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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Using Pictures to Teach Key Reading Skills

I blog a lot about how I use pictures to teach key reading skills, and I’m passionate about their impact on student learning.  If you’re familiar with my blog, you have probably noticed students working with pictures in many, many ways.  If you’ve never tried it, I know you may be skeptical of its value. Trust me when I say that It is incredibly impactful, engaging, and it sticks with students for years to come.

Almost any time I introduce or review a new reading skill, I do so using a picture.  Why?
·         So many kids are visual learners.  Kids love reading picture books, and there is a reason for that!  As students get older, we tend to teach skills using isolated passages (which, please don’t get me wrong, is vitally important), but taking a look at it visually—with no text—is invaluable to some kids who need to learn a different way.

·         It is easy differentiation!  Using pictures almost always requires students to generate their own ideas rather than answer a multiple choice question or put a sequence of events in order.  The options are limitless with pictures—you can have students do a most basic task within the skill or you can get highly complex, involving inferences, predictions, schema, etc.

·         I can include science or social studies topics in my pictures, making the learning transdisciplinary.  When students are prepping for big tests in other areas, I can select a picture that relates to that topic and use it in conjunction with our reading skill.  Double dipping at its finest!

·         We use different levels of texts to teach different ideas.  Each student has their instructional level and independent level.  Using pictures when I’m teaching is a little bit like teaching them to read at their instructional level.  They can understand a picture, so before they have to wrap their heads around applying a new concept to texts (that they are still having to decode, comprehend, etc.) they can understand the new concept using something that is familiar to them—real life!

·         Kids are ENGAGED!  I have never had a student moan or groan when I pull out a big picture to dissect.
For these examples, we spent about 5 minutes at the beginning of reading each day this week to review a number of skills.  We generated the ideas together, and I or a student recorded them on the paper.  You could do the same thing to teach the skill (rather than review it), and you could use it as a carousel activity, too, which is on my favorite ways to do this!

I also frequently use one picture to review several reading skills, like this:

Here is a brief list of skills I have reviewed using pictures…

I have also used pictures to teach language skills as well.  Here is an example of one we did to review nouns and verbs.  I have also done it for adverbs and adjectives.

If you haven't tried it, print out a picture next week, and see what fun you will have with your students!

If you want more great ideas, please consider visiting me on FACEBOOK, checking out my teaching resources on Teachers Pay Teachers, or following my PINTEREST boards!

And before you go, be sure to hop around the other 150 Bright Ideas Blog posts!  There are always so many great ideas during this link up, and I'm honored to be a part of it again!  You will find great teaching ideas, classroom management tips, and organizational solutions. Settle in…you will be reading for a while!


  1. What a fantastic idea! There are so many wonderful pictures online and also those that we use for our content areas, I can easily see using these ideas to teach all sorts of strategies in my small groups. Thanks so much for sharing :)

    3rd Grade Thoughts

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  3. Love this idea. It can be adapted to work with so many grade levels and a variety of ELA standards. Thanks for sharing!

    Flip Floppin' Through...3rd Grade

  4. So many great ideas!! Thank you so much! You've got my brain going many possibilities. Thank you for sharing!


  5. I absolutely love visiting your blog! This is such a wonderful post and you've given me some great ideas for our lessons this week. Thank you so much Mary!!!

  6. Years ago when I taught first grade, I used pictures for everything. Somehow, I've gotten away from that with older kids...but why? This is fantastic, Mary! Thank you so much for the reminder that even big kids can use the visuals. I always love visiting your wonderful blog!

    Fun in Room 4B

  7. Using pictures seems so obvious - why didn't I think of it? Now I'll be on the lookout for photos and photo ops everywhere I go! :)

  8. Hi friends, your blog has lots of information to teach. I have also some tips & tricks about iphone, ipad, android, blogger, windows, wordpress and many more. You can download free software, games and songs for your PC and mobiles. visit here:

  9. Mary, I think you are brilliant! Thank you so very much for your effective teaching ideas- you inspire my teaching everytime i visit your blog and FB page. :)

  10. Great idea! I am definitely going to use this in my classroom next year. Thank you for sharing!

    Sara :)
    The Colorful Apple

  11. Thank you for your blog! You are describing very interesting approach. In fact such method needs further research and development. For example many students are working with such topics already. I've seen few ordered from here So I wish you success with enhancing it!

  12. Each student has their instructional level and independent level. Using pictures when I’m teaching is a little bit like teaching them to read at their instructional level. animation exposure sheet