Scene by Scene

Scene by Scene

Download Lesson Plan PDF | Download Additional Worksheet PDF

In this lesson, students look at a moment in history, break it down into a sequence of scenes and create a graphic visualization (like a portion of a graphic novel) as a way of retelling the events. Students take into consideration text, emotion, setting and point of view in order to convey the many perspectives involved. The lesson will likely take at least two to three class sessions.


  • United States History National Standards: Era 5, Civil War and Reconstruction
    (1850 – 1877); Standard 2
  • Common Core State Standards: English Language Arts, grade 8: Writing 5, 9; Speaking and Listening 1, 2, 4; Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies 2, 6
  • College, Career and Civic Life Framework: Dimension 2. History 1, 6-8

Note to teachers: If you are studying the Civil War, take advantage of this lesson to explore how the Civil War impacted families living in a border state like Maryland in unique ways. If you are not studying the Civil War, use this lesson as a way for students to practice sequencing events and communicating visually, with emotion and accuracy. Consider supplies you will need for students’ work including note cards, colored pencils or pens, or even sample graphic novels if you have them available.  


  1. Provide a summary or synopsis of the Shriver family history and the history of Union Mills Homestead in Carroll County, Maryland. Introduce students to the resources from the Content Resources section. This information provides a rich and comprehensive portrait of one family during wartime.
  2. Explain that students will be reading material related to the Shriver family (and watching clips from a film) and then creating their own graphic representations, like a graphic novel, in order to recreate essential moments in the storyline. Provide some examples of graphic novels. Remind students that strong graphic novels include pictures, typically arranged in sequential boxes, and text, typically presented as speech bubbles (for dialogue) and text boxes (for narration).
  3. Individually or in small groups, students should conduct their own research on the Shriver family. As they scan the resources, students should choose characters and track the arc of a story with a beginning, middle and end. Suggest that they outline their scenes before they start drawing. Use the Scene by Scene worksheet as an organizational tool.
  4. Allow ample time for students to create their graphic novels, either on computers or by hand. You can also use the Scene by Scene worksheet provided - make as many copies as you need! Consider pairing up students with a partner to discuss plans and outlines before they begin drawing. Partners can also support each other with work (i.e. one person drawing, the other developing dialogue). Provide plenty of pencils, paper, erasers and colored pencils for final copy.
  5. When students have a first draft to share, they should swap with a partner and get feedback on the way the story flows, any missing moments or dialogue and editorial assistance. Once final copies have been produced, consider binding and throw a publishing party to celebrate.


There are lots of powerful examples of graphic novels of all kinds available today. Some are nonfiction, some are memoirs, and of course some are what you might expect – all about superheroes. Once students are more familiar with this form of expression, encourage them to read, write and even experience graphic novels online.


About the Shriver Family

About Graphic Novels


Here is a place for you to organize your thoughts and plan out your graphic retelling of a historical scene. Then use the worksheet to draft and publish your graphic novel.

  1. What is the basic story you will be telling with your graphic novel? Write it out in three “chunks.” Remember, you’ll be breaking each chunk into a few scene squares so be brief and to the point.
    • First (set the scene, introduce your characters):
    • Then (what is the big moment, the big thing that happens in your story?):
    • Finally (how do things get resolved? How does this all end?):
  2. Get some notecards and break up each section of your story into smaller moments in time. Sections might have a different number of smaller moments depending on the amount of detail you want and need to share. On each notecard, sketch or write what you will draw and some ideas for dialogue/narration.
  3. Who are your main characters and what is their point of view? Write about them here (names, relation to each other, motivations, major disagreements with each other, point of view). Take a minute to sketch them below.

Download Lesson Plan PDF | Download Additional Worksheet PDF