Friday, June 29, 2012

Supporting Children's Illustrations as Writing Details

I am continuing the book study on In Pictures and In Words by Katie Wood Ray today. Mrs. Wills is leading the discussion this week so click (HERE) to link up with other bloggers who have joined.  This week is on Chapter 7 Ideas and Content.  Here are writing samples from a student who was in my class.  I will use her book to highlight some of the things that I learned about supporting Ideas and Content from In Pictures and In Words.  And as a side note:  If we are teaching young children, we have to model, model, model in our own writing along with giving them mentor text to support these concepts.  Will you see all of the concepts that you teach in every single illustration?  No.  But you will begin to notice that it becomes a natural integration as they master each concept.  We cannot expect young children to independently use all of these strategies: but instead, they should start trickling out of their illustrations.  You should have "Ah Ha" moments as a teacher and also smile when you see them using a technique that has been modeled as you "Think Aloud" about the author's choice of illustrations and technique.

Student's Explanation:  The pigeon is really hungry and is staring at the breakfast on the table.  He wants to find a way to get to the table so he is thinking about sneaking under the table to get it.
My Thinking:  This student was a reluctant writer.  When I sat down to conference with her, she did not want to write any words.  Since our focus was on the illustrations, she had a good start.  I just opted to write the title for her to take the emphasis off of something that was intimidating for her.  Sometimes children need minimal supports to get the motivation to write.  One of those is the freedom to draw what they are thinking in pictures.  Notice how the pigeon is facing away from the reader and looking towards the focal point of the food.  Starting the initial writing is the hardest.  How do I know?  Starting the writing of my blog is the hardest for me.  Once I get going, it's easy.
Student's Words:  Can I eat breakfast?  No. No.
Student's Explanation:  He is thinking if he tries from the sides of the table, he can get breakfast.
My Thinking: I love this choice of directionality in illustrations.  In the title page the pigeon is facing forward looking in and from below the picture.  This student decided to have the pigeon try to take the breakfast from a different angle.  This is something I wouldn't have noticed had I not been in tune from just reading In Pictures and in Words.  

Student's words:  Can I have some juice?  No. No. No. But I am so so thirsty. No. No. No. No. No. No.
My Comments:  This picture seemed random to me.  So I asked, "Why did you choose to make the illustrations in this way?"  Try to leave your questioning open ended so you can get the full impact of their drawings.  Sometimes when we guess what they draw, we take the words away from them.  Or we only focus on their text and negate that details can be in the illustrations to support our text.
Student's Explanation:  The pigeon is up above (look at the top of the page - barely in view) and he is so thirsty that's how many juices it would take.
My Thinking:  This page takes on a whole new perspective of just how thirsty this pigeon is.  I really started to believe that maybe I should just give the pigeon some juice myself:)

Student's Words:  Can I have a egg at the dinner table?
Student's Explanation:  The pigeon wants to eat at the dinner table because that is where you go to sit down with your family.  It is nice to do that.
My Thinking:  Awww!  I felt a little guilty with this one.  How many times had my family sat down at the dinner table to eat that week.? We are always in a rush. I forget "It is nice to sit down at the table and have conversations." And her eggs look pretty good to me:)

Reluctant writers find the pigeon series books a great support.  Sometimes, "No means NO!"
Student's Words:  Can I eat bacon for dinner?
Student's Explanation:  Sometimes my family has breakfast at dinner.
My Thinking:  Mmmm!  We do too!
My Ah Ha Moments:  This student was a reluctant writer. She is building her stamina by starting with her illustrations first to support her text.  I have validated her illustrations and details a different way this time.  She is writing.  Food for thought (no pun intended):  By looking at writing through Katie Wood Ray's lens, I was empowering a reluctant writer to write and teaching her how to use illustrations in a different way to support the text!

