Reading the Art Lesson

By |2018-10-30T09:53:05-07:00October 26th, 2012|

Overview: This lesson teaches text complexity through both the reading lens and the visual art lens using the text of Robinson Crusoe.

Today’s lesson combines Common Core literature reading standards and visual art standards.  It’s so incredible how many ELA Common Core Standards you can meet when using an Arts Integration lesson – it really is a time-saver!

This lesson pairs Robinson Crusoe and NC Wyeth’s illustrations to explore point of view, illustration technique, and synthesis of text. Written for Grade 4, the text complexity of the selected chapter conveys this new sense of rigor. And, the materials are all hyperlinked for you.  There’s even an extension comparing the works of NC, Andrew and Jamie Wyeth through a research project. This can be connected to the corresponding writing standards for 4th grade.  This rich lesson seed will provide you with a great way to engage your students while pushing their boundaries in literature.


Step 1: Students visually study Robinson Crusoe Illustration No. 13 by NC Wyeth using this Puzzle, Think, Explore technique. Create a categorized list of student responses.

Step 2: Ask students to now look at the colors, light and dark shading, and textures of the print and summarize this scene from the point of view of the Captain. Then, have them do the same thing from the point of view of Robinson Crusoe.

Step 3: Provide students with an excerpt from Robinson Crusoe for Chapter 27. Ask them to read the selection carefully to find any comparisons between the text description and their previous ideas of the scene based on the illustration.

Step 4: Compare the textual nuances of phrasing, word choice, and voice to the use of shading, textures and color used in the illustration. Do they match? How so? How does the illustration capture the feeling of the text? Provide an opportunity for students to compare and contrast in small groups these (and other) questions of inquiry.

Step 5: Groups can present their findings to the whole class and engage in a discussion on the similarities and differences between the text and the illustration in capturing the scene.

Step 6: Have students reflect on how reading printed text and reading a visual art print are the same and different and what decoding techniques you need to use for each source



  1. Jennifer October 26, 2012 at 3:08 pm - Reply

    Hi Susan,
    This is a very interesting concept, and I appreciate the time and effort you took to develop the lesson. It is great to have the links to the text and visuals embedded in the lesson.
    However, I hope this text is not really considered a 4th grade level text under the common core. The period spelling and language are difficult enough, but by simply choosing to excerpt a chapter, so that students do not have any context, and then expecting 4th grade students to read and respond to this text, specifically with an understanding of point of view?!? This is beyond challenging. Having been a teacher of reading for fourth grade students, I am picturing even my most advanced 4th grade students as overwhelmed . Your post did inspire me to quickly look at some of the sample texts referenced as appropriate for grades 4-5 in common core. Even though they are sophisticated and demand rigorous reading comprehension skills (Alice In Wonderland, an extremely complex text comes to mind) the text excerpt you’ve chosen to feature seems like more than a stretch.

    • Susan Riley October 26, 2012 at 3:16 pm - Reply

      Hi Jennifer,
      Actually, yes, this text is recommended for use in grades 4-6 reading with Common Core standards. I understand your hesitance, which you articulated well, but this is part of the new standards with which we are working. Have you seen the sample PARCC assessments and what kinds of expectations have been set for the English/Language Arts sections? Much of what we are seeing coming out seems like quite a stretch from what and how we’ve taught in the past. However, as you know this is a lesson seed. Obviously, there can be a lot of groundwork laid before using this lesson seed as well as afterward in order to support students through this process. Also, NC Wyeth illustrated many texts – teachers can always substitute a different text and use the same concept in this lesson. Hope this helps!

      • Jennifer October 26, 2012 at 4:21 pm - Reply

        Hello again Susan,
        Yes, I have seen the sample PARCC assessments, and I’ve done just a small bit of exploration of common core.
        Perhaps I am misreading the lexile scores for Robinson Crusoe, but when I am seeing that the Lexile score for this text is considered to be in the 1300 range, that appears to be a high school level text, not a fourth grade level text.
        I’m curious about your source for this text as recommended for common core for 4th grade. It does not align with where I’ve been doing my research, and obviously I want to be guiding teachers in the correct direction.
        Thanks in advance for steering me towards your sources so I can dig a bit deeper into them and then be able to provide the proper support for teachers and students I support.

        • Susan Riley October 26, 2012 at 6:07 pm - Reply

          Hi Jennifer,
          I’d be happy to! Chicago Public Schools and Alabama Public Schools all have resources and references in their Grades 4-6 frameworks (sent to me by several teacher friends) for using Robinson Crusoe, as well as support resources from Pearson and Scholastic. Yes, you’re right that the Lexile score is high…yet, I know many English coordinators from across the state of Maryland who advise us all to be very careful of basing text choices on Lexile scores alone. And of course, I’m not indicating in this lesson seed for teachers to use the entire book. That would be way too demanding for a 4th grader. However, a short excerpt from the novel that students can use in close reading, analyze, decode and synthesize meaning having the proper preview of context can extend rigor and provide a reasonable challenge.

          Also, please don’t miss the main objective of this lesson seed. It is to show teachers how using reading practices for traditional text can be translated and extended into reading a piece of art and that reading the art can inform and deepen the point of view of the story. If you feel strongly that Robinson Crusoe is not an appropriate text for your students or teachers, simply substitute it with a text that would be more fitting for the level where they currently are and pair it with a classic illustration. These lesson seeds are meant for teachers to use as ideas to get them started and can be altered in any way that may better benefit their own students.

          • Jennifer October 26, 2012 at 7:25 pm

            Susan thanks for sharing these sources. I was looking at Alabama curriculum documents earlier, and saw Robinson Crusoe referenced in their 11th grade curriculum. You are correct in saying Lexile scores are not the be all and end all. I think in addition to the high lexile score, Crusoe is a complex text that would be frustrating to most 4th graders. Choosing an excerpt does not really make it easier to access. Even when using the strategy of close reading, the excerpt you linked would prove difficult for 4th grade students to comprehend. Choosing a more grade level appropriate text that students will be able to decode, comprehend and analyze in a meaningful way, will allow students to use this fantastic strategy to help them to build and extend meaning. Thanks for another fabulous Free Friday resource.

  2. Angie November 10, 2012 at 6:36 pm - Reply

    I think the core classics version is the version suitable for fourth
    grade-annotated and illustrated versions.

  3. Siobhan Fergus January 2, 2016 at 3:50 pm - Reply

    Where do I find the Puzzle, Think, Explore technique described in the lesson plan using Wyeth’s R. Crusoe watercolor? I click and it takes me to a dead link.

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