Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog!

Wordless Books As Story Prompts to Build Oral Language & Writing Skills

Posted by Tara Rodriquez on May 31, 2016 4:53:15 PM

PDFHR_Tiger-Brothers_cvr-1.jpgWhile reading is indeed the foundation of literacy education, writing skills and oral language skills are also very important to bolster the depth of students' understanding. One crucial tool for improving both of these types of skills is the story prompt. As visually engaged as young students tend to be—as much as they love pictures—the wordless picture book is a great alternative to spoken or written story prompts to get kids' imaginations firing.

For younger students or those who may be learning a second language, wordless books are invaluable for their oral language development. First, they are a great assessment tool to use when you need to see where a student stands in oral language accomplishment. By having the student look at a series of related pictures and and asking them to tell you what they see, you'll quickly be able to assess their fluency, vocabulary, and ease of calling up language structures.

Secondly, after the assessment stage, using these books is great practice for honing skills up to a higher level. They'll get up to speed on Common Core Speaking and Listening Standards faster when they are comfortable speaking extemporaneously in response to an assigned prompt.

For students who are a bit further along and are working on meeting Writing Standards relating to sequenced events, using wordless books with a storyline as a reference are a perfect step in the process of being able to recount and sequence:

Write narratives in which they recount two or more appropriately sequenced events, include some details regarding what happened, use temporal words to signal event order, and provide some sense of closure. (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.1.3)

Example Student Work: Brothers from Zoozoo Into the Wild

One Reading Recovery teacher shared the written story produced by one of her students in response to the Zoozoo Into the Wild book Brothers, and I've recreated it here with pages from the book to show examples of what the student was responding to.


Page 2 (student text): Here are two brothers and they are tigers.


Page 3 (student text): Brothers care for each other. It doesn’t matter what happens to each other. They always care about each other.


Page 4 (student text): The brothers play in the water together.


Page 5 (student text): But then a Zookeeper comes and said, “Hey, you need to be more quiet! “ said the Zookeeper.


Page 6 (student text): Then the Zookeeper fell in the water. “Please don’t eat me!” said the Zookeeper. “I will let you be as loud as you want if you don’t eat me!” But the tigers don’t understand English. So, the two brothers ate the Zookeeper.


Page 7 (student text): “Mmm that was some tasty humans.” the brothers said to each other.

In the back of each of the Zoozoo Into the Wild wordless books, there is a suggested synopsis and also a list of other activities the books are good for in addition to retelling. We also have other wordless books, though less story-driven, in our My World series (which can be viewed here). They are especially good as vocabulary tools and for introducing readers to the concept of an informational text.

For more information on the wordless books used as an example in this post, you can click the image below to download a series information sheet with key features, or you can click here to visit our website.

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Topics: Common Core, Zoozoo Into the Wild, Oral Language Development, Speaking and Listening, Wordless Books, Writing Standards

5 Ways to Differentiate with Wordless Books

Posted by Charity Preston on Mar 5, 2015 3:30:00 PM

This is a guest blog post by teacher blogger Charity Preston. If you like what you read here, check back for more of her guest blog posts, or visit her over on The Organized Classroom Blog!

Wordless books are perfect for students of all ages and classrooms. They can be used in so many different options and can challenge even your most advanced reader! Here are five ways to use them in your curriculum:

1. Younger students can “read” an older student the story. So many times, it is kindergarten or first grade students who are sitting and listening to a book.  How fun will it be for each child to be able to turn the tables and do the reading to someone who already knows how to read? In particular, those with reading disabilities will love this option.

childreading_24366319_Zirui-2502. Have students draw out a retelling of the book. Perfect for centers, students can read the book independently and then use a blank paper to draw out a retelling.

3. Advanced readers can write an alternate ending.  Challenge your high performers to write out a different ending in complete sentences. It will really get those learners engaged and thinking at a higher level.

