The teacher plays a key role in mediating picturebooks by helping children to construct meaning, and to use English as much as possible to talk about what they see and what they understand, and to make links to their own lived experience. Here are some tips from Gail and Anneta for mediating picturebooks:
- If possible, have children sit on the floor around you when you read the picturebook. Make sure they can all hear and see you and the illustrations. This will make the storytelling a special event where you and the children share the emotions, the humour, the action, the suspense, the anticipation, the surprise of the story. You will create a natural communicative situation where the children can interact with you, the picturebook and each other.
- Involve the children actively by relating the theme of the picturebook to the children’s own experience.
- Talk about the peritext (front and back covers, endpapers, title pages etc) and teach children the language related to this so they can talk about a picturebook and learn to appreciate its different features.Use the peritext to encourage children to predict content. Return to the peritext once you’ve shared the picturebook, to help children make connections.
- Teach children phrases they can use to talk about the story, I think it will be a story about …., I like the way the illustrator has drawn the ……
- Ask children to think about who is narrating the story (eg which pronouns are used he/she, I/we) and what effect this has. Who is the assumed audience? Who are the main characters and how are they portrayed?
- Consider how any use of sound effects, puppets, visuals, realia and gestures, mime, facial expressions and actions, used as appropriate with the picturebook, can help convey the meaning of emotions, feelings and events and to support children’s understanding.
- Vary the pace, tone and volume of your voice to build suspense and keep children’s attention. Disguise your voice for different characters.
- Make eye contact with the children and observe their reactions and be ready to respond to them.
- Commentate on the story where appropriate and point to illustrations to focus children’s attention.
- Ask probing questions to elicit language and content, to find out what the children already know about a theme, to arouse curiosity and motivate, to focus their attention, to encourage prediction, to infer meaning, to check understanding and learning, to encourage the children to think about and express their own personal reactions to the story, to a character or to an illustration. Allow children to ask questions or respond in their own language as necessary and recast in English.
For further guidelines on mediating picturebooks see: Tell it Again! pages 25 – 27