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  • Writer's pictureKeshia McIntosh

Activate your students' French thinking using Picture Books!

Using Wordless Picture Books…to activate those French thinking caps!

Years ago, I bought a Wordless Picture Book in the bargain books section at Indigo. A friend bought it because it looked like an excellent book for teaching inferencing, and I had to have it, too. Sadly, it sat amidst all my other books for years, unused. It had the loveliest illustrations but I was never really sure how to use it in a meaningful way since I was only accustomed to reading picture books with words.

Let me take you back to two Septembers ago. My morning entry was shared with my prep coverage teacher and we wanted something consistent to help ease the kids into the day regardless of who they were with. I introduced our morning ‘Mot du jour’ routine to kick off the year and at the bottom of the page there was a spot to write a sentence using the word of the day. I vividly remember the blank stares and hesitation when they got to the bottom of the page those first few days. Some sat there hoping I wouldn’t draw their attention to the blank space at the bottom and others immediately proclaimed themselves as non-writers. I had maybe two students who attempted it using the sentence starters they remembered from the year before…but most didn’t dare take the chance.

Now, you know that I have a deep love of Writing in the French Immersion classroom…and I had to really think critically about how I was going to persuade this room of reluctant writers to become capable, confident writers.

My first step? Figure out what they know.

This is where that unused book made its big debut. I hesitated but pulled it out from my bookshelf and just went for it. I showed them the cover. Read the title. And started a discussion about what we thought the book was about based on the cover page and title alone. I then found a space on my white board and told them that we’d jot down the French words we knew as we went along.

With every page turned, the students got more engaged. And that’s when the ball started rolling. The book, chock full of animal, food, and nature vocabulary, was the ultimate opportunity to tap into their memories and find out what they already knew.

By the time we got to the end of the book we had filled the board with French vocabulary words. Boy, did it fill my soul to remind them that they DO know French!! I was even able to take a moment afterwards and jot down some anecdotal notes about who participated, just how much vocabulary they seemed to recall (or not), and which students were busting out some of the trickier words. I immediately went online and bought two more picture books so that we could do it again.

Interested in trying this with your own class? Here’s a quick breakdown of what I did.

  1. Show them the cover page and read the title (yes, even if it’s in English)

  2. Don’t narrate the story in any way. Simply do a “Picture Walk” by flipping through the book.

  3. Stop on each page and have the students share French vocabulary words they know. Jot them down on the board or on an anchor chart so there’s a visual.

  4. Do this for each page and only add words that haven’t been shared yet.

  5. Take a step back and look at all the vocabulary words they came up with.

  6. For the Grand Finale, and in the most enthusiastic way possible, remind them of how proud you are that they worked as a team to come up with SO many words.

Fave picture books?! Although you could use the illustrations in any read aloud book, I really enjoy using these ones! My students loved the antics in Where’s Walrus so much that I had to buy the sequel!

  • Foxly’s Feast by Owen Davey

  • Chalk by Bill Thomson

  • Where’s Walrus? by Stephen Savage

  • Where’s Walrus and Penguin? also by Stephen Savage

Happy Reading!!

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