3 Ways to Help Students Learn from Illustrations in Informational Text

Students are very used to seeing illustrations in the texts that they read. When reading fiction, illustrations can add rich details or set the mood for the story, but other times the illustrations are just kind of there. In most cases, you can understand the full story without the illustrations due to imagery and characters’ thoughts, actions, or words. 

This changes when reading nonfiction. There is often information included in the illustrations that you can’t get from the text alone. 

In 2nd grade, students learn to explain how an image contributes to their understanding of a text. Beginning in 3rd grade, students have to take it a step further by answering what information they’ve gained from the illustrations. This information will support what the text says, but it may also add something new that isn’t found in the text.

This is a skill that kids need, both for their future schooling but for real-life application!

Adults have to use illustrations to get info often- when cooking, assembling furniture, following a map, and so many other tasks!

Students need to understand that illustrations can contain information that is not found in the text. Reading and understanding these illustrations is just as important as reading and understanding the text itself.

Keep reading for my top three tips on how to help students develop this important skill!

Tip 1: Start with Illustrations Only

3 Ways to Help Students Learn from Illustrations in Informational Text - Step 1

The best way to ease kids into understanding that illustrations can actually provide information is to start off by having them look at a “text” that only includes an illustration of some kind. 

Kids will naturally assume that the answers will be found in the text, but if they don’t have a traditional piece of text to look at they will quickly understand that illustrations also provide important information.

An example of this kind of informational text would be an infographic! There are a ton of kid-friendly ones from which to choose! Check out these examples below. 

MyPlate Guide to School Lunch

10 Super Fun Ways To Make Summer Last

Reading, The Road to Success

Tip 2: Use Real-Life Examples 

3 Ways to Help Students Learn from Illustrations in Informational Text - Step 2

Showing students real-life examples of using an illustration to fully understand a concept will help set an authentic purpose for this task. 

Use a magazine article, newspaper clipping, or other real-life text samples, and then ask questions that require students to pay close attention to the illustrations. 

Tip 3: Integrate into Other Content Areas

3 Ways to Help Students Learn from Illustrations in Informational Text - Step 3

Let’s be really real for a second: sometimes when the suggestion comes up to “integrate it into other content areas…” we just kind of nod and smile. 

It’s really easy to suggest, but often difficult to implement. Sometimes people seem to forget that there is actual content that needs to be taught for each subject, and it’s not always possible to focus on two things at one time.

This one really is simple to integrate, I promise! Many Science and Social Studies (and even Math) resources that we use every day include really great illustrations. 

It’s just a matter of recognizing when this skill is being used and pointing it out. Does your Science experiment include a diagram illustrating how to set it up? Perfect! Does your Social Studies article have illustrations of some historic artifacts that are mentioned? Excellent! 

Really all you have to do is connect how the text and illustration combo work together to provide information to the reader. This will help students see how this skill is useful in other subjects, and in the world as a whole. 

3rd grade is a big year for learning how to use maps, locate places on the globe, etc. which lends itself naturally to this skill as well. This continues in 4th and 5th grade with regional geography, historic timelines, and learning about economics!

Need a few resource suggestions to pair with this skill? I’ve got you covered! 

This Illustrations and Text Digital Reading for Google Slides Distance Learning is a great way for kids to practice using illustrations as a support for the text. These nonfiction passages have tons of interesting images that augment the text and guide kids to notice specific details.

Illustrations and Text - 3rd Grade - Cover

You may also want to check out this Illustrations and Text Game (print and digital versions are included)! Each short, informational passage includes a bright, detailed photograph and asks students to answer a question about each pair. 

Illustrations and Text Game - 3rd Grade

This fun, engaging practice also provides immediate feedback, so students know if they are on the right track.

Looking for ever more reading posts? Check out these below! 

Central Message Made Easy: 3 Valuable Tips to Help Students “Get It”

Nonfiction Made Easy! 5 Tips for Hitting the Standards

Character Traits & Story Events: How to Help Students Discover a Meaningful Connection

Common Core State Standard RI.3.7 – Use information gained from illustrations (e.g., maps, photographs) and the words in a text to demonstrate understanding of the text (e.g., where, when, why, and how key events occur).

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Hi, I’m Jenn! I love to create resources that hit standards, are engaging for students, and save teachers time. It’s my goal to help you help your students have fun while learning! Thanks so much for joining me here!

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