4. Pair up students and have the groups use a manipulative such as play-doh or stick puppets to put on a “play” for another group. Each group will love being able to perform their story for an audience. With each group having a different book, it will be a great way to showcase lots of different book themes.

5. Students can record audio or video of themselves “reading” the story. For your students who still struggle with completing sentences on paper, the differentiation strategy will help to build up that vocabulary and begin to put sentences together in a way that doesn’t involve the stress of knowing how to form the letters on paper.

Using wordless books as a part of your curriculum can make a huge difference in increasing student vocabulary, forming complete sentences, and adding information to their background knowledge. It encourages those students who struggle with phonics and word formation to be able to read independently as a transition to pre-primer books.  But they can also challenge even the best of readers by forcing them to think outside of the written words and really develop the theme of the book.

Two great wordless book options are the eight Zoozoo Into the Wild Wordless books (which pair with informational and narrative texts featuring the same animals) and also the My World series, which offers ten wordless books, in addition to forty other informational texts leveled A–F. See a wordless book set with all eighteen wordless books by clicking here.


Charity Preston, MA, is the editor and creator of several websites, including The Organized Classroom Blog, Classroom Freebies, and Teaching Blog Central, among others. She received her undergraduate degree in early childhood education from Bowling Green State University, OH and a Master in Curriculum and Instruction from Nova Southeastern University, FL, as well as a gifted endorsement from Ohio University. She taught third grade in Lee County, FL for several years before relocating back to her hometown as a gifted intervention specialist. You can see all her projects at www.PENGroupOnline.com.


For more information on the Zoozoo Into the Wild and My World series, click the images below to download information sheets with series highlights and key features.

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Topics: K-2 Literacy, Wordless Books, Charity Preston, Differentiation

7 Ways to Use Wordless Picture Books in Your Classroom

Posted by Amanda Ross on Feb 25, 2015 12:00:00 PM

This is a guest post by blogger Amanda Ross. If you like what you see here, you can check out her blog, First Grade Garden, for more of her writing.  


Hi there, my name is Amanda Ross. I am usually blogging over at First Grade Garden, but today I am visiting to share some ideas on how I use wordless picture books in my class. I have quite a few wordless picture books, and I was excited to add a couple books from the Zoozoo Into the Wild Wordless series into my collection.

Here are a few ways that I like to use wordless picture books in my classroom:

1. Writing Prompt: Choose a page from the wordless picture book and write your own story based on what is happening in the picture.

ITW-wordless-Giraffe-2002. Oral Storytelling: Students can work with partners to practice telling a story orally. They can take turns describing each page. I like to give each set of partners a different wordless picture book and have the partners practice their oral story a few times. Then they can tell the story to the rest of the class. I love hearing their imaginative stories! This is also a great activity to remind students that if you can TELL a story, you can WRITE a story. I always tell my students to say what they want to write out loud before they start putting pencil to paper.

3. Sequencing: Photocopy three or four pages from a wordless picture book and practice sequencing the events. Have students describe what is happening in each picture and explain why the pictures go in a particular order.

ITW-wordless-Frog-2004. Speech Bubbles: Use speech bubble sticky notes or print out a page of speech bubbles that students can cut out. Have students stick the speech bubbles on a page or two in the wordless picture book and have them write what they think the characters are saying.

5. Predictions: Wordless picture books are perfect for making predictions. Starting with the cover, students can predict what they think the story is about. As you “read” the story together, students can confirm or change their predictions based on information from the pictures.

6. Daily 5 Lesson: One of the lessons in Daily 5 is about the three ways to read a book: read the words, read the pictures, or retell the story. A wordless picture book is a great mentor text to model reading the pictures. Use the pictures to tell the story.

7. Easy Reader: Do you have a struggling reading group that isn’t ready to read level-A books yet? Use a wordless picture book to model concepts of print—without print! Practice identifying the cover and author, reading from front to back, and holding the book properly. They can tell the story themselves by looking at the pictures, which is another important reading strategy they can practice with a wordless picture book! 


