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CATESOL Book Review with Kara Mac Donald Featuring Erin O'Reilly

Christie Sosa

Book Review: Wordless Books: So Much to Say (2015)

By Kara Mac Donald featuring Erin O'Reilly

The book is divided into two sections, Stories with Easy Pictures to Follow and Stories with More Complicated Pictures to Follow. Each section is grouped on proficiency levels, with guidance on which skill/s development is targeted. In each section are lesson plan descriptions, assessment guidance and rubrics, additional resources and which TESOL PreK-12 English Language Proficiency Standards and Common Core State Standards ELA Suggested Connections are met.
The Introduction provides an overview of when wordless books in recent times began to increase in publication and why they are so engaging and especially useful for English language learners from K-12 to adult education. To represent the types of activities presented, one sample activity in each proficiency level in the book’s two sections is highlighted to provide insight into the scope and value of the publication.

Stories with Easy Pictures to Follow
Pancakes for Breakfast, activity by Lizabeth S. Krutz, was selected among activities for English Level: Beginning. In preparation for reading, students look at picture cards of the ingredients needed to make pancakes and look at printed pictures or images on the web to practice making guesses (i.e. inferences) in preparation for reading the story. After the teacher models reading the first page through the think aloud technique, students are invited to do the same in the group. New vocabulary in the story is addressed through prepared picture cards to see the needed vocabulary in context and in isolation. The teacher halts reading the story on page 20 and students are asked to predict what will happen, share with their partners and draw and/or write their prediction. Sharing can be done by those who wish to do so.  There are additional resources listed for teachers to use related to making pancakes, a rubric for the speaking, listening and reading objectives.

For the English Level: Beginning to Intermediate, Wave, activity by Jessica Karbassi, was selected to examine the development of speaking, listening and writing objectives. Students do two walks through the picture book, once for general story understanding and the second for accessing more details through discussion of what is occurring. Vocabulary related to emotions presented in the story is prepared to address them during the reading of the story, and students further work with terms of emotion through sequencing emotions cards in groups and discussion why they placed them in the arranged order. Students then write about an experience where they encountered a particular emotion and this writing can be accompanied by an image taken of the student in the context they describe or one that reflects that experience. Additional resources and rubrics and assessment guidelines are included.

My Friend Rabbit, activity by Malerie E. Rubnitz, is the only activity offered for the English Level: Intermediate to Advanced. After a short prediction of content based on the title, the first few pages are read and then, after being guided students produce possible dialogue between the characters on small slips of paper and stick them on the pages to where they belong in the story. Using a jigsaw activity, students regroup to write the dialogue for the next few assigned pages and then, again a rotation until all pages have dialogued produced by different student groups. Returning to original groups, students compile all the dialogues created into one story with a beginning, middle and end. Students writing skills are assessed, but also their listening and speaking skills as they collaborate in groups developing the dialogues and during the presentation of the final story.
Various activities are presented for English Level: All Levels. The Snowman, activity by Lauren M. Gay, was selected for its primary focus on writing development regardless of proficiency. After a walk through the picture book, students create a clay or play dough model of a snow creature, which they use to generate a narrative of experiences with their snow creature for their written story but also with the incorporation of digital and storytelling apps. Based on proficiency levels, appropriate scaffolding and tangible output guidelines can be presented.

Stories with More Complicated Pictures to Follow
In the second part of the book, Stories with More Complicated Pictures, presents a collection of books that explore more abstract ideas. Importantly, this does not mean that the books and the accompanying activities are for more advanced learners. On the contrary, these books and activities are rated for beginning to advanced learners.

Mirror, activity by Rachel Mrozek, is particularly well-suited for both the K-12 and adult ELL classroom. The lesson invites students to compare and contrast home-life routines across cultures. For younger learners or beginning students, a drawing activity aims to capture learners’ home-life experiences. More advanced learners can write in-depth comparisons. The lesson includes ideas for follow-on research to expand the content, and this could easily become an extended classroom project.

Similarly, Zoom, activity by Istvan Banyai, designed for beginning to advanced learners offers teachers a range of activities that could be adapted for the K-12 or adult ELL classroom. After walking through the story, the teacher can give pictorial examples of objects that belong in a certain order depending on where they fall in a sequence of events that change perspective, from zooming in to zooming out. While this activity will spark conversation, the follow-on activity requires full engagement as students create their own zoom stories with a beginning, middle, and end. Teachers will undoubtedly incorporate their own ideas into the activities presented throughout the book. For example, even this lesson could be adapted to use phone or tablet cameras to create stories from the students’ everyday lives at home or school that could be shared in an ebook format.

Wordles Books: So Much to Say! offers practitioners well-developed and engaging lessons targeting listening, reading, speaking, and writing for learners at all levels. By including the TESOL K-12 Standards and Common Core Standards for each activity, teachers can easily map activities to their curricula. Further, clear rubrics provide a straightforward means of assessment for easy adoption. Teachers will enjoy this collection of engaging lessons and appreciate the accessible layout. The books covered in the collection are timeless and found in any library, making this a go-to resource for years to come.