Student's Words:  Did you let the pigeon eat break(fast)?  NO.
My Thinking:  When I sat down to conference with her for the last time on this book, I was surprised that there weren't any pictures.  But wait!  Look closely and you can tell there are illustrations on the back of the page.  Hmmm . . . Wonder why?  Keep reading:)

Student's Words:  I want some breakfast.
Student's Explanation:  He is sad.  He is outside the house now.  He is looking in the windows and really wanted that breakfast.
My Thinking:  How cool is that?  She put her illustration on the back of the page instead of getting a new page.  It's like the pigeon is really on the outside of the book looking in!  She used the concept of making the pigeon larger to bring him to the front of the page with the house in the background.  She is making a great attempt to have windows to show that he was looking inside the house and turns around to make one more attempt with the reader to give him "some breakfast."  No, the table is not in the window but rather below it.  To her that is how you draw that concept.  With time, she will understand those artistic techniques.  But WOW!!! My reluctant writer wrote a fantastic story supported with illustrations that are detailed for an emergent writer.  And guess what,  her stamina for writing and  to write more continued throughout the year.
My Ah Ha Moments:  Teachers need to continually evaluate their teaching practices.  We need to search for professional books that support and challenge our current thinking about what writing is.  We need to go with that natural "gut" instinct on what is developmentally appropriate for young children.  Reading is FUN!  Making books is FUN! In Pictures and in Words does just that.  Now imagine this student's story if I had taken away her choice to use markers, color, and illustrations.  
And here is one of my favorite "almost wordless" picture books to show illustrations.  It is absolutely beautiful.

The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney.  Click (Here) to see the book on Amazon and for a look inside the book.  You could teach so many "ideas" for illustrating on every page.  We look at the book as a whole, but also as individual pages.    My students say, "Awww! Oooohhhh!  He is a great illustrator."  I agree!

Thanks for stopping by!  If you haven't purchased In Pictures and In Words yet, it's not too late.


  1. My students love the pigeon books. I love the illustrations your children made. So cute! Thanks for sharing.

    The Very Busy Kindergarten

    1. Thanks for stopping by my blog Sue. (That's my middle name!) Mo Williems is the BEST!!! I could look at children's writing samples all day. Refection is the cornerstone of good teaching. You have to understand where they are to guide where they are going next.

  2. Mo Willems...Gotta love that guy! I'm making a mental note to scan in more of my student's work next year. I love looking at your student's work and your interpretation...Thanks for sharing.

    Owl Things First

    1. Yes Mo Williems inspires me to teach children to read and write. I think of him as the next Dr. Seuss:) I always take pictures of my students' work, especially when there are teaching and reflection points in the work. We get so busy during the day that it is hard to reflect at that moment in time. If the pictures are on my cell phone, I can reflect anytime - anywhere. Like waiting and waiting and waiting at the doctor's office or waiting and waiting and waiting in line at Walmart. (Did that last night!)

  3. Whoa! I love this post. I had to read it slowly so I could take it all in. Then I went back and reread it. I love your juice box example. Sometimes if I just look at the picture it seems totally unrelated, but then where I hear the explanation, I am blown away.

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! for linking up.

    (BTW: Yesterday I had an in depth conversation with someone about Mo... I TOTALLY thought about you and last week's post. I was glad to see his influence again!)

    Mrs. Wills Kindergarten

    1. Thanks Deedee! I am honored by your comments. I love your blog and your work. LOL! Yes, I do write a lot! I write like I talk:) Thanks for starting the book study and for allowing us to link up. And who says teachers don't do anything over the summer? BTW, I see you are from Missouri. I presented for SDE (Staff Development for Educators) at the Missouri Conference for Kindergarten Teachers last year at Osage Beach and have many relatives in the Springfield - Branson area. I am attending the Vegas Blog Meet Up, so I will get to meet you:) Looks like it is going to be a HUGE event.

  4. you make me want to be back in the classroom today so i can see what my kids create! your blog is such a support and inspiration to me. thank you for showing the real life examples to what we are reading. you rock. i am going to have to get all the MO books now. come by and say hi if you get the chance. can't wait to see what you post next.
    Carole Dawn

  5. Thanks for stopping by Carole. And my oh my summer is going by so very fast. We will be back with our little ones very soon! I am glad you like the children's examples. Read my response to Owls Things First for why I take pictures of my students work. I will stop by and see you:)

  6. I really enjoy reading your posts, Kathy. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. I am giving you the Versatile Blogger Award. Stop by my blog to pick it up.

  7. I saw that Connie gave you an award, so I came by to say hello. Thanks for letting me follow!
    ❀ Tammy
    Forever in First

  8. Hello!! I have enjoyed checking out your blog and I am a new follower. I have also given your blog an award. Congratulations! Come check it out at my blog at Teaching Through Turbulence

    Heather S.

  9. Hi! I'm not sure how far away you are from OKC but I wanted to invite you to the Okie Blogger Meet-up just in case you're close enough to attend! Come by my blog to see the details:

    Jennifer @ Herding Kats in Kindergarten