Why Share Wordless Picture Books? by Carrie Rodusky
A colleague recently brought me a donated pile of books to see if I could use any in my 4th grade classroom. One of the books was a wordless picture book. I cannot remember the title, but it was very abstract and I thought it would be a great addition to the 7th or 8th grade english class as I could imagine all of the things the older kids could do with that type of story. This prompted a quick discussion and a thought of what could really be done with wordless picture books. My answer is, SO MANY WONDERFUL THINGS can be done with wordless picture books from pre-k age on up.
“Tuesday” by David Wiesner was shared by my professor in my junior year of college in my children’s lit class and I immediately went out and bought a copy. Its illustrations and “What in the world?” thoughts can spark creativity in anyone’s imagination. Are you working on teaching students to ask questions while they read? This could be a lesson on analyzing details in pictures and recording questions to further explore.
“Flotsam” by David Wiesner is a book a co-teacher and I read in a pre-k class. Yes, I said pre-k! Think of your pre-readers who use illustrations and pictures to tell a story. Now, think of your older kids who may be struggling with text and yet, are mostly given chapter books to try and decode. This story has a lovely sequence and could easily be used to show how a story flows and connects characters and events. As for our pre-k kids? They loved it so much they pretended to take pictures and then drew the things they “found” on their beach. What if that became a new story?
I found “Flashlight” by Lizi Boyd in a kindergarten classroom I visited for a workshop. It neatly complimented their outdoor curriculum and I made sure to use it in my own classroom as soon as possible. How about discussing light vs dark? Why is it important to be silent when we make observations? Do we see more in quiet than when we are distracted by noise? Questions you could pose as your students carry clipboards and make notes.
I used “Fossil” by Bill Thomson with fourth grade when we were having small group time and practicing inferencing. We also talked about beginning, middle, and end; if they were to write the words to accompany the pictures, they had to think about how they would write each part. Plus, the illustrations are truly life-like!
We all know the traditional fable, but this wordless version of “The Lion and the Mouse” by Jerry Pinkney is so worth the addition to your library. I had both fourth and fifth graders look at this version when we were studying fairytales and fables. They remarked how they actually liked this version better than the written original because they could look at the emotion on the faces of the animals to tell the story. Love it!
This is just a small sampling of wordless picture books that I have used with students and personally love. There are so many more out there that could be used to compliment story elements, encourage thoughtful writing, and promote creative thinking. Once, I showed a group of pre-k children “The Snowman” as it was set to music and that inspired them to pull out instruments and make a story set to music, of course, with no words. The possibilities really are endless.
My hope is to incorporate more wordless picture books in my reading and writing classroom. The artistry of some of the pictures alone is worth the introduction and exploration. Do not feel intimidated to bring these stories into your own classrooms or libraries; throw a pile onto a table and see what remarks and questions you get. I bet you will not be disappointed.
Carrie Rodusky has been teaching since 1996. She is currently the fourth and fifth grade language arts teacher and 4th grade social studies in a Catholic school outside of Cleveland, Ohio. She loves all things reading and can be found out under the trees on a summer day with book in hand. She hopes all kids will identify themselves as readers and still tries with her own teenagers. She will read “Wild” and “The Secret Life of Bees” every year without fail.