My best advice: If the picture word inductive model appeals to you, if you think it might help your students to move forward in literacy, give it a try. Whether I'm standing in front of an audience, working with a staff over time, or writing this book, I'm aware that I cannot teach you to be highly skilled in using any strategy or curriculum device. You have to teach yourself by using the strategy, watching what happens for students, and reflecting on the experience. I can provide information, give examples or scenarios of what the strategy looks like in action, explain how to organize peer support and peer coaching, and offer personal support and encouragement.
Offering support and facilitating implementation through print is difficult: It's hard to support someone learning a new teaching strategy by writing about how to do it, even if I have a whole book in which to do it. I can describe the general language arts goals that are similar across classrooms, I can describe the syntax of the model—its sequence and the moves you make to get the students from one stage to the next. But the magic—the reason for using the PWIM—occurs in specific contexts with students, teachers, pictures, and content. It's difficult to capture the richness and variability of teacher and student responses, the curriculum breadth of what is generated, and the constant switching between formal and informal (unplanned) teaching that occurs during teacher and student interactions. Despite my use of scenarios, it's difficult to illustrate the range of moves available during instruction, thereby making it difficult to support you in specific classroom circumstances. You may find support from a partner, especially if you have already experienced peer coaching. It may be limp support, but trust yourself and your students. The PWIM is productive and fun.
Do not rush the teaching and learning process, or much of the multidimensional, continuous assessment qualities of the PWIM lessons will be lost. Observe what your students produce, and listen to what they can articulate about what they see. Build sight vocabulary, work on useful phonics generalizations and phonemic awareness and spelling patterns, work on structural analysis, work on modeling and writing informative prose, work on reading informative prose. Teach your students how to inquire into language, how to break the code and to move forward in language literacy.
Selecting and Using Pictures
The pictures are the basic materials for the PWIM. The right pictures are tangible, concrete, and attractive, and they provide an excellent stimulus for common work in language development.
With preschool, kindergarten, and 1st grade students, use large pictures of scenes that are somewhat familiar and include several representations or objects that are familiar to most students: pictures with children and animals, inside or outside. Using pictures or photographs that are easily understandable and accessible to your students helps them to be immediately and personally successful in visually reading the picture—shaking words out of the picture (visually “reading” it) and generating the word list. The word list forms part of the language curriculum for at least a week and gives the students ownership of their learning.
Using real pictures (photographs or posters of real scenes or scenes that students can easily relate to) has many advantages. Just by using real pictures, you can help students develop their skills in beginning research and using their observation skills to base what they say and write on evidence. In most primary schools, students have much more experience with fiction and narrative writing than with nonfiction and the development of informative, high-quality exposition. The PWIM can be used to offer a more balanced approach in teaching written communication by helping students to learn to use their observational skills as a source of information when writing. In general, using observation skills as a source of information for writing is a far underused resource, but those skills are always available and waiting to be tapped by us and by our students. And, the concrete and common stimuli of the picture and the chart allows the teacher wonderful specificity and common examples to use in discussions about writing informative sentences and paragraphs and gives ample opportunities for metacognitive activities on forming and shaping ideas.
Whatever the age of the students or the nature of the class, the pictures promote the expansion of students' reading and writing vocabularies, the mechanics of phonics and spelling and language usage, and the use of observation in providing content and evidence in oral and written discourse.
On Finding Pictures
Photographs are great! You'll find sources that may include calendars, posters, book companies, stores, old magazines such as Instructor and Life, newspapers, and enlarged photographs. you may find public libraries, bookstores, and card shops getting rid of (culling their files or selling for a drastically reduced price) picture photographs of an area or of some topic relevant to your curriculum. Ask parents and other caregivers to keep their eyes open for appropriate posters and photographs.
For prekindergarten through 1st grade (maybe even 2nd grade), 12 good pictures are all you will need for a school year. In fact, for most kindergarten and 1st grade classes, six or eight good pictures may be enough because of the time needed to build sight vocabulary; to see and learn the generalizations about how letters and words work in each set of words generated for a single chart; and to read, write, and play with the language the students have generated around the picture. For some 2nd grade classes and for 3rd grade classes, choose 15–20 pictures. Consider laminating the pictures for reuse.
