Wordless Books and the Power of Words

Yesterday we embarked on a study of graphic novels in our classroom by reading Owly and Wormy Friends All Aflutter by Andy Runton.

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This picture book is a nice entry into the world of graphic novels for our young students–even though it may not technically fit into the definition of graphic novel.

Our students aren’t new to reading wordless books, last year we delighted in the wordless books of Flashilight and Inside Outside by Lizi Boyd (you can read about these adventures in a post by my teaching partner here).

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So there were no surprises yesterday when we began to read about Owly and Wormy.  Our older students were eager to “read” as we turned pages under the document camera, and it wasn’t long before our young students began to join in, volunteering their own readings.

Wordless books, and particularly those with a graphic format, allow confident readers to emerge–even if they are still struggling with decoding print.  Our students showed off their wealth of symbolic knowledge–recognizing that a four leaf clover in a speech bubble is a message of good luck and that a light bulb represents a new idea.

Imagine my delight when one of our first grade boys raised his hand…with two things to share. He quickly pointed out that this book was filled with verbs.  You might wonder what he was thinking…this is a wordless book.  But I knew that we had been working with vivacious verbs last week, using George Ella Lyon’s All the Water in the World and Thomas Locker’s Water Dance as mentor texts for this year’s first attempt at poetry.  As I asked this student about the verbs in the book, he pointed out that Owly and Wormy were reading, sleeping, planting…  It was obvious that he understands verbs!  (And I wish I had recorded the actual verbs he pointed out…they were better than my memory!)  I don’t remember the second thing he shared–it was relevant–but not as exciting as his noticing of verbs in a wordless book!

We’ll continue our study of graphic novels, focusing on the features as we connect back to Owly and Wormy and also to Julia’s House for Lost Creatures by Ben Hatke (a hybrid graphic novel/picture book that we read the first week of school to talk about what we needed to do to get along as a community).

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And we’ll take our study further as we explore Hatke’s latest graphic novel, The Little Robot as a class read aloud.

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The more I read wordless books and graphic novels, the more I am intrigued by the power of images and the resulting power of words that my students bring to our conversations about these rich, complex, and layered books.

What are your favorite wordless books and graphic novels to use with students?  For yourself?

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