Using Wordless Books in the Classroom

I have been using wordless books with a lot of success in my primary classroom this month. The next book I plan to share with the class is A Ball for Daisy which won Chris Raschka the 2012 Caldecott Medal.

How are wordless books used in our classroom?

Every morning we start our day at the carpet and “read” a wordless book together. Of course there is no text so we tell the story as a group as we turn the pages. Before we begin, we review our strategies for reading wordless books. This is what students typically share:

“We need to infer.”

“We look at the pictures for clues.”

“We pretend that we are the author/illustrator and think like he/she does.”

“We have to use what we already know about stories.”

“We use our background knowledge.”

As we turn the pages, students share their observations. I find this is such a fantastic opportunity to build oral language skills. Students need to listen to others and build on ideas. They have the chance to disagree and offer alternative suggestions. They extend their thinking as the class offers sugestions. My role is different from what it usually is as I sit with a book in my hand and children at my feet. I am completely guided by their pace. I repeat specific statements and ask for more thinking. I ask probing questions like, “What made you think that?” “Do you see something on the page that made you suggest . . .?” I also rephrase certain comments so as to correct grammar, extend vocabulary and provide positive feedback. Many childen that don’t often share in discussions about books have been avidly participating. It has been a very exciting and creative process.

I then leave the wordless book of the day on display with other recent ones we have shared. This is what I see at different points of the day:

*Books are shared when reading volunteers come in to listen to children read. Children who have often asked the volunteers to read to them, choose a wordless book and “tell” the story. Volunteers have made comments to me about the child’s confidence, his/her use of interesting vocabulary and about the engagement with the story.

*Wordless books are selected when our little K/1 buddies come up to read with us on Wednesday afternoons. Because our Grade 2/3 class has more students than the K/1 class, often two of my students read with one little buddy. This week I saw a little boy in kindergarten sandwiched between two of my Grade 3 boys and all of them took turns talking about and telling the story as they turned the pages. My boys were even modelling my questions, i.e. “So why do you think he’s sad?”

*Children are choosing wordless books off the shelf during quiet time and sitting with a classmate and whispering as they turn the pages. I see lots of flipping back and forth as they turn back looking for a specific picture, verify information and then resume the story. Also during quiet time I have two girls who are making their own wordless book. They sit side by side drawing pictures and talking about their story.

*There is also a transfer of “attentiveness to detail” as we read other picture books in class. Many comments and questions are about the illustrations and details noticed in the pictures.

As we celebrate illustrations and study them for additional information, I am reminded of a blog post by author Shannon Hale called Let them Eat Pictures. Hale stated:

“Our world is full of visual cues. Illustrations are symbols, just like letters are symbols. We look, we read to understand, to decode the world. Literacy, I think, is the ability to glean understanding from printed information. In order to navigate this world successfully, kids (and adults) will need to be literate in words and pictures.”

Wordless books give us the opportunity to practice inferring and looking for evidence to support an idea – comprehension strategies that we use with any kind of book – from picture books to novels.  I am excited to continue using this beautiful genre of books in my room.

For more wordless picture book titles, check out more posts on this blog.

Wonders of Wordless Magic and Few Words on Five Wordless Books

6 thoughts on “Using Wordless Books in the Classroom

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