On Interrelating the Curriculum
Pictures can be a vehicle for interdisciplinary instruction. At the end of 2nd grade or the beginning of 3rd grade, the pictures and the PWIM units can begin to serve other disciplines along with language arts. The pictures and photographs that you select can support social studies and science concepts, can be used to open an area of study, and can become a focal point for discussions, examples, and the gathering of additional information as students explore a domain or subject.
For social studies, pictures of the neighborhood, the community, the town, or events may help to simultaneously anchor and expand students' explorations of these settings. In science, pictures of animals in their usual environments (near a doghouse, in a rain forest, or in the ocean), or pictures of plants (on a window sill, in the desert, or in the ocean), or photographs of businesses and services (of a dairy, of workers in a commercial kitchen, or of a dental hygienist at work) may stimulate and support discussion. The list of possibilities is as extensive as the concepts and topics within the curriculum area.
Through the pictures selected by the teacher, students navigate the curriculum, using the pictures as a source for in-depth study and for practice in gathering evidence to support assertions and generalizations.
Developing the Learning Community
For students to fully participate in the PWIM, they need to learn the basic routines and behaviors appropriate to the learning environment (especially social expectations). These routines and expectations are integral to the PWIM and are necessary for the teacher to maintain focus and sanity, and for the students to experience the appropriate pace and mix of group and individual instruction.
Introducing the PWIM Routines
When the picture word inductive model is first used, you need to help students learn the format and sequence of the model and the social routines that facilitate lots of children working and learning together. You need to teach students how to participate in a group—teaching them explicitly by explaining and demonstrating or by role-playing the moves, or by rehearsing specific actions with a small group of students and then presenting the results to the class. For example, students may need explanations and demonstrations of any one or all of the following actions:
- Studying each new picture as it goes up so they will be ready to contribute (some teachers put the picture up a day before they are ready to “shake” the first set of words from it);
- Knowing the signal for coming efficiently to their space near the picture chart (many teachers use the PWIM early in the day, right after their morning routine);
- Speaking loudly enough to be heard by their classmates and the teacher;
- Learning to listen to each other;
- Learning to raise their hands to signal for attention;
- Learning to listen and “hold their thoughts” while waiting;
- Reading silently and aloud;
- Thinking silently;
- Responding appropriately to the task at hand;
- Keeping up with their word cards;
- Sharing space at the picture word chart, especially the first few days of a new chart when they are practicing their reading; and
- Finding and sharing work space around the room when they are classifying words and sentences or putting sentences together.
Teaching Silent Reading
Teaching students to read words silently when using the PWIM is very important to the success of the model and the students. Work toward 100 percent silent reading—when you request it. Silent reading is important in helping students to build sight vocabulary and providing them with practice in applying phonics skills. If all students are to have ample opportunities for the numbers of rehearsals and repetitions of words and phrases needed for rapid movement of the words on the chart to their reading and writing vocabularies (with the automaticity of sight words), they will need to learn “to read it in your mind but not to say it out loud.” Silent reading of the words provides many opportunities for practice and mental rehearsal. You may want to demonstrate silent reading in contrast to various forms of oral reading (whispering, normal tone of voice for group size, shouting); ham it up if that works for you and with your students.
There is a balance between oral reading and silent reading throughout the sequence of lessons that is difficult for me to explain and difficult for you to understand until you have used the PWIM. At times you want students so engaged in reading the words orally that they are shouting; at other times, you want them engaged in studying and reading a word or all the words silently.
Many of the behaviors and social skills required for the successful use of the PWIM are also needed for participating in groups and classroom activities and are part of daily classroom management. With students, especially those in kindergarten through 2nd grade, some of these skills and expected behaviors may need to be taught or reinforced. As always, use your common sense and your sense of humor. Take some time modeling and explaining behaviors the first few times you use the PWIM—young students particularly enjoy humor and skits when their teacher demonstrates appropriate and inappropriate behaviors. Many of these demonstrations and initial learning experiences can be grand fun for you and your students.
