Picture this: You have the most well-thought out lesson plan for your read aloud complete with questions that are designed to get your students talking and sentence frames to help your students answer your discussion question. You read the book and then try to get start your discussion and…CRICKETS. It’s happened to me MANY times. The one type of book it almost never happens with? Wordless books! You can really increase discussion with wordless books.
Here are some strategies I’ve used for increasing discussion with wordless books:
- Write the story
- Foreshadowing Hunt
- Symbolism Analysis
Write the Story
This is a great strategy to increase discussion with wordless books because there are an infinite number of ways to tell the story. I especially like this strategy with language learners because it allows for students to put their own words to a story.
I would normally read the story to the students myself first and then as a subsequent lesson, have the students write the story. Depending on the age level this could be done as a whole group, small groups, or partners. The smaller the group, the more discussion that can happen and the more students that are talking and the more turns that they get.
Why not individually? You certainly can, but you’re not getting any discussion and that’s specifically what we’re trying to avoid!
You can then assign pages of the book to each group or talk through book as a whole group. Your students get to be the storytellers and use their own words to tell the story or even just add dialogue bubbles. Once I had a group of fourth graders that I was working with on including dialogue in their writing. I pulled a wordless book and we practiced by including at least one dialogue bubble on each page.
So, in summary increasing discussion with wordless books by writing the story:
- read the story to the students FIRST
- whole group, small groups or partners
- great with language learners
- write the whole story
- write dialogue bubbles
What do you mean foreshadowing? Foreshadowing is a complex literary device. How can foreshadowing be in wordless books? There’s NO WORDS! Foreshadowing can be found in MANY wordless books. Think about it: the author-illustrator has to tell an entire story without any words.
In this series, the author includes foreshadowing all throughout each book that you likely won’t catch during the first read. On the second or third read of the book, though, is my favorite time to search for foreshadowing in the books. In this series, for example, you’ll see clues about the journeys that the children go on and what things they will find and need later on in the details of each illustration.
To increase discussion, I’ll introduce the concept of foreshadowing as a clue about what will happen later in the story. I model finding a few of these clues but after that, the students are the ones who find foreshadowing, usually quite accurately, that I didn’t even notice before.
It makes reading the book, a foreshadowing hunt because they’re scouring the illustrations for clues!
This is a really powerful strategy for students in fourth and fifth grade who are starting to read chapter books that include foreshadowing. Introducing this concept with a wordless picture book can make introducing it with their chapter books even easier.
This is one that should seem natural when it comes to increasing discussion with wordless books. Wordless books are often chocked full of symbolism because the only thing that the author can work with is their illustrations.
Sometimes the symbolism is very subtle and we adults don’t notice it, but the students often recognize it.
Here’s an example: Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson and Sydney Smith. It’s another one of my favorite wordless picture books.
As you can see from the cover, there is very little color in the story. The author-illustrators use color to symbolize a change that the girl brings with her sidewalk flowers. Slowly there is more and more color in the story to show how the girl impacts her community.
Seeing this example, it opens up a great opportunity for discussion as students discuss the symbolism and what the color means. They often don’t understand the symbol right away and through their discussion they often refine what it may mean.
You can give this type of lesson a try with your own students with Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson and Sydney Smith by signing up below.