Saturday, June 23, 2012

Connecting Pictures and Words in Writer's Workshop

I was so excited to see that some of my favorite bloggers are doing a book study on In Pictures and in Words by Katie Wood Ray.  As I present at different conferences across the United States,  I am consistently asked, "How do you keep your students from spending so much time on their illustrations?  Do you limit their time?  Do you make your students write first then let them draw pictures."  I have always had my own philosophy on this subject but was so relieved when a good friend recommended this book about 1 1/2 years ago.  I read the entire book while I was traveling through airports to present at a conference in North Carolina.  If you haven't had a chance to read this book, it is a "must read" for the early childhood teacher. 

Dee Dee Willis is hosting the first 6 chapters and has links to other bloggers who are participating.  Click here to view her comments.  

My students love Mo Williems and the "Pigeon" series books.  For the past 3 years, we have made a class book based on his work.  This is a glimpse inside our collaborative class book after I had read In Pictures and in Words.  I looked at the book from an entirely different perspective, and we focused on how Mo Williems used illustrations to give voice and tone to his books.  Here is our class version.  I always begin by using a mentor text to help support the concepts I am teaching.  The pigeon series books are developmentally appropriate for Kindergarten and 1st grade students to use as mentor texts to foster their love and skill of making books and using illustrations to support the text and tell the story.  We brainstormed a list of what we might not want the pigeon to do.  I charted the list together as a class.  We then voted on what our topic would be.  The students knew they would be using their Writer's Workshop time to create their own pigeon books, so this helped relieve any anxiety about their idea not being chosen.  Here is a picture of our list.
Brainstorming Ideas
Title Page that I illustrated.  
Upon reflection, I should have turned that over to the students.   Keep on reading and you will see why.  They were much more detailed in their illustrations:)
I love the point of view that these 2 students took as a view of our classroom.  It is as though you are looking down into our room.  They said that they want everyone to see how we sit at our tables.  Notice the table legs and the 3 hooks on each side of the table.  Those hooks are part of our table.  I was amazed at their detailed drawings.
What do you notice about this drawing?  These students drew the pigeon peering in from the side.  I asked why?  Their response - because he is trying to listen to what they are saying.  He is being sneaky.  We had actually discussed why the author sometimes placed only part of the pigeon within the readers' view.
We talked a lot about how illustrators use the eyes to show emotion.  Notice the pigeon's eye as he tries to suggest that they take a detour from Readers' Workshop and go to Walmart.  Raz-Kids is a computer program my students use for online reading.  See the computer in the background to support the text.  Also notice that speech bubbles also play an important part of this book.  We always discuss how some authors use speech bubbles to show conversation or add interesting details.

I love this picture.  What do you notice about the drawing ?  The clothes are on actual hangers like they would be in the store.  The pigeon is covered in snow to support that he is freezing.  
This little girl had just had a baby sister, so she could totally relate to stinky diapers.   At first I thought she drew a shopping cart, but upon listening to these students' explanation, that is actually a changing table with the baby on it.  The family is standing away saying, "Shoo, shoo!"  Pictures are such an important part of young children's stories.  We need to listen to why they drew the pictures instead of always saying, "Read me your story."  Look what I would have missed had I not been made aware of this.  Thank you Katie Wood Ray for confirming this for me.
This is actually an add on page by a student who struggles with writing.  He was wanting to show other things that were at Walmart that the pigeon might suggest.  The pigeon is looking at the meat counter.  Notice the pigeon if facing away from us and we are looking at a back view of the pigeon.  Meat is on the counter and in the shelves and there is a man behind the counter ready to help.
Do you recognize this illustration?  I didn't at first.  I wasn't paying close attention to the details of their interpretation of what Walmart looks like.  Those are the actual aisle shopping check out lanes with the numbers above each aisle.  Amazing.  I wouldn't have thought of that.
These little stinkers actually slipped in something to get back at me for being gone to the conference.  This is a drawing of our classroom with a view of the front part of our classroom.  Notice the right side at the top.  That is a whiteboard.  They wrote the name of the substitute who had taken my place while I was presenting at the North Carolina conference.  This little girl was not happy when I was gone.  Notice all of the details of our room.  The gray is our Smart Board with our Secret Story Phonics beside it.   They have included part of the whiteboard where the date is always written.  Three girls worked on this picture and I really enjoyed their conversations while illustrating this page.  Sometimes we must take the time to listen as they work.
Notice the point of view from the pigeon.  My students said that he kept popping in and out to try to talk the reader into taking the money.
Being persuasive takes on a whole new meaning here.  Smelly markers are a special treat in my class only used for interactive writing.  These students were really trying to make us say yes to the pigeon.  Notice the pigeon above.  I asked about this detail in their drawings.  Normally, I would have assumed the black part was an error or a cover up mistake. Their response - He is starting to get frustrated and is flapping his wings up and down like when we throw a fit with our parents and jump up and down.  The black is because he is doing it so fast. (Side bar:  We had role played what a fit looked like and of course my students' dramatic portrayal of their fits were very comical and most likely spot-on:)
What do you notice here?  I asked what is happening on this page?  Their response - The pigeon is starting to get more upset and is popping in and out of the book saying please.  Wow - That's a lot of "please" words but represented by pictures.  
Wow again!!!  Look at the pigeon's blood shot eyes and the steam coming off of his head.  He is also at different views on the page.  These boys said they wanted him to look like he was really upset that he wasn't getting to go to Walmart.  They said he was sooooo loud that everyone in the class had to cover their ears.  I will never ever forget this illustration.  There is power in their pictures and their words.
And we end our story with a more calm pigeon and a last view of our classroom.  You can tell my students love their Smart  Board:)  It is shown as black here with our Secret Story Phonics behind it.
I compared this version to my previous year's version, and I was amazed at the difference between the illustration details after I put Katie Wood Ray's book to practice in my classroom instruction.  

