The PWIM is an inquiry-oriented language arts strategy that uses pictures containing familiar objects and actions to elicit words from children's listening and speaking vocabularies. Teachers use the PWIM with classes, small groups, and individuals to lead them into inquiring about words, adding words to their sight-reading and writing vocabularies, discovering phonetic and structural principles, and using observation and analysis in their study of reading, writing, comprehending, and composing.
The picture word inductive model can be used to teach phonics and spelling both inductively and explicitly. However, the model is designed to capitalize on children's ability to think inductively. The PWIM enables them to build generalizations that form the basis of structural and phonetic analysis. And it respects their ability to think. Thus, a major principle of the model is that students have the capability to make generalizations that can help them to master the conventions of language.
The instructional sequence of the model cycles and recycles through the following activities: The students study a picture selected by the teacher; identify what they see in the picture for the teacher to label; read and review the words generated; use the picture word chart to read their own sets of words; classify words according to properties they can identify; and develop titles, sentences, and paragraphs about their picture. Figure 2.1 shows the moves and the overall sequence of the model. The full sequence of a PWIM unit may take three days or two months: The length of units and number of lessons within a unit depend on the richness of the picture, the age and language development of the students, and the language objectives of the teacher.
Figure 2.1.—Overview of the Picture Word Inductive Model
Steps of the PWIM
- Select a picture.
- Ask students to identify what they see in the picture.
- Label the picture parts identified. (Draw a line from the identified object or area, say the word, write the word; ask students to spell the word aloud and then to pronounce it.)
- Read and review the picture word chart aloud.
- Ask students to read the words (using the lines on the chart if necessary) and to classify the words into a variety of groups. Identify common concepts (e.g., beginning consonants, rhyming words) to emphasize with the whole class.
- Read and review the picture word chart (say the word, spell it, say it again).
- Add words, if desired, to the picture word chart and to the word banks.
- Lead students into creating a title for the picture word chart. Ask students to think about the information on the chart and what they want to say about it.
- Ask students to generate a sentence, sentences, or a paragraph about the picture word chart. Ask students to classify sentences; model putting the sentences into a good paragraph.
- Read and review the sentences and paragraphs.
Strengths of the PWIM.
The basic steps of the PWIM stress these components of phonics, grammar, mechanics, and usage:
- Students hear the words pronounced correctly many times and the picture word chart is an immediate reference as they add these words to their sight vocabulary. The teacher can choose to emphasize almost any sound and symbol relationship (introduced or taken to mastery).
- Students hear and see letters identified and written correctly many times.
- Students hear the words spelled correctly many times and participate in spelling them correctly.
- In writing the sentences, the teacher uses standard English (transforming student sentences if necessary) and uses correct punctuation and mechanics (e.g., commas, capital letters). As different mechanical and grammatical devices are used, the teacher describes why the device is used. After several lessons and experience with the teacher modeling the devices, the students learn how to use them, too.
For example, teachers using the model to develop sight-word vocabulary and to work on phonemic and graphemic awareness may stop at Step 7. Teachers who want to work with their students on reading and writing sentences and paragraphs use all steps of the model. Teachers may recycle steps 4 through 9 completely or move backward or forward a step or two depending on student performance and the objectives for that lesson.
The picture word chart is the basic material for the PWIM lessons and units. The picture word chart comprises the picture and the words that are identified or “shaken out” of the picture by the students. The chart is used throughout the sequence of lessons and is a source of curriculum content. As the teacher writes words on the paper surrounding the picture, the chart becomes an illustrated dictionary. The dictionary supports language use by the class as a group and as individuals and needs to be posted where students can use it to support their reading, their writing, and their independence as learners. Using the chart to help them pronounce the words encourages children as young as 4 or 5 years old to notice and comment on spelling and phonetic structure. Until the words are part of the student's sight vocabulary, they are anchored by their representations on the picture word chart.
For most beginning readers and writers, the PWIM is a satisfying and pleasurable activity: They enjoy finding objects and actions in the picture, seeing the words and sentences they generate expressed in print and become part of the curriculum, classifying words and sentences, and discovering useful language concepts and generalizations. The PWIM motivates students because most become successful learners. Learners succeed using the model because the PWIM is based on inquiry into how children learn and how to enhance their learning, including their development of language, the process of learning to read and write, and the reading and writing connection.
