Monday, July 5, 2010

In Pictures and In Words

In Pictures and In Words is Katie Wood Ray's latest book and she challenges teachers to raise the quality of writing through the lens of illustrating. Part way through reading this book, I felt Katie Wood Ray has taken her own writing, thinking, and teaching to a new level. She shares her own writing thinking as a writer, letting us see a glimpse into herself. I love reading tidbits about authors personal lives and in this case writing decisions. The premise of Katie's new work is based on, "understanding how both writing and drawing are acts of of meaning making." She builds a strong case for building a writer's stamina, something we've all been working on in reading for years. I had to chuckle when I read this and thought how true for kindergarten, "it really doesn't matter how many craft lessons or genre studies a teacher plans for students if she doesn't first teach them how to sit down in chairs, stay there for a long time, and make some work for themselves that leads to writing....the curriculum of time is fairly simple: Sit. Stay. Put something on the paper." She urges readers to understand stamina is required to allow for creative work. Katie spends an entire chapter showing the reader how the writing and illustrating process are parallel to each other. This is the best summary found while reading this chapter, "Writers make something by combining together words; illustrators make something by combining together images." Throughout the entire book there are wonderful examples of student work showing the reader the thinking and decisions that went into the illustration. It is so important for us as teachers to listen to student explanations as they are writing and illustrating. I have always found illustration work to be intriguing. I love listening to students explain their thinking and through this listening I learn about their decision making. This decision making is insightful, quick, long, careful, revised, and a sense of the child is always present. What Katie does in her latest book is name illustration techniques. She validates the learning and provides teachers with a common language to articulate the learning. Katie admits this is new thinking for most teachers and herself, we couldn't ask for a better mentor in our own profession. The last chapter in this book discusses Writing Workshop and an illustration study. Her framework this study begins with gather, and then immerse, study, and write. She gives more thoughts on each part. She does caution teachers to immerse and use the students observations to guide the study. She concludes her book with 50 techniques, not lessons to preselect and teach but to use when student's notice something. Each technique is outlined in this manner; something to notice, an illustration example (picture book model suggested), an understanding for young writers and illustrators, in a teacher's voice: an idea for trying out, and a writing connection. If I could meet Katie in person I would give her a great big squeeze to thank her for validating in education what our children do naturally, enjoy, and embrace.


  1. Thanks for sharing this professional book. Katie always makes me think. I can't wait to get a copy and read.

  2. I just finished it and loved it. She is so authentic in her writing and I love the ideas she shared for planting seeds in our brains about studying illustrations. I have half my review written and loved reading yours!

  3. Just got this book delivered from Amazon! I can't wait to dig in.