When it comes to teaching grammar and vocabulary, it's important to have models for students to follow. Unfortunately, finding models can be difficult. Sentences taken from standard worksheet often come out of context and novels or non-fiction books are often too long to make pulling sentences from them effective. Where do you turn when you want a simple source text full of models for students to follow? Picture books. Pictures books help students learn about grammar and vocabulary in the context of a larger story giving the concepts they need to learn more meaning.
Use Picture Books to Teach Sentence Structure
While some picture books are complex and full of varied sentence structure, many feature page after page of similarly constructed sentences.
Where is baby's belly button? There is baby's belly button. Where is baby's head? There is baby's head.
Whether you want to teach simple sentences, compound sentences, or complex sentences, you can probably find a picture book with what you need. The same is true for exclamatory, declarative, interrogative, and imperative sentences. You can have students read the picture books and pick out examples of certain types of sentences or you can incorporate sentences from picture books into a lesson about sentence types.
In addition to teaching sentence types, picture books are great to pull sentences from to have students revise. You can cover up a sentence in a picture book and give students a copy of the sentence that is missing a particular part of speech or is all mixed up. Based on the sentences and content of the rest of the picture book, students can try to fix the sentence you give them.
Use Picture Books to Teach Tense
Picture books feature a variety of tenses. If you want to teach past tense, look for a picture book or group of picture books written in past tense. Students can use the picture books as models for wriitng their own past tense sentences or stories. The same is true for present tense and future tense. For example, you could use If You Give a Mouse a Cookie to teach conditional tense. You can also pull out particular sections of a picture book and talk to students why that particular section was written in a specific tense.
Use Picture Books to Teach Punctuation
Picture books are great for teaching punctuation. For a fun activity, take the text of a picture book and remove the punctuation (type out the text or cover up the punctuation marks in the book). Challenge students to fill in the correct punctuation marks in the book. For another fun activity, try reading a picture book as if all of the sentences were questions or exclamation points to help students understand how the punctuation marks influence the reading of a text. Of course, you can also find stories focused on punctuation, such as Punctuation Takes a Vacation or Eats, Shoots, and Leaves (the picture book version).
Use Picture Books to Teach Dialogue
Many picture books are full of dialogue. You can help students learn how dialogue fits into a story and discover how to punctuate dialogue by reading different picture books. Additionally, students can practice their reading skills by learning how to change their voice or tone when they read lines of dialogue from different characters. For a more challenging twist, you can have students try to add dialogue to a picture book that doesn't actually contain any dialogue.
Use Picture Books to Teach Themed Vocabulary Words
Do you want to teach your students dialogue related to a particular topic? Find a picture book on that topic. Then challenge your students to discover the themed vocabulary words within the picture book. For example, a picture book about a construction truck is likely to have a lot of construction-specific vocabulary. A book about spring is likely to have words related to flowers, gardens, and other elements of springtime. Reading picture books on those topics can also help students see the vocabulary words they are learning in context.
The use of picture books in the classroom is not limited to elementary students. Even teenagers and adult learners will enjoy exploring picture books and using them as learning tools. Their short length makes them ideal for use in a standard class period too. If you don't have access to hard copies of picture books, check out HelpTeaching.com's selection of read-alouds.
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