The Power of Wordlessness (Part 2 of 2)
by Jules Csillag
Last week, you read about the reasons to use wordless texts. Today, learn about how to use these texts, and review a few examples.
There are many ways to incorporate wordless “texts” into diverse content areas, including ELA, history, science, SDI, and foreign languages. Some sample activities are listed below:
- Inferences: Any time you present a wordless “text,” you can have students make inferences about characters, setting, problem, etc. For specific inferential questions to ask during some of the movies listed below, read this article from Understood.org.
- Pause & predict: With an image, book, or movie, you can also work on making predictions. With images, you can try guessing what you think would happen next (allowing for multiple responses); with books or movies you would need to pause, and then you could verify answers afterwards (while still acknowledging if other responses could have been logical and relevant).
- Thought bubbles and/or speech bubbles: Adding thought bubbles and speech bubbles works on cognitive flexibility, nonverbal communication, and inferences. You can add these to images, put them on post-its into books (or scan books and create Powerpoints or Google Slides from them), or print still images from videos. If students are interested in this task, you can even add words to videos (i.e. dub their voices) using iMovie, Quicktime, or this list of free, online video editing tools.
- Be a co-author: for books, in particular, students can take on the role of author to essentially narrate a story, thereby addressing inferences and text structure. If different groups of students work on the same story, it also inherently addresses cognitive flexibility.
- Connection building, building up themes: Autistic individuals sometimes have challenges in identifying connections between two things, given a difficulty in central coherence. You can compare two silent “texts” and see how they are similar or different (in how they are made, in topics, etc.), or use a silent text as a jumping off point for a new topic (e.g. begin a unit on immigration with The Arrival; use a “What’s Going on this Picture?” to introduce a new place in a Social Studies unit, etc.), and refer back to this as you delve deeper into the novel topic.
- Citing evidence: With almost any of the above activities, if students are required to explain why they think that, they will be using (visual) evidence to support a position. As students get older, you can link this to the need to cite evidence across subject areas.
- Wordless books (arranged by books appropriate from youngest -> oldest readers)
- Mercer Mayer series: stories about a boy, a dog, and often a frog
- Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie dePaola: the story of a woman who is trying to make pancakes for breakfast
- Wave by Suzy Lee: the story of girl at the beach
- Float by Daniel Miyares: the story of a paper boat
- Journey series (Journey, Quest, Return) by Aaron Becker: a series of stories about a magic marker & a pair of friends
- Sector 7 by David Weisner: the story of a cloud factory (also enjoy his other wordless books, Tuesday and Flotsam)
- The Red Book by Barbara Lehman: the story of a magic book & the two kids who found it
- Zoom by Istvan Banyai: the book can be read backwards or forwards, and contains some interesting shifts in perspective (for upper elementary+)
- Sidewalk Flowers by poet JonArno Lawson and illustrator Sydney Smith: the story of a city and its small details (for upper elementary+)
- The Arrival by Shaun Tan: a long graphic novel about immigration (for middle school+)
- If you’ll forgive the few words that appear in these books, I’ll also include the minimally verbal books: Blip! by Barnaby Richards and Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis
- Wordless movies
- Simon’s Cat series: a series of silent videos of Simon and his trouble-maker cat(s)
- Oktapodi: an octopus escape/love story
- Crumbs: a story of two mice trying to get a crumb
- Snack Attack: a video of an old lady and her snack…with a twist (shout out to SDI Developer Susan Brennan for the recommendation)
- The Present: a video of a mother, a son, and a present…with a twist (shout out to Jessica Price at PS 165 for the recommendation)
- Wish Granter: the story of a fountain dweller who grants wishes (shout out to Jessica Arnone at PS 9)
- Paper Man: a cute NY missed connections story (for older students)
- Alma: a story of a scary toy store (for older students)
- Looking for more? Look for Pixar shorts & Oscar-nominated animated films