Slice of Life: Every Picture Tells a Story


On Thursday, I’ll be heading to Minneapolis for my third NCTE Annual Convention. The previous two conventions have energized and inspired me. It’s such a thrill to meet nationally known educators and authors. I’ve also had a great time meeting fellow Slicers, bloggers, and Twitter friends. This year, my anticipation is even greater because I’ll be presenting “Every Picture Tells A Story” during a poster session on Saturday morning.

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Many years ago, when I first read Keane & Zimmerman’s Mosaic of Thought (Heinemann, 1997) and Strategies that Work, by Harvey & Goudvis, I was inspired to find ways to provide my students with additional practice using comprehension strategies to develop their understanding of texts. I also realized that  many kids who struggle with decoding weren’t getting enough opportunities to utilize the strategies. They were exerting so much energy decoding, they had nothing left for the higher level thinking needed for a deep understanding of their reading.

So I began incorporating art into my reading instruction as a way to give kids with decoding difficulties chances to practice and feel successful with comprehension strategies. It was quickly apparent that all students would benefit from learning to “read” the art. I’ve used paintings and illustrations to help first graders develop their retelling skills and third graders practice inferring and drawing conclusions. WPA photographs were a huge help when sixth graders were building background knowledge before reading Bud, Not Buddy. The possibilities for using art and photographs in the classroom are endless.

Paintings, illustrations, and photographs are also perfect for close reading. Strategies spelled out in recent books such as What Readers Really Do: Teaching the Process of Meaning Making (2012), by Dorothy Barnhouse and Vicki Vinton, Falling in Love with Close Reading, by Christopher Lehman and Kate Roberts, and Notice & Note: Strategies for Close Reading, by Kylene Beers and Robert L. Probst can all be introduced and practiced using art. After gathering details and developing ideas, students can also work on incorporating details that support their thinking into their writing, something our students always find challenging.

Constructing meaning from visual images has grown in popularity over the past ten years or so. There are many books and articles that offer additional ideas and suggestions for incorporating  them into the curriculum. Later this week, I’ll be sharing some of these resources, as well as a lesson I recently taught in fifth grade.

Hope to see you in Minneapolis! Thank you to StaceyTaraDanaBetsyAnnaBeth, Kathleen, and Deb for this space for teachers and others to share their stories each Tuesday. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.


13 thoughts on “Slice of Life: Every Picture Tells a Story

  1. There is such power in pictures. I love that the less skilled reader has the opportunity to stretch their thinking by using a visual. I wish more teachers would embrace that thought. Too many don’t see it as “reading” work. Wish I could be in Minneapolis!


  2. I love it, Catherine! I am talking about art at NCTE too. I believe in arts infusion–that the arts and connecting to art, visual art, performance art, etc. helps students develop not only background knowledge about the world but also critical thinking power. Your slice inspired me this evening. Thank you. I hope to make it to your poster session.


  3. YEAH! You are coming to NCTE 15. I can’t wait to see you. Some of us are getting together on Thursday night after the General Session for dinner. Want to join? Also, there is a Scholastic dinner on Saturday night. Please come and join us there. You have to sign up with Scholastic for that. I am staying at the Hyatt. My roundtable is on Friday at 4. Margaret Simon and Holly Mueller from SOL 15 are part of my team.

    Images convey meaning so I must stop by your poster session. What time is it?


  4. Hearing about presentations like this make me wish I were attending NCTE this year. However, traveling last week reminded me that I’m not quite ready to schlep around a conference yet since I felt worse once I got home. Sorry I will be missing you. Next year in Atlanta!


  5. LOVE your raining blog! (Or is it snow? I wouldn’t know out here in sunny SO. Cal) LOVE that you’re looking forward to NCTE (last week) – how I wish I could have been there with you and everyone. All the blogs keep us close and connected. Gratitude!


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