Amanda Ross is a first grade teacher in Canada. She has been teaching for seven years. The last three years have been in first grade, and that’s where she plans to stay! She is currently on maternity leave with her daughter Zoe, but she will be heading back to first grade in September. You can find her over at her teaching blog, First Grade Garden.


To learn more about Zoozoo Into the Wild, click here to visit our website, or click the series highlights image below to download information sheets with key features.

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Topics: K-2 Literacy, Teaching Writing, Zoozoo Into the Wild, Wordless Books, Amanda Ross

Hameray Herald: Late June Issue

Posted by Tara Rodriquez on Jun 25, 2014 5:40:20 PM

Zoozoo Wordless Books


Part of the popular Zoozoo Into The Wild series, this 8-book animal-themed wordless set is ideal for beginning readers who are still building their oral language proficiency and foundational reading skills. Using unique and engaging photo illustrations, each humorous story explores themes and content areas that are relevant to a young child's life, including friendship, helping others, family, and sharing. 

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June_Blog_290  Colorcards

Teaching Kids to Read with Shared Reading: Part 1

NEW GUEST BLOG: Kathy Crane of Kindergarten Kiosk shares techniques for an effective shared reading lesson.

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Speechmark ColorCards Created by SLPs

Designed for Students with Special Needs: ColorCards improve language skills & develop emotional literacy!

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Coming Soon...


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Topics: Zoozoo Into the Wild, Hameray Herald, Shared Reading, Wordless Books, Special Education, Professional Books

Using Wordless Books Within a Content Unit

Posted by Susanna Westby on Mar 24, 2014 8:00:00 AM

This is a guest blog post from Susanna Westby of Whimsy Workshop, and it includes a FREE download with worksheets! See the bottom of the post for the link to download, and check back frequently for more great classroom-tested ideas! If you'd like to see her other contributions to this blog, click here!

animals_in_the_forest-1-250Hello again! I’m Susanna from Whimsy Workshop Teaching, and today I’m sharing with you some examples of how I use wordless books from the My World series to add a new angle to a content unit. The book we used this time was Animals In the Forest by Susan Bennett-Armistead. My key concepts for this lesson were based on writing: observations, invented spelling and editing.

To begin, I projected the pages as we did a whole-class picture walk through the book. This complemented our previous class study of North American animals and was a great review. We discussed what we knew about the animals and previous experiences with raccoons and bears.

Next, students used a template to write a poem about the animals in the book. Because the main part of the book has no text, the emphasis was on close study of the pictures and gathering our own details rather than reading about information. This was an interesting change!

Students wrote:

In the forest, I see “a bird feeding green worms to five hungry chicks.”

In the forest, I see “a brown furry squirrel gathering nuts for the winter.”

In the forest, I see “a spider spinning a web to catch flies and mosquitoes.”

Students used their “best guesses” to spell the words. When they were done, we used the last pages of the book to edit their spelling. There are two pages with animal words listed, and students had to try to find their animal on the list, check the spelling, and edit their work.

When we were done, we also used the questions provided at the back of the book to review what we had learned and explore new questions about the forest, such as the following:

Where do animals hide in the forest?

Where do animals get food in the forest?

The "In The Forest” worksheet we used is included here as a free download! These books were a valuable addition to our study of North American animal resources!

I have been teaching primary grades for 20 years. My classroom is a place of hands-on, creative learning where students feel safe to make mistakes and learn from them! I live near Vancouver, BC Canada with my music-teacher husband and two teenage boys. More literacy ideas and graphics can be found on my blog, Whimsy Workshop Teaching.

To download the "In the Forest" worksheet, click the worksheet image to the left below. For more information on the My World series, click the image to the right below to download a series information sheets with highlights and key features, or click here to visit our website!

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Topics: Susanna Westby, Animals, My World, Wordless Books

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