Building on Language Development
By the time most children in the United States are 5 years old, they can listen to and speak 4,000 to 6,000 words with understanding and also use the basic syntactical structure of the language (Chall, 1967; Clark & Clark, 1977). They can listen with understanding to complex sentences and longer communications, at first paragraph-length passages and then stories and informative books. They produce sentences that include prepositions and conjunctions and make causal connections like “If we go to the store now, we could watch `Thomas the Tank Engine' when we get back.” They gobble up words, play with them, and have conversations with stuffed animals and dolls—composing ideas and manipulating words much as they will when they begin to write. Children's natural acquisition of language is a dimension of culture and brings with it a great sense of personal power and satisfaction as young learners receive communications and learn to put their ideas into words.
The picture word inductive model builds on the listening and speaking vocabularies of the students, helping them to add reading and writing to their communications repertoire. The concept of using pictures as a stimulus for language experience activities in the classroom was developed specifically for teaching young students to read and write (e.g., see Adams, Johnson, & Connors, 1980). In the structure of the picture word inductive model, young children are presented with pictures of familiar scenes or photographs of everyday items. They shake out words from the picture by identifying objects, actions, and qualities they recognize in the picture. The words or phrases the students use to identify the objects, actions, or qualities are connected to words already in their naturally developed listening and speaking vocabularies. The next step occurs as the teacher draws a line from the object to the surrounding paper and writes the word or phrase.
Both the process (moves) and the structure of the model respect children's language development and enable them to begin reading by using their language in conjunction with the pictures. The PWIM is designed to enable students to be immediately successful as language learners in the formal school setting and to immerse them in how language works.
The connections between the children's language and the items and actions in the picture support the transition from oral (listened to and spoken) language to written (read and written) language. Students witness the transformation from oral to written expression. They watch the words being spelled and spell them with the teacher. They connect something in the picture with a word and then watch that word appear as letters. They can now read that word. Shortly, they learn that we always spell that word the same way. They identify a dog in the picture, see dog written, hear it spelled, spell it themselves, and on the way home from school they see a Lost Dog poster on the street corner and read the word again.
How does the PWIM and children's development of language relate to the current emphasis on brain-compatible teaching and learning? The instructional environment created by the teacher through the PWIM is probably closest to the position articulated by Ramey and Ramey (1998). These professors and researchers offer six “developmental priming mechanisms” repeatedly associated with “positive cognitive, social, and emotional outcomes of children” (Ramey & Ramey, 1998, p. 115) (and probably also with the continuing development of adults):
- Encouragement of exploration,
- Mentoring in basic cognitive and social skills,
- Celebrating new skills,
- Guided rehearsal and extension of new skills,
- Protection from inappropriate punishment or ridicule for developmental advances, and
- Stimulation in language and symbolic communication. (Ramey & Ramey, 1998, p. 115)
According to Ramey and Ramey, the priming mechanisms need to be present in children's lives on a frequent and predictable basis. The framework of the PWIM addresses five of the six priming mechanisms for continued development. Meanwhile, we continue to learn about education and the brain and what is needed to support language development and literacy (Education Commission of the States & The Charles A. Dana Foundation, 1996; Bruer, 1997).
A major principle of the picture word inductive model is to build on children's growing storehouse of spoken and understood words and syntactic forms and facilitate the transition to writing and reading. Most children want to make sense of the language around them and they eagerly engage in unlocking its mysteries. A corollary principle of the PWIM is that the approach respects the children's language development: Their words are used and their ability to make connections is central to the learning process and the model.
Stimulating Reading and Writing Skills
Much remains to be learned about the almost magical process whereby children make connections between their naturally developing language and the world of reading and writing. Our understanding is that several types of learning need to be accomplished to develop reading and writing skills.
Children must build a substantial sight vocabulary—a storehouse of words instantly recognizable by spelling. We want students reading books as soon as possible for many reasons: for literacy acquisition; for skills practice; for their self-esteem as learners; and for developing a sense of literate behavior that comes through being able to independently access the ideas of others through the alphabetic code of their native language (as in “I can read this book! Hear me!”). About 100 words bring simple books like Go, Dog, Go (Eastman, 1961) within reach. Also, once students have about 50 sight words, their study of phonics is greatly facilitated, as are many other aspects of learning, including the development of more vocabulary (Graves, Watts, & Graves, 1994). About 450 words bring children to the stage in which many picture storybooks are available to them.
The picture word inductive model approaches the development of sight vocabulary directly. The students read and spell the words that are shaken out of the picture. Then, these words are placed on large word cards that they can look at and the teacher can use for group instruction. Students also get their own set of word cards. They sort these words and consult the picture dictionary to check their understanding and refresh the meaning of the words. The students keep word cards in envelopes, word banks, or word boxes, consulting them as they wish and eventually using the cards and words to compose sentences.
