in which they lived. The students will decide on the medium to be used. Research and historical accuracy are key to producing a quality project. Teachers should create their own picture books as models and to gain insight into the process.

The remainder of this lesson consists of a teacher-developed model picture book entitled A Time of Change, and presented in a PowerPoint format. The theme is based on the impact of Henry Hudson’s voyage of exploration to America. It is also a tale of the various historical and cultural changes that occurred in New York during its colonial period. The story incorporates multiple cultural perspectives and speaks of the roles of Native Americans, Europeans, and African-Americans in the development of New York. In creating their own books, students may choose to follow the same basic plot or chronology of events but develop characters who may emphasize another culture’s point of view. Some pages of the model have been hyperlinked to websites with videos. These will only work if you are showing the book in a PowerPoint format and have the necessary software programs.

The key components of evaluating this project are historical accuracy and the ability to incorporate historical sources to tell a story. Any teacher-made rubric should reflect this. This project allows for the use of a wide variety of media and therefore should appeal to all students.

Work with your school’s library media specialists and instructional technologists to organize a collection of reference books, picture books, primary/secondary sources, and approved Web sites for students to research the life and explorations of Henry Hudson. If needed and if time permits, provide instruction on how to locate print and online resources that meet the criteria for historical accuracy and general acceptability. Whether such criteria are teacher-, school-, district-, or class-developed, students should understand and apply common standards for locating and using sources for creating any text.

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