Teaching Tip Tuesday–Sketch to Stretch

Sketch-to-Stretch is an instructional strategy developed by Harste, Short, & Burke, (1988). Students draw quick sketches to stretch their thinking and understanding of concepts. Moving to another communication system, such as art, can lead the learner to generate new insights and meanings.

 Click on the link below for a reproducible graphic organizer:

Sketch to Stretch graphic organizer

How to Use:

During or after reading a selection, students draw sketches that illustrate key ideas and details. Students present their drawings to explain how they made connections with the information revealed in the text.

1. The teacher reads aloud the chosen text to students.

2. After the teacher reads aloud the text, the students are to sketch what the text is about, what the text means to them, the picture they had in their head during the reading, or a major concept they learned from the text.

3. Ask each student to write a short explanation of his/her sketch. Their explanation might include insights into the author’s language that “sparked” certain images, parts of the text that were most clear, etc.

4. In small groups, have readers share sketches and explanations. At the end of the sharing have each group decide on one sketch to share with the whole class.

5. Share and discuss selected sketches with the whole class.


  • As a pre-reading activity, Sketch-to-Stretch is a strategy that helps students connect with prior knowledge. Students sketch ideas that show what they know about a topic featured in an upcoming selection.
  • Invite students to write captions (words, phrases, or sentences) for sketches.
  • When students work in small groups, Sketch-to-Stretch can be used to illustrate a series of events. For example, each person in a group sketches a different phase in the life cycle of a monarch butterfly.
  • Put all the sketches in a booklet or on display so that students can examine all of them for new insights.
  • If a text has few, none, or very poor illustrations, it may not be necessary to tell the readers to put away their texts before sketching. In fact leaving the text open in such cases encourages readers to reread as they devise their sketches.
  • With content materials, give readers copies of a passage minus the pictures, drawings, graphs. Then ask them to sketch. Once again, having the text available will encourage careful rereading. Readers can then compare their sketches with one another and the author. A discussion of the need to read charts and diagrams and how they fit with the running text in a particular book may follow.

Reading Strategies: Activate Prior Knowledge, Build Vocabulary, Make Connections, Visualize Ideas, Identify Main Ideas and Details, Summarize and Synthesize Information


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