How do you feel about reading wordless picture books to your students? Do you know how powerful wordless picture books actually are? If you want to truly measure your student’s comprehension skills or imagination, try reading wordless picture books with them and see if they can understand what is happening in the story based on the pictures alone. In addition, the low pressure nature of a picture book allows children of all abilities to join in and feel successful. Wordless picture books are great resources to encourage joint interest, vocabulary, sequenced language, making inferences and engaging in discussion. Here are 6 wonderful wordless picture books to read with your students, as well as some lesson ideas to incorporate with them.
By: Henry Cole
Summary: When a farm girl discovers a runaway slave hiding in the barn, she is at once startled and frightened. But the stranger’s fearful eyes weigh upon her conscience, and she must make a difficult choice. Will she have the courage to help him? Unspoken gifts of humanity unite the girl and the runaway as they each face a journey: one following the North Star, the other following her heart.
How to use it with your students: Use the Scholastic website to explore the life of a slave and how they escaped through the Underground Railroad. The Activities and Resources in the For Teachers section at the bottom of the page gives you several activities to do related to each part. Be sure to check out the primary sources provided so the students can have an authentic look at the people and events that shaped this period.
By: Pete Oswald
Summary: In the cool and quiet early light of morning, a father and child wake up. Today they’re going on a hike. Follow them into the mountains as they witness the magic of the wilderness, overcome challenges, and play a small role in the survival of the forest. By the time they return home, they feel alive — and closer than ever — as they document their hike and take their place in family history.
How to use it with your students: At the end of this story, the reader will learn that this hike is actually about a family tradition. After reading the book, have students write for 3-5 minutes about a family tradition. Challenge learners to keep their pencils writing. They don’t have to write complete sentences. Lists and key words will work. This is a great activity to help build their writing stamina.
A Ball for Daisy (*2012 Caldecott Medal Winner)
By: Chris Raschka
Summary: Any child who has ever had a beloved toy break will relate to Daisy’s anguish when her favorite ball is destroyed by a bigger dog.
How to use it with your students: This wordless picture book is especially great for teaching students about the loss of something special as well as discussing emotions. I would also recommend using A Ball for Daisy to help teach your students about story elements such as characters, setting, beginning, middle, end and plot. Teaching Books has some great ideas for teaching story elements with this wordless picture book that include leveled lesson plans.
The Lion and the Mouse (*2010 Caldecott Medal Winner)
By: Jerry Pinkney
Summary: After a ferocious lion spares a cowering mouse that he’d planned to eat, the mouse later comes to his rescue, freeing him from a poacher’s trap.
How to use it with your students: This story is an Aesop fable adaptation. It’s a great way to teach about how small acts of kindness can radiate through time to your students-”What goes around, comes around.” You can also have students come up with adjectives for how the lion might have felt as he sees this tiny mouse crawling on his back. In addition, this is a great story to discuss inferences and you can check out some sample lesson plans that teach inferencing with this story here by Teacher Think Tank.
Tuesday (*1991 Caldecott Medal Winner)
By: David Wiesner
Summary: The nearly wordless Caldecott-winning book follows a squadron of frogs as they fly through the night on lilypads.
How to use it with your students: This story of frogs flying through the night on a Tuesday really comes to life through yours and your student’s interpretation of its illustrations. This book is truly great for helping to develop young imaginations for your littlest readers. Have your youngest students draw and write about what they think the frogs were doing at different parts of the story. Then, have them pick an animal picture out of a hat and come up with something fun and creative for that animal to do. See if they can create their own mini story using their imagination!
By: David Wiesner
Grades: Kindergarten-3rd grade
Summary: When he falls asleep with a book in his arms, a young boy dreams an amazing dream about dragons, castles and about an uncharted, faraway land. And you can come along…
How to use it with your students: Teach the skill of prediction with this book: Looking at the objects next to the dreamer’s bed at the end of the book, create a character profile for him. Include things such as: name/ age/ appearance/ where they live/ interests.
If you have not yet tried reading wordless picture books with your students, make sure you give it a try and watch their imaginations run WILD!
Which wordless picture book will you be reading to your students next?