Prepared for the Storyline International Conference

August 2009 – Colleen Vallerga


  • What makes a dynamic frieze?
  • Framing the Story
  • Art Lessons
  • Building the Knowledge Base
  • Key Questions/Detail Questions
  • Setting Criteria
  • Grouping Students
  • Art Techniques
  • Frieze DVD


1.       What makes a dynamic frieze?

*Frieze has main idea/topic is clear

*Kid generated/reflects kid ideas

*Pre-taught lessons support development

*Art work critiqued/revised

*Elements of art and design are incorporated

as well as a variety of media

*Frieze is interactive and flexible


2. Framing The Story

Gabriella’s Song by Candace Fleming

How can we design a meaningful frieze for this topic?

What is the central theme?

What should the focal point and or main idea of the frieze be?

Where do the characters live?

What part do the characters take in the setting?

How does the setting draw the characters into the context of the story?

How will the incidents occur on the frieze?

How would it look through the eyes of a child?

What part does the teacher take in shaping the frieze?

The Art of Display  (main idea/theme)

3.       Art Lessons

Elements of Art                           Elements of Design

line                                             repetition

shape                                     variation

color                                             proximity

texture                                    focal point



light and dark


4.       Building the Knowledge Base

Read alouds–Venice.  Poetry.  Nonfiction writing.

Students bring items from home.

Key Question

What makes Venice a special place?


Explore nonfiction books about Venice.  List things on chart paper that make Venice a special place.  Read Author’s Note at the beginning of the book, and add new information about Venice to chart paper.


What do we know about the history of Venice, Italy?

How old is it?

How was it built?


Brainstorm and list ideas.  See videos/DVDs about Venice.  Encourage students to bring books and information from home.  Read books about Venice history.  Research and record information on chart paper.

Writing:  Venice Italy Facts


What is an interesting fact you learned about Venice?

What more can you tell about it?


Review facts of Venice on chart paper.  Have each student pick a fact to write about.  Set criteria.  Have students share their fact with the class.


Venice, Italy:  Facts

Appendix Three:  Writing and Poetry (pages 59-60)



How can we say, in a few words, how special and beautiful Venice is?

What are some describing words we can use?



Brainstorm describing words and list on chart paper.

Brainstorm a list of Venice words to use.  Keep this list to use for future writing projects. Have students create an acrostic poem and a poem of similes about Venice.

Set criteria.  Have students share their poems with the class.


5. Key Questions/Detail Questions

What key questions will we use?

Brainstorm and list possible questions.  Discuss reasoning.

What detailed questions will we ask?


*View (do not read) pages 1 -14 of text.  Stop before the composer appears at the piano.  (Pages can be projected to screen on a document camera.)

Key Question

What does Gabriella’s Venice look like?


View pictures of Venice in Gabriella’s Song. List details on chart paper.  Add details from Venice books and other resources that were shared.  Teacher sketches student ideas on chart paper. Teacher and students generate criteria for homes, church and opera  house.

Homes:  Sample Criteria

1.         long rectangular shapes

2.         tile roof

3.         4-5 windows on each building (choose one window shape)

4.         front door (choose shape)

5.         address plate

6.         chimney

7.         shutters, window boxes, and balcony are all optional

Church:  Sample Criteria

1.         wider shape than homes

2.         bell tower

3.         tile roof

4.         large entry doors with half round shapes at the top


What colors are the buildings in Venice?

How can we mix these colors?

What size will our homes and church be?


Identify and create paint colors, doing a color mixing lesson.  Make a decision on the size of the homes and church and cut butcher paper to size.  Have students work in groups to draw and paint buildings using their prototypes and developed criteria.  Create a total of 6 to 7 homes, a church, and an opera house.


What else do we want to include in our setting of Venice?

What famous place would we like to include?


Brainstorm a list of additional details to include in setting.

Sample brainstorm:  Grade One

water, gondolas with pole markers, canals, bridges, cobblestone walkways, store windows (for bakery on first floor of a home), hanging laundry, towers, stairs, flag, pigeons, flower boxes

Make a group decision on a famous place to include in background.

Examples of famous places:

The Grand Canal, St. Mark’s Cathedral, Rialto Bridge, The Campanile, etc.

In pairs, students draw prototypes of Venice, including the homes, church, and opera house

they just created plus additional details that were brainstormed.  Prototypes are shared.  A best-parts list is created.  Teacher works with students to sketch the final prototype on chart paper for students to use while creating the frieze.


How will we size the canals, cobblestones, etc. so they will blend with the houses?

What colors will we use?


Estimate sizes of the new frieze additions and mix colors for each item.  Plan student groupings (canals, bridges, towers, cobblestones, etc.)   Students create additional details for setting.  Teacher works with students to put the parts together on the frieze, using the final prototype as a model.


6.       Setting Criteria


How does it look?

Does it meet our criteria?

What can we add/delete?


7.       Grouping Students

How do you group students when they are working on the frieze.

What about students who are done?

How can parents help?

How can individual student ideas enhance the whole?


8.       Art Techniques


framing/display techniques


9. Frieze DVD