Interactive Read Aloud: How Do Illustrations Add to Our Understanding of the Story?

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This week my third graders and I are taking a deeper look at STORIES, particularly at the clues that illustrations give us about the setting, the characters, and the plot. I was looking for picture books that would generate thoughtful discussion–fortunately we had a book fair last week, so I had several brand spankin new picture books! After reading Mr. Tiger Goes Wild! with the kiddos, it was obvious that this one was a perfect fit for the discussion I wanted.

How Do Illustrations Add to Our Understanding of the Story

Learning Goal: I can explain how illustrations add to what is written in a story.

Key Questions:

What clues do the illustrations give about the characters?

What clues do the illustrations give about the setting?

What clues do the illustrations give about the plot? (Can you make predictions based on the illustrations?)

FYI, these are the ELA Common Core Standards for Reading: Literature that this lesson meets:

1st Grade: RL 1.7 Use illustrations and details in a story to describe its characters, setting, or events.

2nd Grade: RL 2.7 Use information gained from the illustrations and words in a print or digital text to demonstrate understanding of its characters, setting, or plot.

3rd Grade: RL 3.7 Explain how specific aspects of a text’s illustrations contribute to what is conveyed by the words in a story (e.g., create mood, emphasize aspects of a character or setting).

We started by talking about our learning goal {I can explain how illustrations add to what is written in a story}.

QUESTION: What clues can we find to help us understand the CHARACTERS, especially Mr. Tiger?Mr. Tiger Goes Wild!Student responses included . . .

  • Mr. Tiger has his eyes open and everyone else has them closed.
  • The colors are dull except for Mr. Tiger.
  • Everyone looks posh.
  • Most of the animals are herbivores (I was so delighted with this observation by several of my students!). Mr. Tiger is different because he is a carnivore. Maybe this makes him more wild.

QUESTION: What clues can we find to help us understand the SETTING?

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild!

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild!We looked at many pictures throughout the book, and made the following observations:

  • He lives in a town or city.
  • It is very dull colored and boring at the beginning.
  • Guesses as to which city it might be included: New York City, Paris, and London. The kids guessed these cities mostly because of the pigeons. 🙂

QUESTION: What clues can we find to help us understand the PLOT?

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild!

The previous page says that Mr. Tiger has a wild idea . . . and then we turn to the picture of Mr. Tiger walking on all fours. No words. Just an illustration showing us what his wild idea was. I read it once without showing the picture (the kids agreed that there was missing information) and then again, this time showing them all the pictures. They understood so much more! (Just the learning moment I was looking for! ZING!)

Then we compared these two illustrations: one of Tiger being wild in the city and one of Tiger being wild in the wilderness. How are they the same? How are they different?

Wild Ideas 1Wild Ideas 2

Reading and talking about this book was a BLAST! The children were riveted. Success! Thanks to Peter Brown and Mr. Tiger.

What kinds of questions do you ask during read aloud?

why books?

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Some of my first memories involve books–turning pages with tiny hands, pouring over pictures, hearing my mother read those stories over and over until I could tell them too. Words became a way to engage with the world, a way to make meaning at a time when everything was new. Do we ever really out-grow stories?

We are surrounded by them: newsfeeds, status updates, conversations, and articles. They make their way to us in texts, tweets, 6 second sound bytes. We are filled up with stories. We are motivated by them; we thrive on the details of people’s lives (fictional or our neighbors). Stories harness our emotional abilities–to empathize, to wonder, to respond. And stories satisfy our rational side–to question, to piece together, to infer.

Countless conversations with my husband start with, “So I read this article today . . .” and the story comes bubbling out. Because something deep compels me to add meaning to the story by making it a shared experience. Reading anything alone is nice. Reading with someone I respect and love is better. And reading with my roudy group of third graders is magic.

Really. Magic. As in, something that cannot be quantified or fully explained. Right now we are reading Matilda together (I’ll be talking about her more in later posts . . . can’t help it!) and with each new group of kids it is a completely new experience. The funny bits are funnier with 24 kiddos giggling along. The sad parts are sadder as you try to make sense of it. And even though we are all wrapped up in our own lives, for those few minutes we enter the same world. We step onto the same emotional page, and ride out the story–together.

As a reader, as a teacher, as a sister, as a wife, and one day as a mother, I believe in celebrating stories.

What will follow on this blog is a string of stories, new books and old books, that strike a chord in me. And I can’t help but want to make that story a thousand times better by sharing it . . . with you.