So how do I build stamina in getting my children to write?  Model, model, model my enthusiasm and do "Think Alouds about Illustrations" just like I do "Think Alouds" about the comprehension of text.  Validate the pictures in the story and give them many examples of mentor text to view and discuss.  Give your students time to draw and confirm their attempts at the story telling process.  Let them enjoy "making books."  A picture IS worth 1000 words.  

I referenced The Secret Stories by Katie Garner in my students' illustrations.  It is a FANTASTIC phonics' program.  For more information click (HERE).  For The Secret Stories Face Book page click (HERE).

Thanks for stopping by.  My next blog post will show a student sample of a pigeon book that happened during their individual writing time.  And you will LOVE her attention to details in her illustrations.  Feel free to leave comments, questions, or your thoughts about what you noticed.  


  1. I love how fun Mo William's books are. It is neat to see and read what your children are doing during writer's workshop with them. There are some great youtube videos with the pigeon that my students love. I am loving your blog... especially the songs and videos to go with them!

    1. My students love those youtube videos too! Are you referring to the one about "Don't Let the Pigeon be the Principal?" I am just wondering if you have others to share. Thanks for leaving comments and following my blog.

  2. Wow! I love your response and getting to see your students work. You are one of those amazing teachers the world needs more of. I'm so excited to be following your blog!
    Owl Things First

    1. Thanks Jenny! And thank you for following my blog. I am heading over to yours! Isn't it fun to find new blogs to read, especially during the summer months.

  3. What an amazing class book! You can tell that you have supported their decisions as illustrators when telling their story.

    Treasures for Teaching

    1. Thanks Monica! I am a HUGE Mo Willems fan. He is coming to Tulsa this fall and I plan on standing in a long line to see him. And I haven't ruled out dressing up as a chance to get in:)

  4. I love your class book! Thank you for linking up with me. I am looking forward to the next few chapters and what everyone has to share.

    Mrs. Wills Kindergarten

    1. Thank you for the opportunity to join in on your book discussion. From reading your blog post, looks like you were already a reader and believer of this book too. It was such a confirmation of what I already believed with guidance of where to go next. I keep it on my desk at school as an affirmation of the power of pictures. Can't wait to see more. Thanks for starting the list of sample books. I've been wanting to do that for quite a while. Now I can check one thing off my list:)

  5. Oh my goodness! Thank you for showing us your class book. I am so going to do this with this book. I was totally engaged in the story about the pigeon going to WalMart! Too funny. Thank you for sharing your actual product from your classroom.
    Carole Dawn

    1. Thanks Carole. Children are amazing aren't they? Their insights are priceless. Thanks for stopping by and have fun doing pigeon books next year. Looks like you teach kindergarten from your blogpost address. We have a lot of fun with these books. Last year, one choice was "Don't Let the Pigeon Use the Toilet!" I took digital pictures of my students holding their noses and made a power point story with all of their pictures and speech bubbles with "NO!" inside of them. We laughed and laughed and laughed. I taught kindergarten for 9 years before moving to 1st grade. Your kindergarten students will love making speech bubbles to go with these books.

  6. This is amazing! I always am thrilled to see the whole teaching of something as opposed to the writing about it in retrospect. Talk about walking your talk! Thank you for inspiring me. So glad to be following you now.

    1. Thanks Kimberly. I debated whether to include the whole story, but I am a visual learner. I thought it might help to show how the book impacted my teaching with my own students' illustrations. Thanks for choosing to follow my blog. I am honored. I can't wait to head over and check out your blog too.

  7. I love how you used the pigeons books.....I am totally doing this - Thank you!!
    Kindergarten Lifestyle

  8. Thanks for visiting my blog Jeannie:) Yay! Your students will love using the pigeon books as a mentor text. I also use Mo Williems "Elephant and Piggy" books too. Their facial expressions are priceless.