Children must build concepts about the conventions used in language to connect sounds and structures to print forms. The repeated instructional pattern as words are added to the chart and reviewed—see the item, say the word, listen as the teacher spells the word, read the word as a group, spell it together, read the word again—teaches and reinforces letter recognition, as well as the pronunciation of the words, while repeated attention to the words and spelling helps to build students' reading and writing vocabularies.
With respect to sound and print forms (phonetic, often called sound-and-symbol or letter-and-sound relationships), children need to learn that nearly all words that begin with a particular sound begin with particular letters that represent that sound. Periodically, a teacher using the PWIM will ask students to pull out all the words they have in their word bank that contain a b and they will concentrate on that letter. Another time, at will get attention. After the students have learned to read most of the words on the picture chart, the teacher may ask them to pull out all the words in which they can hear /s/. Thus, phonetic and structural analysis skills are learned through developing concepts and applying them to the reading and writing process.
The PWIM can help students learn about the structure of words as they build an understanding of inflection, the change of form that words undergo to indicate number, gender, person, tense, case, mood, or voice. For instance, in Chapter 1, Ms. Tayloe directed her kindergarten students to notice the similarities and differences between singular and plural words, specifically how apple and apples are alike and different. Although it may seem impossible for students to believe, structural conventions result in rapid and accurate communication of their ideas.
The picture word inductive model induces students to classify their new words, building the concepts that enable them to unlock new words. The English language has about 44 sounds represented in more than 200 forms—some say as many as 250 forms (Morris, 1997)— because some have multiple representations: /sh/ut, na/tion/. As students work with their words, they develop categories: these words all begin like boy; these words all have two d's in the middle like ladder. Students develop word families that they can use to read and spell words they have not memorized; for instance, the word family of bat, cat, and hat can be used to help read and spell mat. And, they learn that the generalizations they make will enable them to unlock about 70 percent of the new words they encounter.
Students will be amused at some of the ways we spell words such as ate and eight, and will sigh occasionally at our insistence that they learn the peculiarities our language has developed. They will be perplexed by see and sea and want to know why we made them sound alike. At times, all we can say is what our teachers said to us, “You'll just have to memorize them.”
Strengthening the Reading and Writing Connection
Reading and writing are naturally connected, can be learned simultaneously, and can be used together to rapidly and effectively advance growth in language use (Stotsky, 1983; Tierney & Pearson, 1985; Hillocks, 1987; Shanahan, 1988, 1990; and Heller, 1991). How is the reading and writing connection used in the PWIM? As the students search a picture for items and objects they can identify with words or phrases, the teacher writes their words on the picture word chart, which launches the students into the early stages of formal writing. Later, the students make up short sentences about the picture and begin to write longer sentences and then paragraphs with the help of the teacher. Through repetition, the words in the sentences are added to their storehouse of knowledge.
Gradually, as the students read more trade books, they learn to analyze how others write and they begin to use the conventional writing devices to enhance their ability to express themselves. Essentially, they come to use the library of the world as models for sharing and communicating ideas through writing. As they read picture storybooks and short informative books, they discuss them by making up sentences about the book. Many students begin to feel that their reading is not complete until they have said something about the book in their own words, completing the loop of the language system.
Beginning in kindergarten, students and teachers work together building words and sentences and paragraphs and books. As they build paragraphs, they select and discuss titles. The teacher leads metacognitive discussions on choosing titles and talks to the students about which title is most comprehensive, which title might be most interesting to one audience or another, which sentences go with one title, which with another. When writing a paragraph or creating a title, the teacher helps students to focus on the essence of communication: What do we want to say to our readers? to ourselves? Focusing on communication is what Mrs. Frazier and her 2nd grade students were doing in their lessons. Her students use the reading and writing connection as she has them think about what they want to share, what they most want the reader to know, and how to help the reader get this information. The reading and writing connection culminates as the class evaluates their effectiveness in sharing what they wished to share. Mrs. Frazier continues to work on this link until it becomes explicit and accessible for the students to use as independent learners.
The picture word inductive model is designed to teach reading, writing, and the language system. It is designed to help students develop as independent learners and as independent readers and to foster confidence based on knowledge that they secure for themselves as learners. Within each class, students' language development will vary as will their confidence in participating. Given time, many experiences with the model, and a nurturing and joyous learning environment, most students—not just the quickest or most language agile students—make good progress as readers and writers.