Tuesday, May 26, 2009

How Can A Picturebook Be Used To Teach Reading?

My friend & colleague, Ann Fiala, keeps telling me much she likes The Angry Thunderstorm. Well, of course I liked hearing that.

Lately, she's also been telling me how much she appreciates The Angry Thunderstorm as an instructional tool. My first response (as a non-educator) was, Say that again. I'm glad you like it. I'm glad you are telling others about it. BUT, explain to me how it can be an instructional tool!
How can a picturebook be used to teach reading?

You may recall that Ann is the founder of Reading Instruction Co. She works with schools, districts, and state education departments all over the country to improve reading instruction. She seems to really know her stuff, so I waited patiently for her answer. Knowing how excited Ann gets when she starts talking about teaching reading, I expected a fairly verbose response. Here's what I learned...

A picturebook can be effectively used to teach reading to students of all ages. Paula Parkinson, a high school teacher, used The Angry Thunderstorm to review the literary elements before the final exam with her English I students recently. Some of the 9th graders who had been struggling with the entire concept of personification finally got it after they connected the text with the illustrations.The brevity of a picturebook works well in a 50 minute class period!

Fifth graders read the book to increase their fluency skills. First, they read it silently (checking with a partner or the teacher about pronunciation and/or meaning when they encountered unknown words). Then the teacher assigned Book Buddies and each pair of students read it aloud, taking turns with each page. They switched pages and read it to each other again. Then, they timed each student orally read the entire story. Wow, it was fun to read. There are lots of different ways to "say" those words (like R-r-r-r-o-a-r-r-r-r).

Kindergarten students loved listening to the text and carefully looking at each of the illustrations.
Three times, they begged, Please read it again? The teacher decided to record the book and let the students "read" the book while they listen to it at the Listening Center.

Well, Ann could have kept on telling me more ways a picturebook, especially this picturebook, can be used as an instructional tool; but, I finally said, I get it, I get it. The Angry Thunderstorm is a great story with wonderful illustrations, but when it helps kids become better readers, it is an instructional tool.

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