Having just received my copy of (three time Caldecott winner) David Wiesner's new book, Mr. Wuffles, I started to think of how I could incorporate wordless picture books into my teaching and school visits. Students of all ages sometimes struggle to come up with ideas for a story, even if prompts and suggestions are given. A wordless picture book is one way to visually inspire a student to come up with a story based on the illustrations in the book. No two students will interpret the pictures and story in the exact same way.
Using a wordless picture book as a prompt, have your students write (or tell) about what they see happening in the pictures. Who are the main characters? Where is the story taking place? What challenges do the characters face and how are they eventually overcome? For older students, a vintage photograph, a travel shot, or picture from a garden magazine could be used in the same way to help stimulate story ideas.
Using an already written story (a familiar tale or a student created work) as a prompt, have students draw the story in pictures only. Challenge students to incorporate as many details of the story as they can--not only the physical traits of the characters and the setting, but the mood, emotion, and the interaction between characters based on what is happening. Have students share their wordless picture books with the class and ask other students tell the story as they see it. How closely does it match the author's vision? Even for older students, this can be a useful exercise to help develop a story before writing it down.
There are many wordless picture books to choose from, but some of my favorites are:
Flotsam, by David Wiesner
Tuesday, by David Wiesner
The Lion and the Mouse, by Jerry Pinkney
Unspoken: A Story from the Underground Railroad, by Henry Cole