Warming up before you exercise is considered a really good idea. It allows your body to prepare for the workout ahead – you stretch your muscles, you increase your heart rate and you are able to “get in the mindset” and prepare for your workout. Warming up is also important for students before you read aloud to them and taking a picture walk is one way to do this.
Picture walks generate interest and excitement and can also serve as a preview for important concepts and vocabulary that will make your read aloud more accessible. In other words, if you take a picture walk through a book, your students will “get in the mindset,” be better prepared, and more engaged while you read.
How do I “do” a picture walk?
The first step in doing a picture walk is planning. When you have chosen the book you are going to read to the students, read it yourself first. As you are reading it, look closely at the illustrations, the text and the structure of the book. What elements of the book will be challenging for the children? What elements of the book will excite or surprise the children? How can you grow their eagerness to hear the story read aloud? How can you lay the foundation for their comprehension?
While you are doing your picture walk in front of the children, you might choose to:
- Model how to look closely at the illustrations to make sense of what you are seeing. Talk about what you notice and what you are wondering about. By doing this, you are modeling for your readers the reading strategy of using visual cues. This strategy is one that early readers will rely on when making meaning from their own books.
- Point out any important text features or book structures that will aid in comprehension. For example, if you are doing a picture book with a nonfiction text, you might point out the headings or labels and let the children know the purpose of these features.
- Use some of the vocabulary from the book that might be new or challenging. For example, if there is a picture of a typewriter in the book and this word is central to the story, use it while pointing it out in the illustrations.
- Ask questions. As you slowly turn the pages of the book, ask the students some general questions about who the story might be about, where it is taking place and what is happening. Questions such as these will help children realize that illustrations carry powerful information.
- Respond to children’s replies vaguely. Telling them they are correct or incorrect makes this activity seem like a quiz when in fact what are you are doing through your picture walk is helping children learn how to preview and predict. You might respond to their answers by saying, “I wonder if that will happen…” or “It looks that way…Let’s come back to that idea when we read…”
While you are reading the book, remember to return to some of the predictions the children made to confirm if they were correct. This reinforces their thinking and supports their enthusiasm.