Setting the Social Climate and Lesson Pace
Part of what we strive for with this teaching model is helping students to learn that they are responsible for thinking things through and for applying what they are learning. For this to occur, students need time to think, listen, and build on ideas and on things they've learned from previous lessons. Teachers often find they need to move the lessons more slowly than they are accustomed to, especially the first time or two through the model. From the beginning, try to consciously balance thinking time and a cheerful learning pace. The PWIM is not the total language arts program, therefore, short intense lessons from 20 to 30 minutes are often best for students up through 2nd grade.
From the first use of the PWIM, the teacher will model providing thinking time and being patient when listening to others. Teachers find that even with 4-year-old students they can say, “Hold on, we need to make sure everyone has time to think and share.” It isn't necessary, however, to insist that every student volunteer a word for the chart. You may invite anyone who has not contributed a word or comment to the day's lesson to do so and then say, “maybe you'll have something for us later.” Some students are simply shy, and some students have already—even at 5 years old—begun to think they are not star learners, not as smart as their classmates, or that their comments or answers are not as welcome as those of others. When you feel this may be the case—despite your speculation about its origin (circumstances at home, overcrowded daycare centers, the student's personality)—you want to address it in as many ways as possible to help these students reestablish their faith in their natural learning ability.
Both group and individualized instruction occur throughout the PWIM; however, all students participate in all the phases of the model at the same time. When words are being chosen for the lessons, you want everyone attending the event; for example, all students are seated around the picture chart when words are being shaken out. When it's time to practice reading and matching words, everyone practices reading. When it's time to classify, everyone classifies: from the student who puts a set of word cards together because they all have one word, to the student who groups apples, trees, and leaves together because they all mean “some, not one,” to the student who groups ladder, leaves, and little together because they “all sound alike at the first, they all begin with an l and it looks like a [number] 1.”
A wide range of accurate responses, such as those described, is common and is one of the curriculum advantages of the picture word inductive model: there is no curriculum or academic limit on what students can learn about language and how it works. Anything they can see, articulate, or verify can become content for individual and group instruction.
Another general curriculum and instructional advantage is the opportunity for constant assessment of progress. As much of what is generated by students is visible and there is time to listen and think built into the model, constant diagnosis of student progress in language arts becomes a less-stressful task than it usually is for most primary teachers. Results are immediately used for modulations in the next example or set of examples provided, the next question asked, or the next lesson planned.
The development of each group into a cooperative learning community inquiring into reading, writing, and their own thought processes is supported not only by the research on cooperative learning for social benefits and improvements in student achievement (Johnson & Johnson, 1989; Sharan, 1990; Slavin, 1995), but also by the social context of reading and writing as communication (Bloome, 1987; Myers, 1992; Shanahan, 1990; Tierney & Shanahan, 1991) and by the sociocognitive nature of reading and writing, that is, “that language learning is ultimately an interactive process, that cognitive factors are influenced by context, and that they, in turn, affect the meanings that are produced” (Langer, 1986). Much of language and language learning is about learning to communicate.
The PWIM can be used for small group instruction and for tutorial sessions, but it was designed primarily as a productive model for whole class instruction in beginning reading and writing. I describe the PWIM as a productive model because it helps the teacher to develop and to continually diagnose students' language skills.
Identifying Content for Instruction
Content for instruction is largely generated by the students, as prompted by the teacher's selection of the picture. Although the picture motivates students and initially drives instruction, the teacher selects the picture, can influence the direction of the lesson depending on her assessment of student needs, and can focus instruction on many different areas of language development.
The Word List
Students volunteer the words for study. While the teacher can always add words, at least 95 percent of the words should come from the students—whether the words are from their spoken vocabulary or from their investigations. The formality and extent of these investigations range from a thorough exploration of the picture, to discussions with other students, to adding words they find from reading picture books or informative trade books, or to having books and excerpts read to them.
How many words do you write on the chart? There's no magic number. Many teachers who are skilled in using the PWIM in kindergarten and 1st grade stop at the first round (the first time words are shaken from a picture) when the students have generated around 30 words. If students generate only 15 words, go with 15 for the first sequence of lessons. Use your judgment, and keep the lesson moving briskly while providing adequate thinking time.
“Shaking the words from the picture” is a celebration of how much your students already know about symbols, language, and communication. You want them to feel this celebration and to feel that they are participating in shaping their education.
