Six Frame Drawings

Is anyone still using the old six frame style of drawings like we find in the old Look I Can Talk series from years ago? Those six panel drawings? How do you use them and when in the lesson? I’d like to know what people are doing with that format these days.

It used to be done a lot to get retells out of students in class, but I am thinking it can be used for writing as well later in the lesson. No, I am not advocating forced output. I’m mulling around the question of how much output we ask from the kids now at a time when most admins are looking for it in our classrooms even though it (forced written and speech output) is pedagogically very unsound.

I am also just curious as to how and if that old frame format is being used by people in lessons now fifteen years after they first started being used.



8 thoughts on “Six Frame Drawings”

  1. I use them during the storytelling portion if I have a class that can’t handle actors. (For students with impulse control issues, I find it’s better to just tell a story as-is rather than allow them to add details.)

    I sometimes use them as a reading assignment, where each picture has a number and students have to underline the sentence in the text that best fits each picture. Or, alternatively, they have to copy a sentence that best fits each one, essential-sentences style. I get several high performers that will copy parts of different sentences and string them together to form something new and more appropriate to the picture, which I think helps them with their writing later on.

  2. I use it with my little students. I place a portable whiteboard on my knees and draw stick figures with erasable markers in different colors. When the 6 panels are filled in, I reverse the process and erase the board as I retell the story slightly differently. I use it occasionally to switch things up, and it’s a good trick to help the young kids stay engaged.

  3. I regularly use an 8-frame comic strip panel sheet in classes. Usually how I do it is:
    – Drawing spaces are blank; I provide short text under each panel.
    – Students read & draw a matching picture with as much detail as possible. Stick figures are fine.
    – I can float around the class and find out which kids need help reading which characters. Almost always, saying it aloud is enough for them. Sometimes I put in a new sentence structure with old vocab and see what they do with it. I like this exercise partly because I get more one-on-one time with students.

    Often I scan in their pictures and we use them the next day in class in a quickly put-together PowerPoint. I’ll pick sketches from as many of the class members as possible – they love seeing what each other drew. I might read off a sentence & they smack the picture that matches it. I might cut out strips with the sentences and have them re-order based on the pictures’ order shown on screen. Last time, I had a class re-order in partners and then prepare to retell the whole thing without looking. The faster processors got to that point & liked the challenge; the slower processors got extra time reading & help from me. Win-win. I’ve also done whole-class retells using their pictures. Kids volunteer to describe the picture on screen, and pass to a classmate when they’ve said all they can. My Head of School was impressed with that on a spontaneous visit.

  4. I don’t use Blaine’s, but I do use Amy Catania’s stuff:

    Hers only have four frames–really simple.

    I always use them AFTER we’ve beaten a set of structures into submission with:



    mini-vocab cards with TL structure on one side and translation with a kid-drawn, personalized, stick-figure interpretation of each target structure in the story (which they keep on a ring). I like this better than “me” coming up with a visual to represent the structure. I notice too much confusion when I choose visuals for structures.

    story asking w/actors,

    R + D of alternate, but close story,

    oral parallel story w/actor,


    vocab quizzes

    When all of the above is done, they’ve had a very hefty dose of input. I project Amy’s four frames on the screen. I like the document camera for this part. We just look at the pictures. Of
    course, the students notice the similarity between the projected story and the one they created just from looking at the drawings–and the differences.

    I then ask them to think about how this story might begin. How could this story begin? The loud chorus chimes: “There was a …” or “One day a …” or “A ____ and a ____ were ______ing in the ______.” We fool around with answers, thinking, expanding, getting concise, etc.–which can me done in multiple formats.

    We decide on something, and I write it down in the lines that are next to the first first picture. We continue in this way until we’ve created a coherent, cohesive story using the pictures on the page. We create little speech bubbles for the characters in the story, too. Dialogue is good!!!

    Some of the things that I have to deliberately teach when we use these drawings are that:

    1) We are not describing pictures; we are using them to stimulate ideas for a story.
    2) A paragraph ends when we have finished with a part of the story; it doesn’t end where the picture visually ends on the paper.
    3) If we run out of lines, we can turn the page over and keep on writing.
    4) A story has a beginning, middle, and end–just as in English.
    5) An unexpected ending is always more interesting than an expected one.
    6) A good story can end happily–death, dismemberment, vomiting, and explosions are not the only ways to end a story.

