Attending to Text Features: Illustrations
Pictures attract readers’ attention from the very first time a parent sits down to read a story out loud. In some texts, pictures serve as a cue for emergent readers still learning that letters and sounds have a correspondence and that those correspondences are a foundation for reading. In other stories, like one of the examples in this section, the pictures themselves tell the stories. When pictures or illustrations are present, readers who learn to pay attention to particular attributes of the text and the artwork can make predictions about what happens next as they move from page to page.
Years ago, in The Read-Aloud Handbook, Jim Trelease (1982) noted that picture books without words allow students to become familiar with the world of books, to imagine a world suggested by the pictures, and develop the idea of how stories progress. Although he is adamant about the idea that picture books serve a useful purpose for readers of all ages, Trelease states, “A good story is a good story, whether it has pictures or not.” (2006, pp. 64-65).
Learning to Predict
- Call students’ attention to the pictures pointing out what attributes of the picture contribute to the story.
- Ask students to fit picture cues with textual cues. Dechant (1991) suggests that early readers learn both word recognition and comprehension skills from attending to picture cues. When a young reader in the early stages of reading development encounters an unknown word, the teacher should help the reader identify important cues including explicit references to the pictures surrounding the text.
- When reading a picture book, the teacher may employ a strategy we have adapted for predictions. It is simply called “How do you know?” (Richards & Anderson, 2003). During a read aloud, the teacher stops at a place calling for a prediction. The students will respond after which the teacher asks them, “Does the author say that?” When the students say, “No,” the teacher follows up by asking them why they think their prediction will be accurate. Students are prompted to refer to all the cues. In using pictures, graphs, and charts, the teacher may ask students to refer to the graphic before responding by asking “Are there any pictures (or charts, etc.) that give you some clues?
Applications and Examples
Elementary Classroom. Barbara Dynes teaches fourth grade and she uses picture books to help students learn to predict and learn homophones. At first, she introduces a few homophones like ore and oar and explores with the students that the words sound the same but have different meanings. She points out that a spell-checker in many word processing programs often will not catch a homophone that is used incorrectly. Then, she brings out the wordless picture book, Eye Spy: A Mysterious Alphabet (Bourke, 1991). In each picture, students must attend to cues that advance the mystery. As they work through the book, they become increasingly proficient at recognizing the cues that make a prediction for the next letter possible. Ms. Dynes’ lesson overview can be found in Figure 1.1.
Secondary Classroom. United States History teacher Matt Duggan also uses illustrations and pictures to guide his students’ predictions. During their examination of the industrial revolution, Mr. Duggan displayed a number of photos from this period in history. After considering a number of the pictures, Mr. Duggan asked students to talk with a partner about what they saw and what they could predict might be some of the problems the people would encounter. Walking around the room, Mr. Duggan heard a number of comments, including:
Tynesia: They look all dirty. They’re gonna have problems with keeping clear and well.
Ricky: It’s so crowded and dirty. Look at that one (points to a crowded factory). Those people don’t have room.
James: The machines look so old. I’ve heard about this – they mangled people. Arms got ripped off and stuff. These machines were wicked.
Mr. Duggan was pleased with the discussions his students were having related to the illustrations and photographs. He knew that their predictions about the issues at hand would serve them well in building the necessary background knowledge they would need to understand the texts they would be reading. He also noted that none of the partners talked about the age of the people in some of the photos. He asked the class a more pointed question. “Take a look again at the photos and illustrations around the room. You’re seeing a lot of great stuff that will really help you comprehend the texts we’re going to read and the unit overall. What I’m wondering about is the ages of people you’re seeing in some of the visuals. Look at the kids. Why are there so many kids in the photos? What do you think that is about?”
After the students talked with their partners for a few minutes, Mr. Duggan interrupted them and introduced the idea of child labor. He talked for a few minutes about the ages of workers and how this has changed over time. He also showed a short film clip about child labor during the industrial revolution and asked his students to consider the spoken text of the film and the images. He knew that using visuals to build background knowledge by asking students to make predictions ensured their attention and learning.
Figure 1.1 In her own words: Barbara Dynes, Etiwanda, California, Etiwanda Elementary School District.
Lesson Overview: Learning to Predict with Homophones
Use the book, Eye Spy: Mysterious Alphabet by Bourke (1991). This text will allow you to teach homophones but through a unique text feature—a foreshadowing through illustrations that allow readers to predict what is to come.
- Have students sit nearby so the pictures can be easily seen.
- Tell students that they will use picture clues to solve puzzles about homophone riddles, and there is also a clue hidden in the last illustration on each right-hand page. That clue will lead to the next letter’s puzzle. See Figures II-1.2a and 1.2b
- Turn to the page that displays “A” and while pointing at each illustration say “ant, ant, ant, aunt.” You may want to write these on a dry-erase board so students see the differences in spelling.
- Ask students “Who can guess what the next illustration will be?”
- Hints can be given and will probably be necessary for the first few pages. The aunt’s necklace includes a picture of two bowling pins, the subject of the page for the letter “B.”
- After the entire book is completed, review the book once again with the students calling out each illustration as the teacher points at each one.
- The teacher asks for more examples of homophones and records them on the board.
- At this point, the students select a pair of homophones and illustrate both meanings on a paper which has been folded in half. A class book can be assembled from the students’ work.