Wondering Aloud With Wordless Picture Books

Hello Royal Readers!

It is a quiet and reflective Jennifer from Stories and Songs in Second  here tonight to share a few ideas I've gleaned from the wise and innovative Tanny McGregor.  This post is shorter and more succinct than my usual, but writing it has helped remind me of the importance of talking less and listening more during my teaching.

About two months ago, my fellow Lit Land friends, Carla from Comprehension Connections and Em from Curious Firsties, recommended McGregor's creative, artifact-rich, anchor chart-driven, sensory-based thinking strategy lessons to me, and I have been reading her books with reverence ever since.

In Chapter 5 of Comprehension Connections: Bridges to Strategic Reading, McGregor reminds us that we must make our classrooms a safe place for children to be naturally curious.  That we must take the time to let them just wonder about stories and poems and songs.

That we must encourage them to turn and talk to each other, and carry on conversations that are full of questions about what they are going to read and experience, or what they have already read and experienced.  That we as teachers must stop doing all the asking, and encourage our students to formulate inquiries that begin with these words.....

  • How?
  • Where?
  • When?
  • Can?
  • Is?
  • Does?
  • Could?
  • Would?
  • Who?
  • Whose?
  • Did?
  • What?
  • If?

Tomorrow, as suggested by McGregor,  I will dig out rolls of adding machine tape from my supply cupboard, and use them as never-ending "question scrolls" for my students to write on before, during, and after I share two of Molly Idle's wonderful, whimsical, and wordless picture books, Flora and the Flamingo and Flora and the Penguin.

We will "talk back" to the pages as I turn them, not raising our hands to be called on, but just wondering and observing out loud about these two stories, where unlikely friendships are revealed through delightful illustrations hidden behind pull-down and peek-a-boo paper flaps .

We will use our own voices to describe, explain, add words,  and wonder out loud.  We will link what we already know to what we've learned with thinking stems like......
  • I wonder...
  • What if...
  • How could....
  • But why....
We will cover a giant "Q" drawn on chart paper with Post-it notes that we've filled with questions we have about the characters and events in each story.   We will honor the fact that questions help us do three important things as readers....
  • Before reading, they make us open our minds about the text and want to dig deeper.
  • During reading, they help us understand the text.
  • After reading, they keep us thinking about what we've read and help us connect it to our lives, other books we've read, or the world.
We might even set some of the questions we generate to music, in the form of a piggyback song! Maybe we will write lyrics about Flora and her friends, and set them to the familiar tunes of
This Old Man.  Maybe we will snap or clap or dance or twirl or skate (in sock feet on sheets of wax paper across the carpet) while we sing.  Maybe our original composition will look and sound something like this (as set to the tune of  I've Been Working On The Railroad.  It will most certainly make a joyful noise!

I wonder what Flora's thinking,
as she skates across the ice!
Do you think that Flora's thinking
that the penguin will be nice?

Will he be a better skater?
Do you think he will be her friend?
Can she even really help him?
How will the story end?

If any part of this post has resonated with you, plan to invest some time and energy into incorporating McGregor's ideas into your own reading lessons!  You will find more helpful ideas and photos {HERE}.

You will also find a wonderful collection of other wordless picture books that can be used as mentor texts for questioning lessons {HERE}.  An article that features interviews with Molly Idle, author of the Flora series, and stresses how wordless picture books empower young children, can be found {HERE}.



  1. Oh Jennifer, you make me want to get my Comprehension Connections book out and flip through it again. Alas, it is too late tonight, maybe tomorrow! Great post again!!!
    Burke's Special Kids

    1. Thanks so much for your kind comments, Sebrina! I could do Tanny's lessons all day long if time would allow! I love how she uses real-life "stuff" to get kids thinking!

  2. This is the second time in the past week or two that I've hear Tanny McGregor's books mentioned and I'm intrigued. Unfortunately not read one yet but it;s definitely on my must read list!

  3. I love that book Jennifer, but I love your post more - thanks for all your great ideas :)