Using the Chart
The picture word chart serves as an illustrated dictionary, as a focal point for discussion, as a base of evidence for informative writing, and as a vehicle to support interrelated curriculum work. As an illustrated dictionary, post the picture word chart where students can use it to support their reading, their writing, and their independence as learners. Until the words are part of the student's sight vocabulary, they are anchored in their representations on the picture chart.
The picture word chart can be titled and retitled. Beginning with kindergartners, the teacher helps students to think about which title is most comprehensive, which title would be most interesting to one audience or another, and which suggested titles are good announcements of what we wish to share with our readers. When writing a paragraph, or creating a title, help students to focus on the essence of communication: What do we want to say to our readers? to ourselves? We make explicit the reading and writing connection by having students think about what they want to share, what they most want the reader to know, how they can help the reader to get this information, and, finally, to decide if we as writers shared what we wanted to share, beginning with the title and ending with the last sentence.
When using the PWIM, decisions about what to emphasize and teach to mastery depends on which aspects of the curriculum you wish to pursue with your students and what is conceptually accessible to them as language learners. The teacher—while still the obvious adult authority, instructional leader, and curriculum expert—does not know which specific language concepts will be emphasized until the students generate the words. The teacher does not know what they see, what they can do, and what they can articulate about what is happening in the picture.
To try the PWIM, you need to trust yourself and your students. You will not know which sight words, which aspects of constructing meaning, which phonics generalizations or aspects of phonemic awareness, which aspects of structural analysis (e.g., compound words, inflected endings, plurals, contractions), spelling (e.g., final -e rule, doubling the final consonant, capital letters for proper nouns), and punctuation (e.g., hyphens, apostrophes, terminal marks) will be possible content for lessons—until the words are shaken out of the picture; until additional words are gathered; until the sentences are generated. Fortunately, in most word and phrase lists of 25 to 35 items and lists of 15 to 25 sentences, there are almost unlimited language arts objectives available for instruction.
As words, sentences, and paragraphs are generated and analyzed, the teacher and students make decisions about what will be studied. For example, Mrs. Lewis did not know for certain her 1st graders would generate a word list that included so many words with the initial consonant b; or several rhyming words that facilitated the exploration of onsets and rimes; or several compound words, thus providing content for a productive exploration of structural analysis. In Chapter 1, Ms. Tayloe was not certain that her kindergartners would generate a list with singular and plural words; or so many words with identical consonants side by side, forming two-syllable words, thus providing content for exploring that particularly rich phonics and spelling generalization. The 2nd graders in Chapter 1 may have surprised Mrs. Frazier by generating different words to represent people and dictating sentences that related to student learning.
Part of the instruction about the mechanics of written language and the process of analysis is informally embedded in the lessons, and the modeling and explanations and dialog about how language works are continuous. By “informal,” I mean that the teacher did not plan to introduce or teach that concept; it surfaced during the lesson and was introduced or extended on the spot. For example, in the 1st grade scenario, when a student suggested adding tooks and shooks to the list of /oo/ words, Mrs. Lewis introduced into the lesson the printed and written standard English words take and shake. Another example of this informal learning occurred when a student suggested adding middle and riddle to the category with little—Mrs. Lewis immediately went to work on pronunciation differences between /t/ and /d/ and on rhyming words.
From the first lesson with the model, students are invited and expected to comment on what they see in the words or sentences: they are developing clues and general rules about how our language works. Teaching them to ground the comments they make in evidence helps us to understand how they are thinking and is part of our continual diagnosis into their progress as language learners and into where we can take them next. When statements or assertions are made about language, the teacher will often ask the student to explain the idea; eventually, most students learn to automatically provide evidence and examples.
If you are a new teacher or if you have concerns about what to aim for or which available objectives may be most important for lesson content, you can use any good language arts or reading textbook as a guide, teacher's manuals that accompany basal systems, and in some places, district curriculum guides. So, look to your favorite resources.
