The Snowman

The Snowman by Raymond Briggs 

This is a wordless picture book that is perfect for helping students understand the importance of the reading comprehension skill of inferring. 

Inference is when you are able to work out what the author is telling you, without the author actually telling you!

Students may connect their prior knowledge with what they see and read in a text to infer what an author is communicating.  They also use pictures, an appreciation of cause and effect and a host of other reading skills and strategies.

I find wordless picture books wonderful for drawing out comprehension abilities in little learners. They can encourage readers to talk about their understanding. I read The Snowman with Sam (6 years old) and was able to find out so much about his comprehension.

First read

First we just looked at the book from page to page and did what you could call a 'picture talk'. We just talked together about what we saw in the pictures. Here I could hear the language Sam was using and as he went from picture to picture begin to identify his understanding of the story. As we started, Sam was just making comments about the physical nature of each picture, but the middle and especially by the end, he was showing evidence of a much wider range of comprehension skills.

I took opportunities to ask for ideas, helped him build vocabulary and also took time to ask questions that prompted inference.

Second read

On our second read, we made up more of a story - giving the characters names, adding dialogue and verbalizing what we had inferred on our first read.

For example:

One our first read we noticed that page 8 showed a picture of The Snowman leaning back, away from the fire, hand to his frowned face and beams of heat coming out from the fire. Sam described the picture: The Snowman is not happy. I prompted, what do you think is making him so sad (pointing to his face) and why? Sam replied he is scared the fire will melt him.

As we progressed through the book on our second read, Sam noticed that many of the situations The Snowman and boy explored involved light and/or temperatures- the fire, the TV, the lamp, a picture of a sunflower, a light switch, light from the fridge, a torch, car headlights, a chest freezer, a candle, and finally toward the moon as they flew at night. He is thinking what might melt him, like the sun Sam inferred. I thought this was quite a deep level of comprehension and developed from our careful pre-read of talking about each picture carefully and my guiding questions about how the characters may have been feeling.

Wordless Picture Books in the classroom

In the classroom, wordless picture books can be harder to manage as the opinions of 30 children can often be cumbersome to manage. Remember that the person doing the talking is the one doing the learning. To allow all your learners to express themselves, use a strategy like turn and talk.

First, show one page from the story in detail. Model how to talk about each picture, drawing out details and using inference to talk about what the author is perhaps communicating. Give the students a copy of another page in the text, have them turn to a partner and talk. They can do the same as you modelled - talking about each picture and what they think the author is communicating.

Provide as much opportunity as you can for your learners to study the pictures carefully to themselves, or with a partner - talking about what they see. Join together as a class for the second read and it will be interesting to note their understandings of the text.

If you would like a copy of this wonderful story, use our Google affiliate link: The Snowman to find it. 

Inference Classroom Poster and Worksheet

We'd also love to provide you with a poster for introducing this strategy to your students and a worksheet for them to draw some of the pictures and write about what they infer. 

On the poster, the text says 
The sun shone brightly. "Oh no", said the snowman.
Talk to your student about how they are using their ability to infer to 'guess' what the author and illustrator are telling us. The text does not tell us directly, but we combine 
  • our prior knowledge and experience of snow and heat, with 
  • the image of a sad snowman and 
  • the text 'the sun shone brightly' and 'oh no' 
to 'guess' that the author is telling us that the snowman is worried or sad about melting.

Find the printables right here in Google Dive: Snowman inferring poster

Thanks so much for stopping by our blog today, we hope you love reading about snowmen too!

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