On The Origin of Species / During Reading / /

Illustrated Information

Exploring how illustrations and text work together to explain complex information

Lesson length: 1 hour 0 minutes / 1 session

Lesson from On The Origin of Species series

Required reading: Whole book

Strategies used

  • Compare and Contrast Thinking
  • Comprehension: Think Aloud
  • Comprehension: Making Connections


Understanding how to read illustrations in combination with text is a vital literacy skill and is especially important when understanding complex scientific concepts. Sabina Radeva is a scientist, graphic designer and illustrator. In this book we have a masterclass in how carefully organised layout of illustration and text can make complex information accessible to a reader. This lesson supports the children to gain deeper comprehension of the text whilst learning the skills required to connect the information between illustration and text.


  • Have read the whole book
  • Have pages 41 to 44 available to display using visualiser or scanned so that you can display them on an IWB
  • Copies of On The Origin of the Species, at least one between two
  • Dictionaries available for a group of 4 to share
  • Have copies of ‘Questions Connecting Images and Text’ resource for each group of 4


Ask the children to turn to the back of the book and read the paragraph ‘About the Author’. When, finished re-read the sentence ‘Sabina is passionate about projects that blend science with art.’ Ask the children to look back through the book with their partner and discuss if this book is a blend of science and art. 

Listen in to the discussions and then share any interesting comments with the class asking others to build on comments shared. 

Explain that together you are going to explore how Sabina Radeva has blended illustrations and text to help explain complex scientific concepts.

Display page 41 and ask the children to turn to the page in their books. Ask the children to read the page to themselves. When everyone finishes, ask them to tell their partner how they read it.  Just observe if anyone went straight to the paragraph at the bottom or if they looked at the pictures first, or if they read the captions under the animals. Don’t lead them, just explore to see if there were different approaches. If someone starts to talk about how they may move between text and illustration then allow them the opportunity to explain their reasons for doing this and how it helps them to understand. Be clear there isn’t a right approach to where you start to look but to fully understand we do need to move back and forth between the text, and illustrations.

Now do a ‘think aloud’ to show how you made sense of the information. Use the one below if you need a guide but otherwise just make it clear how you are comprehending the information through illustration, text and layout.

“When I first look at this page I am drawn to the illustrations of the animals. I immediately recognise that the top one is a dolphin and below it is a shark. The bottom one looks a bit like the shark but its nose and tail are different shapes. So let’s read the caption. Ichthyosaurs had reptile ancestors. So this is an ichthyosaurs. When I read the word ichthyosaurs, I imagine that this must be a prehistoric creature because it ends in osaurs so I link it to dinosaurs. It also says it had reptile ancestors. Had implies that it is no longer around or it would say has reptile ancestors so this creature is probably now extinct.  As I know that the word ancestors means the animals that this creature has descended from, I’m imagining the reptiles that I know and if I look back at the illustration I can see that its teeth look a bit like a crocodile but it has fins not legs and its body and tail are closer to a shark. The tail is the same angle as the shark above but more rounded. So I am going to go back  to the top of the page and read all the captions (read captions). So all three of these animals are descended from different species: mammals, fish, reptiles. This interests me because I have always wondered how it came to be that mammals that have lungs and need to breathe air live permanently in the water. I’m still not sure why Sabina Radeva has decided to include these three animals on the same page, apart from the fact they look a bit similar and all live in the sea so I’m going to read the paragraph at the bottom of the page as this must help explain the connection.  (Read paragraph). Ok so as I noticed at the start all three of these creatures do have similar body parts: tails, flippers, fins, sharp teeth (I can’t see the dolphins but I know they have sharp teeth). The point that Radeva is making is that they all live in the same environment which is why she has drawn them together but as the captions tell us they are all descended from different creatures so are not related. But because they live in the same environment they have developed similar body parts because having a strong tail, fins and flippers helps them to survive in the sea. That is really interesting because it would have been easy to think that because they look alike they evolved from the same ancestor. So what I have learnt is that the environment a creature lives in determines how it evolves. It is not just dependent on their ancestors because creatures have to adapt to survive in the environment they live in.

I really want to know what mammals a dolphin descended from and how and why these mammals eventually moved from living on the land to living in the sea.”

Ask the class if they have any questions.

Now explain that everyone is going to be asked to read a page from the text either page 42, 43 or 44. You can select which group looks at what page. When everyone has read the page on their own, they are going to discuss a set of questions in a group of 4. As the group is small, each child will have the chance to share their answer to each question before the group moves on to the next. The children should be encouraged to listen carefully to everyone in the group. They can agree with the point someone else has made, build on someone else’s answer or give a different perspective but they are all expected to contribute and listen.

Whilst the groups are discussing the questions, the adults in the class can support any group who might need help managing the conversation or listen in and support and challenge as necessary.


Once the groups have finished their discussion ask a member of a group to share their summary of what information they have learnt from this page. Repeat this for all 3 pages and encourage the other children to comment on the summary.

Final reflection

  • What have you learnt about how you read text and illustrations today?
  • How will this influence the way you read texts from now on?
  • Do you think Sabina Radeva successfully combines her knowledge of science with her graphic design skills?

Tier two vocabulary

affinities, rudimentary, 

Subject-specific and technical vocabulary

illustration, text, graphic, ancestor, evolve, environment, organic, species, embryo, blueprint,

Academic process words

explain, compare and connect


Questions Connecting Image and Text

Questions Connecting Image and Text.docx