If you wish to add a few resources to your classroom or school collection, a particularly comprehensive reading textbook with many charts and ample discussion for teaching phonics and structural analysis, building vocabulary, and developing reading comprehension is Creating Reading Instruction for All Children by Thomas G. Gunning (1996). For more information and ideas about using the reading and writing connection, Reading Writing Connections: From Theory to Practice by Mary F. Heller (1991) is a beautifully articulated resource. Also, classic articles such as Clymer's (1996) “The Utility of Phonic Generalizations in the Primary Grades” are especially valuable in deciding which phonic categories are most useful and reliable.
Using the 10 steps that make up the general sequence of the PWIM, I have listed a few teaching tips. Some of these tips may seem obvious. However, I've learned them from watching highly skilled teachers use the model, seeing students struggle unnecessarily, or experiencing some part of teaching and learning the hard way. While many of these tips are applicable to using the PWIM with any group size, I write them with whole-class instruction in mind.
Step 1. Tips for selecting a picture
- The richer the content of the picture, the more opportunities for language development and expansion. For example, a beautiful photograph of a child sitting alone on a bench may not generate many words, but a photograph that includes a child, puppies, trees, and flowers is likely to generate many words. Select pictures you think your students can relate to.
- The larger the picture the better (24″ × 30″ is great).
- If you find a great picture that you think will evoke many words and ideas from your students, go ahead and laminate it to use again next year. Laminating allows you to erase or make changes in the lines you draw from the picture to the phrase or word.
- As you pin or tape the picture to the background paper, ensure the paper extends about three feet beyond the picture on all sides. I still make mistakes in not allowing myself enough good writing space when students generate more words than I anticipate. White or light-color paper makes an easy-to-read background.
- When you place the picture on the board or wall, place it at eye level for your students to aid their exploration and gathering of evidence.
Step 2. Tips for identifying items and ideas
- The first round or two of identifying items in the picture needs to be relatively fast-paced with clear, easy matches between the items and the labels (whether a word or phrase).
- If you are concerned about a student not participating from shyness or lack of language, have an impromptu individual discussion with that student. Help the student think about what is in the picture.
- Focus first on recording words and identifying phrases about the picture. If a student volunteers a sentence, you may simply write the key words on the chart. For example, write brown truck, instead of “I see a brown truck in the picture.”
- If a students volunteers a particularly descriptive sentence, you can always comment on it and save it by jotting it down in your notebook. If the sentence is “That brown truck is a delivery truck because it has UPS on it,” use any or all of the following labels identified by you or the student: brown truck, delivery truck, brown delivery truck, or UPS truck.
Step 3. Tips for labeling the picture
- Write the words in large enough print so that the student who is the greatest distance from the chart will be able to read them clearly and easily. Generally, this means “the tall letters” need to be about three or four inches high. (A blunt tip magic marker is great!)
- Write the words horizontally. If you write at a slant, you may find some of your kindergartners writing the word at the same slant.
- With young children who are still learning letter recognition and letter formation, watch where you stand as you see, say, and spell each word.
- Draw two or more lines when students offer a label that represents more than one item, for example, trees.
- If students provide several accurate labels for the same item, write all labels on the chart; for example, brown truck, delivery truck, UPS truck.
- If students give you an abstract description such as “happy boy,” ask them for their evidence to help reinforce observation and reference skills.
- If you are not certain about the correct spelling of a word, say so, and develop a common signal you and the students can use to indicate this uncertainty, such as a question mark. You may choose to check the spelling during the lesson or to check it later and report to students at the beginning of the next lesson. Another option is to have a brief discussion with them about why this word still gives you problems, or explain that it was a new word for you and you spelled it phonetically. When students are older or are experienced with the model, you can have them check the correct spelling of the word for homework or classwork.
Step 4. Tips for reading and reviewing the picture word chart
- The first few days of a new chart, or every day depending on the circumstances, lead the students in reading all the words. You want students to hear the words pronounced correctly many times, and to have extensive practice reading the words aloud and silently, as a group and independently.
- Especially with a new chart or when teaching a class new to the PWIM, put strips of tape on the floor to identify a space for each student to sit and to see the chart.
- The first few days of a new chart, lead them in spelling the words. You want students to hear the words spelled correctly many times and to participate in spelling the words correctly. After a few days, you may want to target words to spell that will be mastered first for reading and writing.
- Teach students how to check their reading by using the word chart—an activity that is part of early instruction in reference skills.
