Taking a Picture Walk


By Ellen Milne, Michigan Hands & Voices

What is a picture walk?

A picture walk is a shared activity between an adult reader and child or group of children before reading an unfamiliar story.  In its simplest terms, it is previewing the pictures in a storybook to familiarize the child with the story prior to introducing the text.

Why do a picture walk?

Taking a picture walk assists a child with literacy growth in many of the ways mentioned in the Recommended Practices in Deaf Education for literacy. “Walking through the storybook pictures” with an adult prepares a child for reading the story and teaches the use of visual cues as a reading strategy.  It allows the child to get a feel for where and when the story happens, the characters in the story, and what might happen in the story.  Picture walks spark interest in the story and set the purpose for the child to read and learn more about the story. Picture walks can help a child connect the visual images in the story to their own experiences and activate prior knowledge.  They can give children a tool to organize the information in the story, increasing the child’s comprehension of the story. The child is able to make predictions about what might happen in the story and how the story might end. Picture walks can also serve as an opportunity to introduce new vocabulary to a child so the story can be read with more fluidity and fewer breaks for explanations. Picture walks can be especially helpful for a deaf or hard of hearing child who may find it difficult to simultaneously attend to both the pictures and the words of a story that are being read or signed.  Once a child is familiar with the pictures he/she can focus on what is being read or signed and not have to make a choice about what to attend to.

How are picture walks done?

Chose a book you feel the child will enjoy. Look for books with lots of interesting and detailed colorful illustrations that relate directly to the text.  Explain that before you read the story, you and the child will look at the pictures together to see if you can guess what the book is about. Then you will read the book together to see if your guesses were correct. Start by looking at the cover of the book. Ask the child what he/she sees on the cover. Ask what he/she thinks the story might be about. Proceed through the pages of the book, in order, looking carefully at the details in each picture. Ask the child who, what, where, when, why and how questions about the pictures such as “What is the boy doing?” “How do you think the dog feels?”, “Where do you think the man is going?”, “Why do you think the girl looks so excited?”,  “What do you think will happen next?”  If the child is reluctant to provide information about the pictures you can model the strategy yourself by thinking out loud and saying something like “Hmm. I am looking at the mother’s face (point to the face in the picture and imitate the facial expression.)  I think she looks mad.  Do you agree with me?  Why do you think she is mad?” It may take several picture walk sessions with this kind of modeling before the child begins to add his/her own insights. Acknowledge any input the child gives with vague responses that don’t give away whether or not the child is correct. You can do this by simply restating what the child has said such as “You think that the dog will hide in the girl’s backpack and go to school. That’s possible. I can’t wait to see if you are right!”  Once you have completed this process with all the pictures, read the story with the child. Stop when appropriate to discuss whether the child’s predictions were right.  Discuss why the prediction was correct or incorrect using information from both the pictures and the text.  ~

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