Writing picture stories: 7 steps to success

Adults often don’t understand what’s so difficult about writing a picture story. No wonder, as skilled readers we grasp the meaning of a long story quite quickly and understand both the climax and the punch line without much difficulty. However, picture stories are always challenging for students up to sixth grade.

Picture stories are not something your child can just shake out of his or her sleeve

In grades 3 and 4, sometimes as early as the end of grade 2, picture stories appear as lesson content for the essay topic. Even in grade 5, picture stories are a mandatory part of the curriculum, for example in the Hessian curriculum for grammar schools or in North Rhine-Westphalia.

Before a school child can grasp all aspects of a challenging picture story, a lot of practice is needed. Writing a picture story is very complex and requires many different skills:

  • Pupils must have a large vocabulary and be intellectually developed enough to be able to understand the complete story line.
  • The use of literal speech must be as skillful as the division of a story into introduction, main part with climax and conclusion.
  • Last but not least, imagination is also part of writing a picture story. To describe the pictures. Facial expressions and gestures must be recognized and interpreted. In certain tasks, the children are asked to come up with the ending, the beginning or even an exciting event themselves.

Only when children have acquired all these skills can they write good picture stories.

Writing a picture story: step-by-step instructions for your child

Four or six drawn pictures that tell a story are usually the basis on which students are asked to write a picture story. But "looking at pictures and then writing something" is not enough to get a good grade.

The picture story belongs to the group of essays. Its structure is subject to the same criteria as a narrative, an adventure story, or a fantasy story.

A first-grade picture story in 7 steps

No matter what the topic: Every picture story is divided into an introduction, a main part, and an ending.

1. Step: Look at the pictures and describe them

Describe what you see in each picture. Get the order right? Then decide which picture shows the introduction and which the conclusion.

Example: A girl takes her dog for a walk (introduction). In the end, she is happy because the dog shows up again (ending). The second step is to understand the content of the story.

2. Step: Summarize the plot in a few sentences

Summarize the story line as briefly as possible. A few short sentences are enough. Do you understand what it’s about? Don’t start writing before you have understood the story exactly.

Example: A girl going for a walk has her dog run away. Later a finder brings back the dog. Then it can proceed to the actual writing.

3. Step: Write down keywords for each picture

Even if it takes a little longer, it is useful to write down a few keywords for each picture. Pay attention to the characters’ gestures and facial expressions, objects at the edges of the picture, and details. Now your imagination is also needed, because with your ideas and ideas you can make the story exciting and interesting.

Example picture 1Happy girl, ponytail, spotted dog, meadow, good weather… Your child can then put the whole story together from the keywords. It starts with the introduction, which should consist of two to three sentences. The middle part is the longest and the ending is short again.

4. Step: Turn the keywords into complete sentences

In the introduction you should clarify who does what where. Then you move on to the main part, with which the story takes its course. All events lead to the climax of the story or the punch line, which is usually seen in the last picture.

Example picture 1A happy girl walks with her dog in the beautiful sunshine. The two stroll across a meadow, his dog Sammy bouncing along beside him. As they walk, the girl’s ponytail bobs merrily. When writing the picture story, it is also important to choose words and write in a lively way. Of course, you must also pay attention to the correct spelling.

5. Step: Spice up your picture story with literal speech and a varied vocabulary

Let the people speak and use literal speech for this. Also make sure to include many different, concrete verbs and adjectives.

Example Fig. 2: Suddenly Sammy sees a hare in the high grass. Excitedly he barks. The girl is startled and thinks: "Crap, why didn’t I put a leash on Sammy?. He always wants to catch rabbits." But by then it is already too late. The dog has disappeared into the tall grass. Now you have almost done it. Your story is written – you’ve brought the pictures to life. Finally, the only thing missing is the headline.

6. Step: Find a suitable heading

Try three or four headings until you find one that really suits you. Your first idea is not always the best.

Example: An exciting walk

7. Step: Check your story

Read your picture story again carefully at the end. Surely you can improve or correct something.

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