Inferring A Wordless Picture Book - Day 1 of 2

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SWBAT infer the major events in a wordless picture book and be able to retell the story on a graphic organizer using transition, or temporal words.

Big Idea

Do you think wordless picture books are for babies? Well guess again! We are going to have to infer in order to understand these complex stories.

Teacher Background Knowledge and Preparation

I have found that inferring is a complex skill for any reader.  Just because my students are in first grade doesn't mean I'm going to shy away from teaching this skill.  Yes, inferring is challenging for my students, but what I've found this year is that they are always willing to meet a challenge head on. 

I've wanted to include several lessons on inferring with the Master Teacher Project because it is a skill that accomplished readers do well in order to comprehend.  To see my other lessons on inferring click here and here

A great way to help your students infer is to utilize wordless picture books in your classroom.  If you think these books are for babies, think again.  Our gifted and talented coach introduced me to "The Red Book" by Barbara Lehman.  This is an incredibly complex book and one he uses with his gifted and talented students.  I decided I would use this with my advanced students. 

For this activity you will need to pre-plan how many work groups you will have.  You will want to make your groups so some of your strugglers will be with your average or  advanced students.  You will want to make enough flow maps Wordless Stories Inferring Using Temporal Words Flow Maps and list of transition or temporal word charts List of Transition or Temporal Words for each of your students.  You will also want to get enough wordless picture books for each group that you have as well as an extra one for you to model with.

To give you some ideas, these are the books that I used for this lesson:

  • "Tuesday" by David Weisner
  • "The Red Book" by Barbara Lehman
  • "Journey" by Aaron Becker
  • "Rainstorm" by Barbara Lehman
  • "Chalk" by Bill Thompson
  • "Sector 7" by David Weisner
  • "Mr. Wuffles" by David Weisner
  • "Trainstop" by Barbara Lehman

Today's lesson is long and you may choose to break the lesson up to meet your needs.  I taught this in the last few days of the quarter and we had wrapped everything else up that we needed to so I decided that even though it was a long lesson, we could still accomplish it in one day.

Guided Practice (We Do)

35 minutes

I called all my students to the carpet to sit in front of the Smartboard.  I sat in my teacher chair and started with my objective.  I said, "Today we are going to be doing another inferring lesson.  Remember, the author won't always tell the reader everything.  Sometimes, authors leave things for readers to figure out.  Today we are going to infer a book.  None of these books today have any words so we are going to have to infer everything.  After we infer and discuss our story, we are going to sequence the story using transition, or temporal words.  We will sequence our stories using a flow map."  Then I told the students that we were going to practice a story together and I would model what they needed to do so when it was their turn, they would know exactly what to do.

I read the title and author and then I started to show the different pages.  I would ask the class, "What's going on here?  Do you agree with what so and so said? What do you think?"  We had a really rich class conversation.  I've worked a great deal on accountable talk with my classroom and the kids did a great job using their accountable talk during this time.  Some of my students would say, "I respectfully disagree."  Then they would say what they thought.  At other times students would say, "I agree with what they said, but I want to add something."  Then they would add their point to the discussion.  I could really tell the students were listening to each other and we had a good time with the story (it really is a fun, silly story).

After reading the story, I took out my flow maps and actually taped them onto the Smartboard.  There are many times when I will model on the Smartboard, but today I wanted to show the students how all the pages on the flow map went together.

I modeled the first box using a think aloud.  I said, "I'm going to have to tell my reader what book I read, who the author is, and that I had to infer the whole book because there weren't any words in the book."  Then I wrote in my first box, "I read the book 'Tuesday' by David Weisner.  I had to infer the whole book because there weren't any words in the book."

I continued to model as I filled out the rest of the flow map.  I showed the students how to use the temporal words from their sheet and how to write them on the top line above the box.  Then I modeled how to fill in the event in the box.  I said to the students, "I only want you to tell me the important events.  We can't write every event in our flow map."  I couldn't video tape myself as I was modeling so I made a quick screencast that gives you an idea of how I modeled my story for my class Modeling Flow Map- Inferring a Wordless Picture Book.mp4.

When I was done modeling I said to my students.  "I am going to put you in groups. Your group will get a new wordless picture book of your own. Do you think you will be able to discuss the story and then use a flow map to sequence the events in your story using temporal words?"   The students were really excited and I heard a chorus of, "Yes!"

Inferring and Discussing Our Stories

20 minutes

After I had told the students what groups they were in and gave them their own wordless picture books, they set to work. The students had to "read" and discuss their wordless picture books,  and infer what is going on in their story in preparation to complete their own flow maps in the next part of the lesson. 

I encouraged the students to discuss the book as much as possible.  Children are very oral creatures to begin with and I really want to encourage the use of oral language in my classroom.  This took about 20 minutes or so and that's just fine.  I felt that they more they discussed the story as a group, the better chance they would have at comprehending the story.

You can see the great discussions that my groups were having by viewing the video here: Discussing and Inferring Our Stories.mp4

Summarizing and Sequencing The Major Events Using Temporal Words

25 minutes

I passed out the flow maps to students and  said, "Now you are your group are going to retell only the important parts of the story.  When we retell a story and only tell the important events, it is called summarizing.  You are going to summarize and sequence the events in the correct order using your temporal words just like we did together with "Tuesday". Remember, you can use the words then and after that more than once if you need to.  You also have your choice to use Last or Finally for your last box.  Does anyone have any questions before we begin?"

I circulated around the room, helping when needed.  I am always willing to help my students if they need it, but I am trying to move them towards independence in many ways, so I tried to get out of their way and just let them work. Students actually went back into the story and decided which were the most important events to write about.  They summarized the story by writing the events in their stories using their temporal words on their flow maps.

You can see how my students did by watching the video here: Sequencing and Summarizing Our Stories.mp4.  You can also see an example of my student's work here: Student Work - Inferring a Wordless Picture Book.mp4 .


3 minutes

It had been a really long lesson so I wanted my closure to be short and sweet.  I asked my students questions such as "What did we do today?  What does it mean when we summarize?  What does it mean when we sequence?  What are some words that help to tell the reader that we are sequencing?" Short closures can still be effective even if its just going back and reiterating what your objectives for the lesson were.