- Teach students how to read the words on the chart silently.
- Select words, sound and symbol relationships, or phonics generalizations to address informally or to teach explicitly—selection can occur at any time.
Step 5. Tips for reading and classifying the words
- Each student needs a word envelope or word bank and needs to be responsible for a personal set of word cards.
- The first day or two of reading the words using the chart should be an exciting event for younger students and should not be rushed. Teach them how to share space at the chart; facilitate their exploration of the picture and the model; listen for and record words that are difficult for several students.
- The teacher needs a large set of the word cards for group instruction and demonstrations. A large pocket chart helps to align words and sentences so students can see patterns that are present in groups or words or sentences.
- Ensure that the class generates enough words to classify. It's difficult to put an exact number on this, but it's possible to begin with from 10 to 15 words. With some groups of students, you may wish to give students a few words at a time.
- As you listen to students read the words and form word groups, refer them to the chart if a word is not in their sight vocabulary and they cannot figure it out. Using the chart helps them to learn to gather information, to develop problem-solving skills, and to develop reference skills.
- Have students work independently to classify the words several times to push them into observing and identifying details.
- You can select any category, group of words, or group of sentences for explicit instruction or for concept attainment lessons to drive for class mastery of useful concepts or generalizations.
Step 6. Tips for reading and reviewing the picture word chart
- Select words of common difficulty for group instruction.
- Identify certain common concepts in the words to emphasize with the class as a whole. Pull out any useful group for explicit instruction. Brief explicit instruction episodes throughout the PWIM are used to support mastery of selected concepts and provide demonstrations of language analysis.
Step 7. Tips for adding words
- The teacher may add a word to the picture word chart at any time, for either word analysis (phonetic analysis or structural analysis) or for content purposes (some important item or action in the picture).
- Provide opportunities for students to add new words as they spend more time with the picture and more time reading informative books related to the content. Two relevant management tips: you may want to write these new words with a different color magic marker and you need to add the words to each student's set.
- Adding words can be a stimulus for searching through books.
- Use a word wall or flip chart for the words that are collected by students as they pursue various sound and symbol applications, structural similarities (e.g., different ways plurals are formed), or content groups (e.g., all different labels for “people when we do not know their names,” or for “other names we call people we know, like Grandad”). Many of these words will not belong on the picture word chart but are needed to help students apply the concepts being taught through the PWIM.
Step 8. Tips for creating titles
- Picture word charts can be titled simply using the picture as the information base.
- Lead students to think about the “evidence” and information in their chart and about what they want to “announce” first to the reader.
- Picture word charts can be titled more than one time, just put a sentence strip over the first title.
- Lead the development of collaborative sentences using words students have classified by content (e.g., the group labeled by a student in Mrs. Frazier's classroom as “all names for humans” or the group in Mrs. Lewis's class labeled as “all the kinds of balls in the storage room”).
- After sentences have been generated, read, and classified, select appropriate categories for developing collaborative paragraphs (e.g, a paragraph about the topic of students wearing uniforms).
- Read to students the titles and first paragraphs or pages from well-written informative books. Reading aloud these sections may take only five minutes, but the experience can be instructionally rich as the teacher is able to (1) provide models of accurate titles for informative prose selections; (2) ensure that students hear good nonfiction prose read well; (3) help students to develop a sense of the rhythms of the English language; (4) advertise books and encourage students to read about a particular subject; (5) demonstrate the amount of information available in books written at a range of ability levels, from picture books to adult nonfiction; and (6) provide students with another opportunity to learn about a concept being taught in science, social studies, or mathematics. Depending on the picture, the informative books can be used for interdisciplinary instruction.
Step 9. Tips for generating sentences and paragraphs
- Build on what students already know and bring to the learning experience; model thinking aloud and appropriate discussions, help students to expand their knowledge base about how language works.
- As with the word cards, students need copies of everyone's sentences. With some groups, you may choose to work with a few sentences at a time. Especially with kindergarten and 1st graders, publishing sentences makes a grand publishing and sharing event.
- Reading aloud titles and paragraphs from informative trade books is useful throughout the time students are working on steps 7–10, but especially when working on generating sentences, paragraphs, and titles.
