They say, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” We couldn’t agree more! So, in this article, we will take you through a P.I.C.T.U.R.E. walk like none other for utilizing wordless picture books in your classroom. Using each letter in PICTURE, we will offer strategies and activities that span all genres and curricular areas to open pathways of conversations for ALL learners.
First of all, let us acquaint you with a few definitions. Picture book. When the two words are separated, picture and book, it is more of an illustrated book in that the illustrations serve as an added or decorative feature rather than an inseparable component of the story being told (Serafini, 2014, p. 72). Picturebook. The compound word, picturebook, is used to suggest the unity or cohesiveness of visual images, design elements, and written language, which are part of all true picturebooks (Serafini, 2014). True picturebooks blend visual images and design elements with written language in a cohesive structure that simultaneously unfolds in both visual and verbal narratives (Serafini, 2014, p.72). Wordless picturebooks (WPB) are told entirely through their illustrations--they are books without words, or sometimes just a few words (Reading Rockets, 2013). In wordless picturebooks (WPB), the illustrations must convey the ENTIRE story (Buccieri & Economy, 2012). Just as picturebooks with words cover various genres designed for children of various ages, there are various levels of difficulty, complexity and genres of wordless picturebooks (Galda et al., 2010; Martin & Murtagh, 2015).
There are many benefits to using WPB in the classroom. One is how each child creates his own unique story, or even multiple stories, from the same pictures regardless of the level. WPB allow students to connect their prior knowledge without the confines stories with words place on students. WPB are easy to differentiate for different levels of students in your class because you aren’t differentiating based on reading ability, but on a student’s level of picture comprehension. For example, a book like Look! by Jeff Mack or Out! by Arree Chung is great for early or English language learners, whereas the number of pictures and complex storylines in David Wiesner’s books (Tuesday, Flotsam, The Three Pigs, Got It!) or Eric Rohmann’s Time Flies are great for more advanced comprehenders. Either way, students can find “reading” success and feel good about their accomplishment.
A second benefit is how WPB “level the playing field.” Without text to contend with, all students have equal access to the visual information presented in the book. For emergent, English language learners, or reluctant readers alike, WPB offer a less constricting format that motivates young learners to read left to right, make inferences, generate predictions and see causal relationships without the threat of 'messing' up text (Martin & Murtagh, 2015; Mikkelsen, 2000). Moreover, WPB assist non-readers in
developing a sense of story and provide opportunities to verbalize original narratives similar to how young children look at books with illustrations and text which they can't yet read (Galda et al., 2010; Johnson, 2012). Freeman and Freeman, (2007) encourage teachers to preview texts and use questions for discussion prompts. The following questions have been found by teachers of English language learners (ELL) to be helpful in promoting classroom discussions: Are the characters in the story like you and your family? Have you ever had an experience like the one described in this story? Have you lived in or visited places like those in the story? Another benefit is how using WPB increases visual