How to Use Pictures to Help Students Read in Kindergarten

In the third post of our Reading Conferences with Beginning Readers blog series, renowned literacy expert Jennifer Serravallo shares how to use pictures to help children read text. This post is taken from our free, downloadable “Success Starts Early: Reading Conferences with Your Beginning Readers” guide.

Teaching valuable reading skills and behaviors is essential in the beginning of kindergarten. When children start to read and engage with texts at levels A, B, and C, they need to know different strategies to use when they come to a word they don’t know or have to figure out what’s happening in the story.

Children should know that the pictures in their books are highly supportive of the text. It is very unlikely to find a word on a page that is not supported by the picture.

As children look at each page of a book, they should get into the habit of checking the picture first and then trying to read the words on the page. When children get stuck on a word, checking the picture can help them figure out the word.

What a Street!Ideas for Partnerships who are working on using pictures and the text to read:

  • Instruct partnerships to open a new book together and flip through the pages to look at the pictures before trying to read the words. Afterward, ask the partnership members to think about what the story was about and use the pictures to help them figure out what the words could be.
  • Encourage partnerships to question each other politely if something in a picture does not match what the partner has read. This will reinforce the idea that words in the book match the pictures and that a reader corrects the words if something does not make sense.

 Ideas for English Language Learners (ELLS)

  • If the teacher anticipates that there will be unfamiliar vocabulary, preteach a few of the words before children attempt to read the book.
  • Provide a separate word wall handout for ELLs that is tailored to their needs. Keep this in a folder or on a stand as a reference for children as they read.

 Ways to support this skill/behavior throughout the day:

  • Before doing a Read-Aloud, do a “picture walk” with the class to preview some of the story.
  • During Shared Reading, prompt the whole class to check the picture to get help with a word when the children are stumped.

Listed here is an example of a scenario that demonstrates helping students with using pictures and the text to read:

Research: Ask the child to read aloud. Do the words that child reads make sense with the picture?

Observation: The child reads a word that contradicts the picture (e.g. reads “red bus” when the picture depicts a yellow bus).

Coach/Prompt: Say: “Does the picture match what you read? Make sure your words match what you see in the picture.”

Demonstration: Use the text, What a Street! and turn to pages 2 and 3. Say, “Watch me read this page. I need to check the picture and make sure that it matches what I read.” Read the first sentence on page 2 and pretend to get stuck on the word “street.” Deliberately check the picture for help. Have the child try in his or her own book.

Interested in ordering Guided Reading books for your kindergarten classroom? Check out our collections of books at levels A, B, and C below:

Missed our posts in our Guided Reading in Kindergarten series? Click below to read more:

Jennifer SerravalloAbout the Author: Jennifer Serravallo is a national literacy consultant, speaker, and the author of over a dozen books and resources on the teaching of reading and writing including the NY Times bestselling The Reading Strategies Book and the two-time award-winning Independent Reading Assessment series. Her other books about differentiated instruction and formative assessments are: The Literacy Teacher’s Playbooks, Teaching Reading in Small Groups, The Writing Strategies Book, and Conferring with Readers. She was a Senior Staff Developer at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project and taught in Title I schools in New York City.

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