Wordless Picture Books: Worth A Thousand Words

Looking back, I never really knew how to incorporate wordless picture books into my literacy classroom. I used to think that in order to teach children strategies for reading and understanding a book it had to have words. I admit that I wasn’t quite sure how to make the most of these books during a read aloud back then.  As a result, children had no model of how to approach books without words, and so these titles just sat on the shelf collecting dust.   Now I realize that I was missing out on valuable opportunities to develop children’s reading, writing, thinking, and speaking skills through the use of wordless picture books. I know now that these books can make complex story lines and ideas found in picture books more accessible for all readers. This is partly due to the fact that we are picture literate first and then print literate. The brain processes visual information 60,000 times faster than words. We understand images fairly instantly, but processing text requires more skilled work. With this in mind, wordless picture books are useful tools to teach and practice the strategies young readers need to comprehend text. That old saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words” rings true. The illustrations and images we see in these books hold a great deal of meaning. They communicate ideas in ways that words cannot capture. Taking words out of the process encourages readers to rely naturally on visual information to create meaning which then transfers to a useful word decoding strategy for beginning readers. Wordless picture books can enrich your comprehension strategy instruction by acting as concrete resources that introduce and strengthen thinking strategies such as making connections, questioning and inferring. These books provide the visuals while the children add the language and the thinking that bring meaning to the story. Jim Trelease reminds us of four questions to ask when sharing wordless picture books with young children: 


  • What do you think is happening here?

  • What makes you think that?

  • What do you think will happen next?

  • Why?


There are so many instructional possibilities to explore in the world of wordless picture books. My next post will continue this series with a focus on writing from wordless picture books. Until next time, here is a link to a list of some of my favorite wordless book titles.  http://bit.ly/2jc7n96

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Training Spotlight

1st-3rd grade educators worked together to learn engaging ways to develop number sense. Students will develop fact fluency while playing games that use their number sense strategies. By learning their facts in this way, students are not merely memorizing, but rather learning to work with numbers flexibly.  “Low achievers are often low achievers not because they know less but because they don’t use numbers flexibly – they have been set on the wrong path, often from an early age, of trying to memorize methods instead of interacting with numbers flexibly.” Jo Boaler,  Stanford University, 2009


April 8, 2019

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