Learning Plans & Activities
Reading/Language Arts: Becoming a Caldecott Art Critic

This learning plan turns students into art critics while exposing them to many wonderful books that may potentially be Caldecott winners. What better way to help students think about the books they read and the illustrations they see while forming and supporting opinions about literature? It also gets them excited about reading!


Linking to AASL’s Standards for the 21st-Century Learner:

  • Follow an inquiry based process in seeking knowledge in curricular subjects, and make the real world connection for using this process in own life (1.1.1).
  • Read, view, and listen for information presented in any format (e.g., textual, visual, media, digital) in order to make inferences and gather meaning (1.1.6).
  • Collaborate with others to exchange ideas, develop new understandings, make decisions, and solve problems (2.1.5).


  • Learn about the Caldecott award; what it’s for, who has won it in the past, why it’s important
  • Learn to communicate about the elements in illustrations that make them visually pleasing: colors, shapes, media, style, etc.
  • Express what it is they like or do not like about certain illustrations and how those characteristics make them feel (literature appreciation)

GRADE LEVELS: 2-4 (with adaptations)


Four or five previous Caldecott Winners and five or six potential winners

Access to laptops/computers for book trailers

Visual aids/flashcards for new vocabulary words

Graphic organizer (save 1 for modeling)

Ballot for vote


The librarian will implement the entire lesson, but could collaborate with classroom teachers as desired.


This lesson plan requires two class periods. Students will use potential Caldecott winners as a means of analyzing the design and composition of the illustrations in order to make a more educated prediction of the 2014 winner, view and consider the elements in illustrations that make them beautiful (or unattractive) and use that information to make decisions about potential winners, and work in groups of two and three to collaborate on ideas and opinions.

Class Period #1:

Introduce the lesson with a discussion and explanation of the Caldecott award. Explain some elements of design for the illustrations by using flashcards to talk about contrast, center of interest, subject, media, and visual elements. Show examples of previous Caldecott winners that demonstrate certain visual elements.

Split students in two groups (½ will watch book trailers and fill out Google form and ½ will evaluate potential winners and complete graphic organizer).

Model how to fill out the graphic organizer at one of the exploration stations. See Figure 1.

Fig. 1. Caldecott Graphic Organizer

Look at Caldecott Illustrations & Reflect (Use the visual element words we learned and write about ONE illustration picked from your book):


What do you see (visual elements: shapes, colors, size, texture, contrast, etc.):


Think & find meaning (how does it make you feel? What ideas does it give you?):


What is your opinion? Support it... tell if you do or don’t like the illustrations and why:


Based on “Looking at Art and Responding: Critical Thinking Graphic Organizer” by April Whitehead. http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Looking-at-Art-and-Responding-Critical-Thinking-Graphic-Organizer.


Explain the set-up. Students will break themselves up into groups of 2 or 3 and rotate around to different tables, looking at the candidates for the vote. After viewing them all, whichever book students end with will be the one they evaluate—even though it might not be their favorite, it is part of being a good art critic.

Model how to view the book trailers on the laptops and how to fill out the questionnaire.

When students begin completing the stations, remind those who worked on the graphic organizer that they need to fill out a ballot and vote for their favorite potential Caldecott winner.

Monitor the stations, helping those who are struggling or need direction.

Class Period #2:

Begin with a review of the Caldecott award and ask if anyone who evaluated a book last time wants to share with the class what they wrote, whether or not they liked the illustrations, and why.

Review elements of design by using flashcards to remind students about contrast, center of interest, subject, media, and elements of design. Pull out more previous winners that haven’t yet been shared with the class and ask them to identify some of the design elements they see and talk about them.

Repeat and review the exploration stations. Be sure to remind students to vote for their favorite book.

Note: Actual winner and “class” winner can be shared during time in the library.


Students will complete a graphic organizer, reflecting on an illustration from a potential Caldecott winning book.

Students will demonstrate understanding by reflecting on the elements of design in the illustration and how it makes them feel. Students may participate in a question/answer session about visual elements.

After watching book trailers, students will answer a short survey about what they think about the illustrations in the books.

Students will vote for the book they think will be the winner of the 2013 Caldecott via ballot.


I loved this lesson because my kids really surprised me with how thoughtful they could be when looking at artwork and talking about it. One little boy said of an illustration, “It just doesn’t speak to me.” I couldn’t believe it—they were such great art critics already. When I walked around during the exploration time, I could hear them using the visual elements terms in their discussions with each other and I loved to hear that they were also debating—”No, I don’t like that because it doesn’t have a good center of interest, nothing jumps off the page” and “I think it’s great because of all the beautiful colors”—and these were 3rd and 4th graders!

It was extremely helpful, due to the “exploration stations,” to have an assistant available to keep an eye on the group watching the book trailers and answering the survey questions on the laptops. If I were a librarian teaching alone, this would be a challenge.

It was all worth it, however, when after almost every class, someone walked up to me and asked if he or she could check out one of the potential winners.

Samantha Roslund

MLA Citation Roslund, Samantha. "Reading/Language Arts: Becoming a Caldecott Art Critic." School Library Monthly, 30, no. 3, December 2013. School Library Connection, schoollibraryconnection.com/Home/Display/2233183?childId=1966990&topicCenterId=1955265&tab=1.

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Entry ID: 1966990

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