Are you sick and tired of the same activities? Do you sometimes feel like a juggling act trying to figure out how to keep all the students in your mixed group engaged? Do you feel like you are planning a million sessions a week and you are completely exhausted?
Today I want to share with you one of my favorite tools and that is wordless picture books! “Pancakes for Breakfast” is one of the many wordless picture books that I have and love! I use these books even with my older speech students and they love them too! If you’re anything like me, you have a lot of older speech students who are avoidant readers, weak readers, who aren’t confident, and if you give them some type of reading material they are going to shut down and give you the “I’m not doing it” look or the slumping down in the chair or the avoiding eye contact hoping you won’t call on them. Am I alone? The great thing about these books is that there are no words so there is nothing to be afraid of. I like to tell my students that we are going to be reading a story today but that they are going to read it to me and the look on their faces is always priceless!
Using wordless picture books is a great activity because it elicits a ton of language and it's great if you are doing a baseline or a language sample with your older students. There are so many things you could do with these books and that is why they are great for mixed groups as well! Here are just a few of the things I have and can work on with these wordless picture books: I can work on describing words or wh questions by holding the book up and asking “what do you see?” I can work on key story elements by asking things like “do you see any characters yet?” I can work on predicting by asking something like “what do you think is going to happen next?” I can pull out articulation sounds by using the things on the page that you see like “there is snow, a house, trees, the moon,” etc. The list goes on and on!
As I am reading through the book I like to just call on each individual student and have them work on their goals on each page. I can pull out the same book to work with my summarizing students or my story recall students and I can keep using this book all day long or even all week long. No joke, this is how I plan!
I also like to use these books with my students to work on context clues. Sometimes I will put little notes for myself on the pages so that when we get there I can tell the students “the lady did not have eggs which prevented her from finishing her pancakes. What do you think the word prevented means using the sentence, the picture, and your background knowledge?”
These books allow me to work on so many different higher-level thinking skills but it takes the text piece out so we can really focus on the language and strategies. There are so many higher-level thinking skills that our students need to understand these kinds of books but since there are no words, they really have to be engaged with the pictures, think about what they know, what happened in the past, what is going to happen next, how to follow along, understanding the story elements, and they have to really engage with the content even though there are no words. It really gets them thinking out loud and it allows you to monitor their thinking. It is also good to let them hear you thinking about your thinking which helps them build that inner dialogue for themselves.
I really love using wordless picture books to elicit a ton of language and work on a variety of skills. They also help me manage my mixed groups more efficiently, effectively, and confidently because I know they are all getting what they need by me just questioning and prompting the appropriate student with the appropriate question. They also all benefit from hearing each other's responses. “Pancakes for Breakfast” is one of my favorites but I also really love “Chalk”, “Snowman Story for Summer”, and “Tuesday”. I have a whole library of wordless picture books at school and they are amazing! If you are looking to add some new tools for your speech library I highly recommend wordless stories! And you really can use these books with any age group. I have used them with my 5th and 6th-grade students and I have also used them with my daughter who is in 1st grade. It’s really a matter of adapting the goals, the activities, and your questioning based on your students' needs. It's also all about how you present it! If you are like “This is an awesome story that you are going to get to tell and you guys are going to get to be the authors!” and you show them how fun it is, then your students will think it's fun too. If you show them how fun it is then who cares what age it is technically “for”!?
So I hope you found this helpful and that you can use wordless picture books with ease and confidence! If you want to learn more, you can check out the video below and the resources I mentioned for engaging, no-prep, and low-prep activities to use with your students this week!