Tag Archives: homeschool

The value in wordless books

My mom and I ventured to the library at least once a week. It was a tiny, two story building with the children’s books and story hour hidden upstairs. These were the days before people set up workstations at small libraries. Little research was done at this one. It was, simply, a lending library.

I recall the moms shushing their children. I’d like to think that I was as difficult to settle into quietness at this tiny library as my kids are at our much larger one.

When I think back to my time at the library, I remember only one book. A book I borrowed repeatedly. A book with pictures so splendid and engaging. A book so tiny it fit in my little hand and I could proudly carry it. I knew every word.

The book, mind you, was wordless. It’s likely now out of print, but oh! The story. It was about two little mice. I believe they were having a tea party, all dressed up. Or, perhaps they were on an adventure.

A wordless book? you wonder. What’s the point? How will children ever learn the value in reading if they’re holding and cherishing a book without words?

I was reminded of this a few days ago, when my 3-year-old picked up my first grader’s copy of Captain Underwear–a story told in comics. She couldn’t read a word on the page, but she sat for at least 15 minutes reading the story aloud. Her eyes followed the panels from left to right. She turned pages correctly. She added drama, vocabulary and meaning to each image. She created a story very different from the one my son reads the words to, but loved the story just as much. Maybe more.

Wordless picture books offer opportunity to help children learn through context. They learn to look closely at the images, deciphering the illustrator’s meaning. They learn tracking cues (where the eyes search and follow through a story). They learn about character development, plot, suspense. They become summarizers. Even better, they become storytellers.

Each year when I was teaching I’d hand my students a large packet. The top of each page was images of Tomie dePaola’s Pancakes for Breakfast. The bottom half of the page was blank lines. I asked the children to put their pencils away, find a comfortable spot in the room, and read the story. Many of the kids questioned me. How could they read? Why? But after 15 minutes, they were excited about the story they read.

Next, each child brainstormed the plot, the beginning, middle and end. They created a character description. They thought of alternative endings.

Finally, they wrote their stories. Only after everyone was finished did they share with each other.

Oh, how amazed they were at the differences! They had the same pictures, but such different ideas on each page!

Through wordless books, children learn the art of storytelling and unique thoughts.

7 great wordless picture books for your home library

Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie dePaola

Tuesday by David Wiesner

The Red Book by Barbara Lehman

Chalk by Bill Thomson

Home by Jeannie Baker

Sector 7 by David Weisner

The Chicken Thief (Stories Without Words) by Beatrice Rodriguez

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Writing workshop at home

kids writing

Over the summer, one of the fastest and biggest areas of academics to slip is writing skills. The area of writing depends so much on reading that if reading skills fall, writing will fall even more. So it’s helpful to sneak in writing workshop at home, and it’s not too hard to do sneak it in without kids even realizing it.

6 ways to sneak writing skills into your child’s routine

Make lists

With a million things going on at any one time, I know it helps me to make lists of things I need to do, the same can (and often should) be done with children. Work with your child to sequence a things to do list into an order that simplifies natural steps. A very basic example that we write every day after camp:

  1. Unpack backpack
  2. Put dirty swim gear into laundry room
  3. Unpack lunch bag
  4. Pack lunch for tomorrow
  5. Choice-time!
    1. Sprinklers and swingset time
    2. Chalk drawing
    3. Play quietly in your room

Sequencing is a key to organized writing and helps with summary skills as well. Making sequencing a part of your child’s day helps him understand how order works in life.

Ask about your child’s top 3 highlights

After an activity or a day at camp, ask your child what his three favorite things were that he did or learned. Asking your child for information such as this helps him to recall his day and sort through the main ideas and supporting details. If he loved skipping rocks in the pond, but not falling into the pond, he’s finding that a supporting detail is imperative to his story.

Lead by example

Every night at dinner, we ask each other about our days and offer brief summaries. Depending on a child’s level of maturity, a summary might be a lists “and then we…”  or it could be three highlights (see above). When it’s your turn, don’t just say “I had a good day” and move on to the next child, offer the supporting details to explain why your day was so good. Your child will cue in to your patterns and attempt to adapt his summaries.

Brainstorm a list of things to do

One of my favorite Pinterest boards lists dozens of Summer Bucket Lists. Bucket lists offer many unique writing and learning opportunities: they help to set goals, they offer ideas when you have “nothing to do” and they help to create a sense of purpose to your summer. But when created together as a family, a summer bucket list offers a great opportunity to re-learn the concept of brainstorming individually and as a group as well as listening and taking turns–all imperative skills for children in school.

Mandatory Writing Time

Many families work mandatory reading time into their days year round. But do you also include mandatory writing time? Help your children to make a journal, or just pick a favorite notebook, and encourage your kids to journal about their summer days or weeks. Younger kids can draw pictures to illustrate their activities while older can begin to write poems and stories.

Play games, sing songs

Kids love playing games and, often, never realize what great opportunities games offer. Just the other night, the kids brought home a song from day camp and started singing. I encouraged them to change the words and for the next hour we were singing new poems that made us giggle with delight. We were rhyming, brainstorming and keeping rhythm, too, all writing skills.

Sit around the table and each add a line to a story creates a story in the round. Using Rory’s Story Cubes – Original and Actions* gives creators prompts and challenges them to adjust a normal story. There are countless ways to play with them!

How does your family incorporate writing skills into their daily routine?

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Summer bucket list found at http://blog.landofnod.com/honest-to-nod/2011/07/ambition.html