Wordless picturebooks — a sneak peek

Welcome back to Shawn’s corner, where today we’ll be looking a special kind of book.  You know about some wonderful storybooks out there, like those from Dr. Seuss, especially Green Eggs & Ham, my favorite, The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, The Giving Tree (as we saw in an earlier Shawn’s Corner) and Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. Some of these may work best with younger students if, but we should take some time later to see other ways we can use these classics.  For now, let’s look at a type picturebook that is good for most levels and ages—the wordless picturebook. 

My favorite authors in this genre are Shaun Tan and David Wiesner, illustrators of “The Arrival” and “Sector 7” but there are many more out there like a funny little story called “The Flower Man” about an old man who moves into the neighborhood and brightens it up with his flowers.  Another one is “The Journey” about a girl who has amazing adventures that she partly creates with a red crayon.

Let’s take a look at one that I have found engaging at all levels called “Flotsam” by David Wiesner.  As I don’t want to include a spoiler, I am just going to show you the first part of the story and you’ll have to check out the book to find out what happens.  You will be amazed to see how the book can convey a fantastic story without a single written word.

Students should learn phrases to hedge a bit, like “He must be doing something”, “He like is…” “It looks as if…” “It looks as though” “Maybe” “Perhaps” and so on.  This is the kind of language that lets their imagination run free without losing face.

You, as the teacher, can ask as many questions you like because everything is open for interpretation. These books give tons to talk about so they really are worth checking out. 

In the next Shawn’s corner, we will look at a picturebook with text and some ideas for using it for grammar and vocabulary study. 

In regards to what you saw today, I hope you came to the conclusion that although these picturebooks are wordless, your students should be far from speechless when working from them. 

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