Picture This

Saturday, August 10, 2013
by your curly-headed friend, Suzanne

Picture a classroom where students are hovered around vying to see the page.  
Picture having to play referee when another group "stole" the book they wanted.
Picture a blur of pleasant colors and sweet tales of a dog and her ball.

Don't get me wrong.  My kids don't ride into class on unicorns.  The above scenario is achievable because my kids are...well...kids.  No matter the age group or ability level, students don't grow out of their love for picture books.  Shoot- I've spend many an hour perusing them at my local Barnes & Noble!  They will revert to their childlike ways and beg you to read to them, grumbling if they didn't get a sufficient view of the picture.

Why not turn this enjoyment into engagement?  Picture books are a great way to build reading skills and a more palatable way to prepare for Short Answer Questions.  

For more on how we approach Short Answer Questions, click here.

Lori and I have some great friends.  One such friend is Kay Shurtleff with the Region 10 ESC.  She came to our campus and did a training on how to use picture books with SAQs.  The following titles and questions are credited to her.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!

We worked with picture books during our summer acceleration to prepare for the July STAAR administration.  Students were eager to hold and read through each book.  The content was not intimidating, so we could really focus on building the skill.  The first title we read was...
Raschka, Christopher. A Ball for Daisy. New York: Schwartz & Wade, 2011. Print.
This wordless book features Daisy the dog in a story about love and loss.  This type of text forces students to look beyond the text (or lack there of) and focuses in on how natural it is to make certain inferences.
Possible SAQs: How is the theme of loss important in this story? How can you tell the two dogs are friends?

Reynolds, Peter. The North Star. Somerville, MA: Candlewick, 2009. Print.
This is a story of a boy on a journey where he learns he must find his own way.  There is a clear literal and figurative meaning.  This emphasizes that even when there are words, they don't say everything.
Possible SAQs: What does the journey symbolize? What is one important symbol in this story? How is the idea of change important in this story?

Rosenstock, Barbara, and Mordicai Gerstein. The Camping Trip That Changed America: Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir, and Our National Parks. New York, NY: Dial for Young Readers, 2012. Print.
This historical fiction book tells the story of Theodore Roosevelt's camping trip with John Muir which led to the establishment of national parks.
Possible SAQs: Why did the author write this piece? How did Theodore Roosevelt change during this story? What is one similarity between Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir?

These are titles that my campus purchased class sets of.  Being the picture book lover that I am, I might have purchased a few (okay 16) more titles to use in class.  Now you might be feeling a little jipped because this is only a few titles, not the 10 that you were promised. Well, I think I can make it up to you.  For the 16 titles, I typed up color coded labels with scaffolded SAQs for each book.  Again these questions came from Kay during our Region 10 training.  This way students (in theory) can choose a book and complete a question independently as an extension or extra credit.  Green questions are easier; blue are more difficult.  You can download the free set here.  They are formatted to fit Avery 48863 labels (Avery 5163 Template).  

Check back for more SAQ tips and tricks on Tuesday.

Now you've got the picture!


  1. I LOVE the idea of this activity! Just to clarify, you did this with high school age students?
    I also teach 10th grade ELA and am loving your blog.
    Thanks so much for all the great ideas.

    1. Thank you so much for reading and commenting! We used the three books featured in the post for the first week of our STAAR Reading acceleration this summer. These session had 9th and 10th graders combined.
      If you're interested, email me at thecurlyclassroom@gmail.com, and I'll send you our picture book lesson plans for that week.