Reading Teacher Writes

Sharing a love of literacy with fellow readers and writers

Who Needs Words? A Series of Posts About Teaching Reading and Learning to Read


Slice of Life Small LogoPart 3: The Art of Comprehension

My art teacher friend, Trevor Bryan, showed me fabulous ways to look at art as comprehension of text. During my wordless picture book study in class, I first asked the students: “What IS text?”  As expected, most of them said, “Words,” or “Written down stories, feelings, or facts.” Then I read Flood, by Alvaro F. Villa. The students talked the entire time I read to them, asking questions and telling me the story as I turned the pages. When I got done, I closed the book and asked again, “So…what IS text? You said WORDS, but there were no words in the book.”

“Uh…Ah…But…”Wordless PB_Flood_Villa

Wait a minute! You mean to say that “text” is NOT “words?” We discussed at length what just happened.  We used the art to comprehend the story. With Mr. Bryan’s help, I led the students to discover patterns, view colors, and look at lines and shapes in new ways — to understand the story. A story without words.

To practice reading texts without words, I set the students off on their own (in groups and individually). They found details in the artwork, discovered patterns (also using Notice and Note signposts — see Parts 1 and 2 of this series), made connections, and talked about the evidence behind their thinking. Some students wrote their own words to go with the picture book, and read them to the class.

Our wordless picture book study turned into a great literacy experiment! Students were engaged in learning, talking, and enjoying books. And the writing after reading…I didn’t have to say a word.

You can learn more about the Art of Comprehension by following Trevor Bryan on Twitter. His Twitter handle  is @trevorabryan. Mr. Bryan also writes for with the hashtag, #4OCF.


Author: Jennifer Sniadecki

I write about literacy education and my love for reading and writing. My passion is sharing titles I use for school libraries, classroom collaborations, and professional development. My goal is to collaborate, research, and share with other life-long literacy learners. Welcome to my blog!

2 thoughts on “Who Needs Words? A Series of Posts About Teaching Reading and Learning to Read

  1. Too often readers jump too fast through the wordless books and they never notice some of those fine details that the artist included. Sounds like a great study.

  2. I tell students the world is rhetorical. From art, to font in books, to architecture, to the structure of a garden, to the way we set a table, etc., we communicate ideas. Often the most complicated ideas take the form of images w/out alphabet lettering. I love that you’re helping young students understand this important point.

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