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Art Partners Lesson©

Lesson Title:

Personal Storytelling with Handmade Sketchbooks

Authors: James Paulsen, Keisha McFayden 
Grade/Age Level: Elementary and Early Middle School
Written here for:
3rd Grade Inclusion Class

Conceptual Basis For This Lesson:

Unit/Theme, Relation of Lesson to the Unit, Major Concepts to be Learned:

This lesson will conclude our unit, The Language of Visual Art, with students extending the topic of storytelling into their personal lives. In the previous lesson, students examined and interpreted visual images to create a narrative diorama of their own. In this lesson, students will see that sketchbooks are used by artists to document their own individual lives, telling a narrative that is unique to the artist. One of goals of the unit was to improve the students’ observation and drawing skills by teaching the elements and principles of art. This lesson continues to address these needs by introducing the practice of visual recording outside of class in one’s everyday environment. The children will be encouraged to continue “telling their own stories” by documenting their experiences outside of school through the use of the sketchbooks.

Relation to Life:

Creating and using sketchbooks gives the students a means of bringing art practices into their everyday environments. Sketchbooks are used to visually document the artist’s life and act as a visual diary. When students use sketchbooks, they learn to pay attention to details of the objects they encounter and would normally overlook. The items that compose our external environment are rich in information and require the patient examination that sketching supports. The practice of regularly sketching what one sees is very beneficial in the development of drawing skills as well as observational skills. As a creative form of self-awareness, recording in their sketchbooks also helps children to express as well as reflect on their life experiences, a skill that can be applied to all facets of life as they grow.

Learning Standards

Goals Specific to Lesson/Unit (reflecting NYS standards, & targeted learning areas. See Abbreviation Key at end):

The students will:

  1. Develop awareness of how artists use sketching. (AH, Std. 2)
  2. Learn about simple book making process. (AP, Std. 1, C)
  3. Develop perceptual/motor skills: eye-hand coordination, straight folds (AP, Std.1, P/M)
  4. Increase attending skills (W/S)
  5. Develop descriptive language skills (AC, Std. 3, C)
  6. Develop memory recall skills (narrative) (A/C)
  7. Increase self-expression and reflection through visual means (AP, Std. 1, E)

Performance Objectives for Observational Assessment (reflecting goals):

The students will be able to:


  • Recall and define the terms narrative and diorama. Goal 6
  • Recall/name the parts of a story (character, setting). Goal 6
  • Describe at last two purposes for using a sketchbook. Goals 1 & 6
  • Define three parts of a book (cover, pages, and binding). Goal 2
  • Attend to the discussion without disruption. Goal 5


  • Create a border on the cover of the book using Adinkra stamps, and demonstrate use of pattern. Goal 4
  • Use colored pencils to design a cover. Goal 4
  • Use drawing materials to communicate personal story. Goal 1
  • Assist with materials clean up as directed. Goal 5


  • Recall the three parts of a book (cover, pages, and binding). Goal 3
  • Recall the terms sketch, sketchbook, and narrative. Goals 6 & 7

Tools Needed For Application

Vocabulary (in child-friendly terms):

  • Bookbinding: putting together the pages and cover of a book.
  • Diary: a record kept of what a person does, sees, and thinks.
  • Environment: all of the things around you in your life.
  • Sketch: a drawing done quickly, showing the main features of an object or scene.
  • Sketchbook: a book used for sketches.


  • Teacher-made: Handmade book, own sketchbooks with drawings inside.
  • Art Resources: reproductions of artists’ sketchbooks and visual journals; Adinkra symbol chart.

Materials and Preparation:

  • Thought-starters slips for pasting onto blank pages of the sketchbook (these give brief ideas for what students can draw about, such as How I’m feeling today, A picture of my family, Favorite objects in my room, etc.
  • Crescent board cut to 9” x 10”
  • Stamp pads
  • Adinkra Stamps
  • Drawing paper cut to 8 ¾ x 9 ¾
  • Pencils
  • Rulers
  • Large eye needles and strong thread for sewing pages together and binding book
  • Labels for cover
  • Colored pencils
  • Sharpies


Procedural Steps:


1. Lead teacher opens with Hello Song, followed by a recall of the 3 C’s and 3 A’s.

2. Ask students to recall the term narrative from the previous session? Narrative means to tell a story.

3. Ask students how they might narrate their own stories? They do this by drawing and painting the things around them (the people and places) that make up their environment.

4. Lead teachers will talk about artists (Vincent Van Gogh, Romare Bearden, DaVinci, Georgia O’Keefe, Faith Ringold) who told narratives about their own lives by making artworks about the things around them.

5. Lead teachers ask students what they would record in their own lives that would tell something about their own stories? From their own stories, what are the main characters and the setting?

6. Lead teachers show samples of their own sketchbooks to show how they recorded their own stories and life experiences. The term sketchbook is defined. They talk about how they observed things with the eye of an artist and record the things we see and like.

7. When we look at the sketchbook at a later time we see a record of our lives just like in a diary. The term diary is defined as a record kept of what a person does, sees, and thinks.

8. Ask the students what other kinds of books they know about that tells about a person’s life and experiences: notebooks, journals, scrapbooks, etc. Ask students what these books have in common.

9. Teachers discuss how sketchbooks are used to practice drawing, do studies, and record their lives (visual diaries).

10. Lead teachers show their own handmade books and talk about how they will make something to be carried with them to document their own lives. The students are going to decorate the covers in a way that expresses something about their selves. The aspect of binding the book will be discussed and how all books need something to hold them together. The three parts of a book (cover, pages, and binding) will be discussed.


11. Every group proceeds to work areas and begins to decorate the cover page using Adinkra stamps for the border and colored pencils for the inside part of the cover.

12. Ribbon is threaded through the holes going through the center from the outside first. Next, go through one of the other holes followed by the last hole and back through the first one from the inside. Tie the ribbon together and add beads or tie into a decorative knot.

13. S/T’s are to give the students a few slips of the pre-cut thought starters and ideas to sketch (Draw a picture of your family, draw a picture of your pet, fill a page with drawings of bugs, sea shells, or something you collect, draw a place you like to visit). The students are to paste the slips onto separate pages in their sketchbooks.

14. If time, students can make an entry into their sketchbooks.


15. All gather together to view the finished handmade books. The unique qualities of the covers will be talked about.

16. The three parts of a book (cover, pages, and binding) will be recalled. The terms sketch, sketchbook, and narrative will also be recalled.

17. The students’ entries in the sketchbooks will be looked at. Lead teachers will examine what can be learned concerning the individual student’s story from the entry.

18. Lead teachers recall how artists use things from their own experiences to tell their own stories. Students will be encouraged to use their sketchbooks to record their lives.

19. Good-bye song is sung.


  • Does the book have at least 10 pages and a cover?
  • Does the quality of folding, cutting, and knotting display a high degree of care?
  • Did the students decorate the cover in an individualized manner?
  • Do the entries in the sketchbook reflect something about the student’s lives?


Abbreviation Key

NYS Standards for the Arts:
AH = Art History Std. 1 = creating, participating in art
AC = Art Criticism Std. 2 = knowing art materials and processes
AE = Aesthetics Std. 3 = responding to works of art/artists
AP = Art Production Std. 4 = knowing cultural dimensions of art

Needs Assessment Areas for Developing Skills and Abilities:
A/C    = academic/cognitive M/P = motor/perceptual  E = emotional
C        = communicative status W/S = work/study habits S = social
Pre-V = prevocational skills  L = living skills  

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