One of the reasons I was drawn to Writer’s Workshop was the ability to confer while students are in the process of writing. The most powerful teaching occurs when the teacher pulls up a chair beside a student and teaches one thing during that moment to help lift the student’s level of writing. I really wanted to do a full blown writer’s workshop this semester because I have one particular student who could really use my help. Sadly I just couldn’t make it happen. I teach my mini-lesson and my students go off to Daily 5 choosing a station of their choice. I go to my teacher table and begin guided reading groups.

Ted is a student I taught last year in kindergarten and was identified as learning disabled. By the end of the year he knew all the Letterlanders names, sounds and action tricks, but if I pointed to the letter q, he could not tell me it was a q. I would sit with him as he wrote a sentence. I would stretch out each word, ask him what sound he heard and ask him which Letterlander made that sound. If he knew the sound, he would look at the Letterland train to see how to make that letter. As the year progressed, he picked up some sight words such as like, my, go, we and the. Ted was never able to write a sentence independently.

Last year I had the luxury of a full time teacher assistant, so I had help to keep things running in the room if I sat down to help Ted write his sentence which could take awhile. I do not have a full time TA this year. I share her with three other first grade classrooms. When she comes into my room, I have her read with Ted. He reads three old books, retires the oldest to his book box, and a new book is introduced each day. After this is completed, it’s time for her to move on to the next first grade class.

Ted’s EC teacher has helped him some with writing, but she is also giving him extra Letterland instruction as well as math. So Ted has been left to fend for himself while at the Work on Writing station. This really makes me feel like a lousy teacher. He really didn’t like going to that station and who can blame him?

Things started changing when by chance I folded some copier paper and stapled them together. I showed them to my students and told them they could make a book. I explained they could write a story about anything they wanted to. I remember taking Ted aside and telling him he could just draw pictures to tell a story. He was hesitant at first, but once he saw other students taking a blank book and making stories of their own, he decided to give it a try. This is when he really took off with making wordless picture books.

He is a wonderful illustrator and has a fantastic imagination. Ted has written books about Santa, football, Batman, soldiers, policemen, hunting trips, going to California to be in a NASCAR race and school just to name a few. He even wrote our first scary story about a killer clown! My students and I cheer him on each time he completes a book and “reads” it to the class. He puts in under the document camera so we can all see his detailed illustrations.

Ted wants to go the Work on Writing station each day now and often wants to stay there during the next rotation so he can continue working on his book, which I absolutely let him do. He is learning from his classmates by using speech like bubbles. Instead of dialogue, he writes the person’s name. He used to put illustrations only on the front cover and now he writes his name. He also copies “written” and “illustrated by” from another student’s book on his front cover.

I recently asked my class before sending them off to Daily 5 if there was someone willing to write what Ted wanted to say on each page in a book he was starting today. I immediately had several hands shoot up in the air and Ted got to choose who he wanted to work with. I just about cried. From the beginning of school, I have tried to create a classroom community or family where we help each other and practice kindness. To see the fruits of my labor in that moment did my heart some good.

Below are some examples of Ted’s work that I have been saving for awhile. I hope you see what I see when I look at his books. I see a wonderful illustrator who puts lots of details in his pictures. I see someone with a vivid imagination. I see someone who knows that a story has a beginning, middle and end. I see someone who can write stories about many topics. I see someone who enjoys making books.

unnamed63Santa Story

unnamed (57) Another Santa Story

unnamed-58.jpg Football Story

unnamed (59) Batman Story

unnamed-63.jpg Solider Story

unnamed-61.jpg Navy Seal

unnamed-64.jpg Police Story

unnamed-62.jpg Hunting Story

unnamed (68) NASCAR Story

unnamed-69.jpg School Story

unnamed-65.jpg Killer Clown Story

unnamed (70)





unnamed (75)





page 1 ~ Today is a big football game.

page 2 ~ Carolina Panthers vs Starmount Rams. Look at the helmets…!

page 3 ~ Look at the score.

page 4 ~ There are two players fighting on the field.

page 5 ~ players holding trophies

page 6 ~We went to California to play another game and we won the game and we won gold and money…!

page 7 ~ players driving back with truck load of gold and dollar bills

page 8 ~ Super Bowl champs – Panthers – every game won

I was doing progress monitoring last week and finished up on Friday. I had some time so I called Ted over to my teacher table to see what he was working on. He showed me the paper below and I asked him what he would like to write. I helped him sound out the following and he knew the sounds with the exception of -ing: Us catching Joker


On the back, he wanted to write bat cave and jail so I sounded those words out and he wrote what you see. I did ask him who was making Mr. A appear and he added the magic e. Letterland is really helping him!

unnamed (81)

unnamed-82.jpg jail

I know this was a really long post, but I wanted to celebrate Ted. His confidence has really grown and he sees himself as an author and illustrator. That is worth its weight in gold.





2 thoughts on “Ted ~ Master of Wordless Picture Books

  1. I got chills reading this section of your post: “I hope you see what I see when I look at his books. I see a wonderful illustrator who puts lots of details in his pictures. I see someone with a vivid imagination. I see someone who knows that a story has a beginning, middle and end. I see someone who can write stories about many topics. I see someone who enjoys making books.” For a striving read/writer like Ted, it’s easy to look at all of his writing samples and see what’s missing, but you’re able to point out all of the rich knowledge that Ted has and demonstrates. What you (and I) see is an engaged writer who values communicating his thinking using words an pictures. I LOVE seeing the thought/dialogue bubbles with names in them. He’s experimenting–and that is what real writers do! I also see a writer who sees his own life as a rich source for story ideas! He is a ‘prolific writer’ who tackles everything from Nascar to Santa to “killer clowns”!

    And what a smart idea to pair him up with a peer who helped him add words to his book. As teachers we too often assume that we are the only person in the room able to help, but your students have shown that writers/illustrators collaborate and help each other out! This is the kind of classroom community that a true writing workshop pedagogy demands. Beautiful!


  2. This is such a powerful blog post. If you only changed this student’s love for writing this year, it would all be worth it. To know that Ted didn’t like writing at the beginning of the year to wanting to stay in the writing center for a longer period of time is a wonderful achievement and such a self inspirational thing for teachers. I am sure you felt such joy in your heart when you were able to be the reason why. He has learned to love reading because you were not telling him how he had to write or what he had to write about. You didn’t criticize him because he struggles and that shows what a wonderful, compassionate teacher you are! THANKS FOR SHARING!


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