Rationale: Wordless stories are an excellent tool to use in an ESL classroom. Beacause of these stories' wordless nature, they can be adapted to the language and ability level of the English language learners in your class. Top Shelf Productions' series of Owly graphic novels relies solely on expressions and symbols to tell its heartwarming stories of friendship, understanding and acceptance.
Grade Levels: All grade levels
Objective: After reading the opening section of Owly, the student will be able to develop language, creative thinking and enhance future reading and writing skills; identify details; see cause and effect; make judgments and draw conclusions.
Time Alloted: Depending on class length. One 90 minute class or two 45 minute classes.
Using a wordless graphic novel like Owly is beneficial for many reasons. One of which is the fact that a single panel or page can offer many different types of lessons - identifying and making sentences with new vocabulary, creating a story from the picture, etc. This allows teachers to utilize the book for various lessons and gear each one for different language levels.
1. Before reading, spend time describing the picture on the front cover of the book so that it can provide a clue for the students as to what the book is about.
2. After identifying the book's title character Owly, preview the other characters with the group. Have them decide on names for these other characters, asking them questions that will explain why they chose those particular names.
3. Since you will only be reading the initial pages of the book, give the students time to scan the book independently. At this point, some may speed past while others may lag behind.
4. After this initial silent reading, go back and "read" the opening panels aloud with the students, making sure to ask the students to help explain what is going on in the story. You should stop periodically during the story to check for comprehension.
5. Have them observe what is happening. Come up with a core vocabulary for the events and actions in the story. All of this will help strengthen the students' acquisition skills. Lead them into discussion in which the students freely discuss the various aspects of the story: putting new vocabulary words into sentences, making sense out of the story, etc.
6. When it is time to "compose" the story, the students will dictate the events to you as you write their sentences on the board or overhead projector. After each sentence is written, it should be read aloud to help them clarify what's been dictated. This reinforces reading skills and helps ESL students understand the flow of the story.
7. When dictation of the story is complete, you should read it once all the way through, while the students follow the action in each panel. Then the group can read with the teacher before students take turns reading individually.
Moreover, each student might have a different interpretation of the events in the story based on their own cultures (for example, some words or expressions might not exist in certain cultures). For advanced students or adults, have them write about their experience and how they might differ from the consensus interpretation.