    We always come up with a pretty good class story. As we go through the process–after every paragraph, in fact, I read the first sentence aloud. I ask a barometer kid to translate. This is where I really find out what’s been going on in my class for the last couple of weeks. I love this because they always “shine” by this point in the process and do this very well.

    The kids from one class are always quite interested to know what the other class comes up with for the same set of drawings. If the other class’s story is pretty good, I use it the next day as a reading. More input.

    A few days later, out of the blue, when we’ve already begun another story, I spring the four panel story on them and ask them to write THEIR story. This is a stunner for me.

    I thought, when I first did this, that I would get a bunch of regurgitated language and a carbon copy of the story we’d done in class. Not so, not so. My lowest kids write less, write more simply, do an adequate job–include target structures, show beg/midd/end, and use lots of connecting words and recycled stuff from before. Their stories often closely mimic the ” oral story-asking story” we did in class. My higher kids often blow me out of the water with their creativity, control of the language, and desire to show me what they can do. Their stories NEVER mimic anything we’ve done in class–including the story we wrote together as a class. This never ceases to amaze me. They could take the easy route; they don’t.

    I don’t time these writings. When they are finished, they can read from the library, write another story, draw a cartoon story–anything quiet–until everyone is done. I DO NOT help them in any way–period. They don’t even ask. (Do I remember the old pre-tprs days and the torture of writing assignments and cute projects? Well, yes I do. NEVER AGAIN, NOT EVER will I put my students or myself through that stupidity.)

    I don’t grade these writings. I READ them, chuckle at their creativity, and sometimes comment on them to students individually. The kids glue them into their copy books (the same ones we use for quizzes and dictation which are kept in the classroom). I use these copy books with parents, administrators, and myself to look at growth (or lack of) as the year goes on. At certain points in the year, the kids read their own stuff and marvel at their growth.

    So, that’s how I use those paneled drawings.

  5. I like hearing how others use the picture frames.

    I take a pic of the story done by the student artist and I’ll project it as a way to do my own teacher and/or student retell/rewrite (works well to also use the stories with the same structures, but from different classes, to give another context to the words).

  6. I still use Blaine’s pictures from LICT and LICTM. My practice doesn’t always keep up with my changing understanding of how my students learn so some of this may be “on its way out”, but this is what I am doing now:

    Beginners (5th and 6th graders) study the cat story or the cow story. (They don’t know this because I rarely pass out the books, but that is what is driving my instruction.) When we have enough vocabulary for one of the alternate stories and then again when we have the vocab for the main story (so twice a year), I show the six-frame pictures one at a time. We make up a story based on the pictures and we also get a lot of “va a” practice because I make a point to discuss what is GOING to happen before I show the next picture.

    When that activity is finished, I may show the pictures in reverse. When I do that, I switch to past tense and focus on “por qué/porque”. WHY do we see what we see in this picture? What happened in the picture before? Then I show the preceding picture and we’re happy we remembered right.

    Later we read the book story or the class story. I am happy with this activity and will probably continue it.

    My more advanced students do a sort of “embedded picture” activity. Long before we do the LICT/LICTM story, I give them a paper with 4 frames. The first and last are filled in with the beginning and ending picture (usually) from the Blaine story. They make up the missing middle part of the story and draw it it, trying to use the current vocab. Then they tell the stories to each other, showing the listeners their pictures. Much later we make up a story based on the pictures from the book.

    Part of the reason I started this activity was because I thought it might generate more ideas for the story we made up together later on when they saw the book pictures. This activity may be on its way out. On the other hand, it is practically my only output activity so maybe not…

    Another 6 frame activity I use is based on my own stories and drawings. It developed because of my need to do a very structured class on the days when I combine classes and so have 35 to 40 fifth through eighth graders or seventh through tenth graders together at one time. (Private school, I designed the program, so it’s my “fault”!)

    The explanation for this one is pretty intricate so I’ll stop here. This is plenty for a first post!

  7. Susie Gross gave me this idea. Hold on to drawings or use the ones from Blaine or Carol and pull them out in level 4 and pump up the level of the structures. I have not done it – partially due to lack of organization, but it sounds like a winner. I have found that the upper levels like to walk down memory lane.

  8. I use the 4 panel/frame almost every week with my students when we are doing stories. They illustrate the story and then retell in pairs. I just have them self-assess, I don’t give them a grade for the grade book-instead they get a habits of work and learning grade for how thoroughly they self-reflect. My student-teacher (who is awesome) created a nice template for the 4 panel which includes the target structures up top so that students can reference them.

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