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by Emily F. Calhoun
Table of Contents
If you decide to try the PWIM, use the suggestions in this chapter to support your effort. I've included general advice about learning a new teaching strategy, the specifics of selecting and using pictures, establishing the learning community, teaching students the moves of the model, and selecting content for instruction. The chapter closes with a list of teaching tips and a few of the reasons I've found the PWIM so useful.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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