The Teacher Tip

Ask Children to Talk About the Decision They’ve Made

September 28, 2017

In her book In Pictures and In Words (2010), Katie Wood Ray explains that the decision making illustrators do when they compose with pictures is really just like the decision making writers do when they compose with words. "Text—whether it's composed with words or pictures or both—doesn't just happen by accident. Text happens because someone decides it should be that way, and all the making and deciding is the essence of process." This has very significant implications for teachers who work with beginning writers. As Katie explains, all the experience children gain as they fashion their pictures in particular ways for particular reasons is just the experience they need to gain control and ownership of the process of composing.

Try this: In writing conferences, ask children to talk about the decisions they've made in their illustrations. "Tell me about what you were thinking as you illustrated this page." Use language that communicates your belief that everything was the result of some decision made, and over time children will come to understand illustration as a process of decision-making and composing. 

To learn more about In Pictures and in Words and to download a sample chapter, visit    

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