Author Andrea Davis Pinkney combines elements of fiction and biography to create a children's book that recounts Alvin Ailey's boyhood in Texas, his introduction to dance in Los Angeles, and the creation of his own dance company in New York. Brian Pinkney uses the scratchboard technique to create illustrations that depict the grace, fluidity, and energy of Ailey's choreography.
This lesson focuses on how illustrations deepen the reader's engagement with the written story. Students will develop a better understanding of how illustrations serve to enhance the mood of the story, provide visual explanations for unfamiliar concepts, and create a deeper connection between reader and story.
Upon completion of this lesson students will be able to:
- Explain how the illustrations help convey the meaning of the story
- Use words and pictures to discuss characters, setting, and plot
- Create visual displays to help others understand text
Common Core Standards
This resource meets the following Common Core Standards as defined by the Common Core State Standards Initiative:
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.3.7 - Explain how specific aspects of a text's illustrations contribute to what is conveyed by the words in a story (e.g., create mood, emphasize aspects of a character or setting).
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.4.7 - Make connection between the text of a story or drama and a visual or oral presentation of the text, identifying where each version reflects specific descriptions and directions in the text.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.5.7 - Analyze how visual and multimedia elements contribute to the meaning, tone, or beauty of a text (e.g., graphic novel, multimedia presentation of fiction, folktale, myth, poem).
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.3.2a - Introduce a topic and group related information together; include illustrations when useful to aiding comprehension.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.4.2a - Introduce a topic clearly and group related information in paragraphs and sections; include formatting (e.g., headings), illustrations, and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.5.2a - Introduce a topic clearly, provide a general observation and focus, and group related information logically; include formatting (e.g., headings), illustrations, and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.
One to two classes
Recommended Grade Level
Grades 3 through 5
This lesson is meant to help students understand, from a technical perspective, how illustrations are used to support and enhance the story. Consideration will be given to how illustrations serve to convey the meaning of the story by creating a deeper understanding of characters, setting, and plot. The lesson will also attempt to demonstrate how illustrations are used to create mood, energy, and emotion which help influence the extent to which a reader engages with the story. Finally, students will try their hand at illustrating a selection of text (if possible, using the scratchboard method used in this book by Brian Pinkney).
Have the requisite materials ready before the activity:
- Reproductions of primary source documents provided below
- Alvin Ailey by Andrea Pinkney Davis
- Art supplies
- Brian Pinkney featured on Meet Authors & Illustrators
- Brian Pinkney's website - click on FAQ in the left navigation bar to find:
- Brief description of the scratchboard technique
- Examples from Alvin Ailey
- Explore the manuscripts and art of Andrea and Brian Pinkney in the online exhibit Rejoice The Legacy!
- Youth for Human Rights International article
- Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
- Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney speaking at the 2013 National Book Festival (at 9 min 30 sec into the video Brian talks about how his father would take photos of Brian dressed in character to use as inspiration for his own illustrations)
- Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performs "Rocka My Soul"
Scratchboard Art Project information from Art Room 104
Primary Source Documents
All text, illustrations, and documents in the collection are parts of drafts, notes, or photos donated to the Kerlan Collection by the author (Andrea Davis Pinkney) and the illustrator (Brian Pinkney).
Many artists use photographic references for their illustrations. Brian created his own human photographic references for Alvin Ailey using family and friends as models.
Primary source documents provided for this portfolio include draft illustrations, model photographs, artist dummy layouts, and final illustrations. The materials have been organized into five groups:
Group 1 - True Vine Baptist Church
Group 2 - Dunham's "Bahiana"
Group 3 - "Blues Suite" Choreography
Group 4 - The Men of "Revelations"
Group 5 - The Women of "Revelations"
Digital Portfolio Design: Lesa L Kennedy