Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Flotsam and the Power of a Wordless Story

A few weeks ago, my son's Kindergarten teacher asked me to do a Writer's Workshop in their class.  Their writing curriculum suggested a session or two focusing on using drawings to tell a story.  Getting the kids interested in storytelling in general was the real point of the lesson.

Having just read The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck , I was a recent convert to the glories of the wordless story, so I was especially excited to talk about the topic.  I debated about using Hugo as a teaching tool, but in the end, I decided it was too advanced for Kindergartners.  Also, the black-and-white format wasn't the perfect medium to present to that age group either.

I set off in search of another wordless book that would inspire the class.  I stumbled across Flotsam by David Wiesner and was instantly sold.  I don't know how I went this many years without picking this one up.  Crazy me.  The complex story he was able to craft with image alone is truly inspiring.  Flotsam spins an air of mystery, wonder and connectedness.  Even with no text, the kids were completely drawn into the story -- intrigued, laughing, and participating in every page.

After I "read" the story, we discussed picture clues that help tell a story -- things like what the characters are wearing, what time of day it is, the setting, and facial expressions.  Next the kids each illustrated their own wordless stories and presented them to each other.  I loved seeing them work so hard on their drawings, incorporating telling little details.  Kids' art always, always inspires me.  I love every moment I get to spend in Matthew's classroom, but this day was one of my favorites.

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