Lesson plan

Reading Without Words

Playing make-believe and telling stories are favorite childhood pastimes. Thus, no matter their reading level, students will love the opportunity to “read” to others and explore pictures as they take a walk through books.
Need extra help for EL students? Try theGoing on a Picture WalkAnd I Predict...Pre-lessons.
EL Adjustments
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Need extra help for EL students? Try theGoing on a Picture WalkAnd I Predict...Pre-lessons.

Students will be able to ask and answer questions about illustrations as they preview a book.

The adjustment to the whole group lesson is a modification to differentiate for children who are English learners.
EL adjustments
(10 minutes)
How to Make a SandwichLet
  • Begin by showing students the cover of a book that the class has already read together.
  • Ask students to talk about what they see on the cover. (For example, for a book like Where the Wild Things Are,Students should mention Max or the Wild Things.)
  • Then, open up the book and show the students the different pictures. Slowly flip through the book from beginning to end, allowing students to tell details about what they see and what is happening in the pictures on each page.
  • At the end of the book, point out to students that they have just told the whole story without reading any of the words. They only used the Illustrations, or pictures. Isn’t that amazing?
(15 minutes)
  • Take out a book that the students have not read together as a class. Show the students the cover, and ask them what they see.
  • Flip through the book, giving students ample time to observe the illustrations, comment on details they notice, and explain what they believe is happening in the story. Direct student observations to the facial expressions on characters and how the story evolved from one picture to the next.
  • Ask students if they believe they know what happens in the story. For example, "Do you have any questions you would like to find out by reading the story?" Have them go back and reexamine pictures to ask any lingering questions.
  • Model asking your own questions throughout the preview as well.
  • Read the story to the students. Ask them to think about whether or not their predictions were right and if their questions were answered. Choose a few volunteers to share answers to questions that were asked about the pictures.
  • Explain to students that what they just did was go on a Picture walk. This is called a picture walk because they walked through the story, looking at all the illustrations or pictures, asked questions based on the illustrations, and then answered the questions after the reading.
  • Ask students to think about reasons why a picture walk might be useful. (Note: if necessary, prompt students to think about the usefulness of this in making predictions, figuring out words they do not know, and even deciding if they would like to read a book.)
(5 minutes)
  • As a class, have students brainstorm a list of questions about things they should look for when going on a picture walk.
  • Prompt students to think about Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?As they ask questions during whole-group picture walk.
  • Possible questions include:
    • "What does________Have to do with the story?"
    • "Who is the main character?"
    • "How does the character get out of trouble?"
  • Encourage students to think about ways they can draw on their own personal experiences and knowledge as they look at the pictures.
  • Remind students that it's helpful to ask questions about books to help them think about the story deeply and get more information about it. Explain that usually they can answer the questions after reading the story, but today they will answer the questions with predictions about what MightBe the correct answer.
(15 minutes)
  • Break students up into partners or small groups. Each group should be assigned or choose a book to go on a picture walk with. Every group can use the same book, or groups can use different books.
  • Before sending students on their picture walks, remind them of any applicable class rules. Ask if there are any questions, and stress that the goal is not just to figure out the story, but to think of questions they may want to have answered when reading the story.
  • Have students discuss their questions as they preview the book. Allow other students to answer the questions by making predictions (e.g., "I think the answer is ________").
  • Make sure each group member has the chance to ask and answer questions about the illustrations to get more information about the book.


  • The use of mixed-ability groupings will help to scaffold this activity for many students who may need a little extra support.
  • For English Language Learners, providing stories in their native language can provide familiarity even if the illustrations are the focus of this lesson.


  • For students needing a greater challenge, encourage students to spend more time thinking about emotions characters may be feeling and draw connections to their own lives as they complete the picture walk.
  • Students can also be encouraged to illustrate their own book for others to take a picture walk through.
(5 minutes)
  • A formal assessment can be done by seeing if students can perform a picture walk through a book they have never read before. Check to see whether students carefully observe objects and people in the book’s illustrations.
  • Monitor students' ability to ask questions aloud to get more information from the text about the story before reading the story. Listen to hear whether students are able to answer any of their questions after reading.
(10 minutes)
  • Call students back together.
  • Ask students to think about their picture walks: What is one detail they noticed in a picture? How did they figure out what a character might be feeling? Did looking at the pictures in the story make them want to read the story more or less? Did any of the partners disagree about what might be happening in a picture or with their answers?
  • Once students have had a chance to share, remind everyone about the role illustrations have in providing a visual of the important moments in a story.
  • Encourage students to go on a picture walk when choosing books at the library or deciding what they might like to read. Remind students that one way to figure out a word they may not know how to read is by looking at the pictures in the book.

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