- Encourage students to write additional sentences and paragraphs in their journals.
- Use student sentences and paragraphs to create books they can read easily. Students can illustrate their sentences in a class book.
Step 10. Tips for reading and reviewing sentences and paragraphs
- Remember that the goal is for everyone to learn to read the sentences and paragraphs fluently.
- Listen and look for high-frequency words that need to be mastered rapidly, through word card games and drill if necessary, along with demonstrations of analysis of their characteristics or differences (e.g., the, they, them, their; it, is, in).
- Encourage students to find pictures in magazines or newspapers that relate to the class picture word chart and to create their own related independent picture word charts. This can be additional language arts work, part of work in other subject areas, or work with parents and caregivers.
Management and Assessment Reminders
It's useful to occasionally have additional help. Possible avenues include an upper-grade group as buddies for your students and parent or community volunteers. These support persons can do everything from writing or printing and cutting word cards to checking the number of words students have mastered as sight words.
Despite group and individual diagnosis being continuous when using the PWIM, you may also use formal assessment measures for additional diagnostic data. Each lesson loop (day) provides data for a range of options in that lesson or for the next day's lesson. Keeping a notebook handy for notes on common needs, future steps, and particular aspects of language confusion by individual students, is useful. If you wish, you may use general assessment instruments like the Names Test (see Duffelmeyer, Merkley, Fyfe, & Kruse, 1994), any general phonics assessment instrument that provides results by sound and symbol, thus providing additional data for making decisions about which phonics elements to focus on for whole class or small group instruction.
The PWIM as a Multipurpose Teaching Strategy
In working with school faculties and in teaching staff development courses, I have a slogan: “Let's make it fun and productive!” The it is the learning experience of participating in the year's collective work or the course. Although we do not always succeed, the slogan represents a social climate and achievement goal that is part of my teaching stance. I feel the same way about classroom instruction. The cognitive work of learning to read and write can be fun. Language learning can be fun. And, instruction in reading and writing needs to engage students and needs to be productive work for both students and teachers.
I enjoy using the PWIM and helping others to use it with their students because it's fun. Generally, students and teachers enjoy language learning with the picture word inductive model. And, balancing the multiple demands of classroom curriculum manager, I can make it serve many curriculum objectives and use it to apply what I know about good learning theory.
For language arts curriculum, the PWIM can be focused on building sight vocabulary, on letter and sound relationships, on phonetic and structural analysis, on spelling, on reading comprehension, on writing (including composition, mechanics, and penmanship), and on reference skills. The wonderful thing about the PWIM is that students generate part of the curriculum: It's their words, their phrases, their sentences, and their paragraphs that form the content of picture word inductive lessons. PWIM also allows us to apply good learning theories from a variety of perspectives:
- Repetition and presentation of words on the picture chart convert the words into sight words for most students.
- Repetition, presentation, and discussion of the formation of letters and the sounds they represent result in language tools for students' reading and writing (and spelling).
- Analysis and application of phonetic and structural generalizations help students to acquire those patterns that have regular use.
- Continuous opportunities exist for explicit instruction in reading comprehension and in composing, including modeling of the metacognitive processes involved in skill areas (e.g., spelling and pronunciation) and modeling the more comprehensive language processes (e.g., organizing an informative paragraph for a designated audience).
- Individual, small-group, and large-group activities are part of the PWIM structure.
- Opportunities are available for using the social setting to develop understanding and use of multiple perspectives, to apply listening and discussion skills, and to gather information from multiple sources.
- Multiple opportunities are available for students to apply the language concepts they are learning.
For organizing learning experiences and the school day, the PWIM can be allotted any length of time, depending on the number of concepts being taught or reinforced. And, thinking about the need to integrate instruction because of the limited amount of instructional time available, the PWIM can be used for teaching and reinforcing concepts in other curriculum areas, including social studies, mathematics, and science.
From the beginning of the picture word inductive model to the end, the teacher models seeking, thinking, and using learning while providing instruction that engages students in seeking, thinking, and using their accumulating knowledge. I love using the PWIM because we can take students—individually and as groups—as far as they can conceptually “see” in language learning. There are no artificial caps on what can be learned.