We’ve noticed something about our students: When we give them a topic to write about, they say “it’s boring.” When we don’t, we hear things like, “Tell me what to write about, I can’t think of anything!” Sound familiar? We thought so.
In our experience, wordless picture books have been a useful, anxiety-reducing foundation for creative writing. Instead of starting with a blank “canvas,” students already have a sketch that they can write around. All they need to do is supply the narrative voice, the dialogue, and develop the story.
Using wordless picture books to engage reluctant writers
There are hundreds of picture books, but one of our favorites is Molly Bang’s The Grey Lady and the Strawberry Snatcher. It is as bizarre as it is amusing and for these reasons, students seem to love it.
In this story, we follow the misadventures of a nameless, strawberry-loving grey lady who simply wants to buy her basket of fruit and be on her way. But no sooner does she exit the grocer’s when she finds herself pursued by a blue, impish-looking creature: a Strawberry Snatcher who loves his fruit as much as, or perhaps more than, she does.
The chase winds through sidewalks and into the streets—we didn’t know that Strawberry Snatchers could ride skateboards—and finally into the woods. We won’t give away the ending, but even if we did, your students would still have the freedom to make up their own.
As you can see from the image above, we’ve taken a scanned image of the book and added speech bubbles and dialogue with the help of Pixlr, but there are several ways your students can approach this assignment. They could simply type up the story in a Word document, or if every student had his/her own copy of the book (you can find cheap used copies on Amazon), they could print speech bubbles and use masking tape—or any kind of tape that is not very sticky—to attach them to the pages.
If you’re looking for more ways to engage your reluctant writers, check out a couple of our recent blogs, Storybird uses digital storytelling to engage reluctant writers and 5 of the Best Digital Storytelling Applications.