Friday, April 12, 2013

Wordless picture books... not just for little ones!

One of my favorite things to do is read picture books. I love browsing the children's section of our library to find what's new and interesting.

Wordless picture books, in particular, provide many opportunities for parents and teachers to connect with children and young adults in varied ways. 

Even though you may think that true reading only occurs when there are actual words on a page, wordless books actually require their "readers" to comprehend and pay very close attention to visual clues and cues, a skill that many children struggle with and could certainly use additional practice in order to master.

They also level the playing field for struggling readers, or those who may be English Language Learners. What a wonderful opportunity for students to share with younger buddies as well!

Wordless books also place a greater emphasis on a child's ability to follow story grammar (i.e. the beginning, middle, end, problem-solution, setting, and characters). And, the absence of words actually develops vocabulary and language usage at even higher levels than that of printed text - a wordless book reader needs to be able to generate vocabulary independently in order to be able to articulate the story internally or for others.

Inferencing - combining background knowledge with textual clues - becomes an even higher level skill when one is challenged by wordless text. 

What types of activities can parents and teachers pair with wordless texts?

  • Encourage story telling. What a effective method to develop oral language!
  • Practice comprehension in a non-threatening way. Predict, infer, and question away without having to write or read.
  • Inspire creative writing - either by retelling the story or using it as a springboard for telling what may happen next.
  • Developing sequencing and cause/effect patterning and reasoning either through discussion or creating a graphic organizer to capture thinking.
  • Learning how to create and write dialogue 
  • Use the story to create a script or reader's theater and act it out.

Barnes and Noble has a complete selection of wordless books that appeal to the young (pre-k) through adolescent or even high school reader that you can browse HERE

This book would be a wonderful complement to a middle-grade study of slavery

And this looks like it would be a powerful companion for middle or high school students examining civilizations and empires:

My writing classes used the well-loved Chris VanAllsburg book, "Harris Burdick" this week to create their own stories based on the story starters presented in the text. I knew I had a hit on my hands when the students begged me to take their stories home to finish them!

I'd love to hear about favorite picture books from those of you who use them in your classrooms, or parents who share them with your children.

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