Using picture books to teach writing

Several years ago I mentioned using picture books to teach writing, but I wanted to show you a specific lesson so you can better understand the why’s and how’s of using picture books this way.  And since the theme for Poppin’s Book Nook this month is Wild, Wild West I decided to use some fractured fairy tales to teach this lesson.

using picture books to teach writing

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Several years ago I took a class called “6 Traits +1 Writing,” it was all the rage for teaching kids to write, and they emphasized using picture books to illustrate different writing techniques.  Today, we’re going to look at how Jack and the Giant: A Story Full of Beans (affiliate link) uses “Voice” to help us understand the story better.


 Setting up using picture books to teach writing

When you do this type of activity you don’t want to just read the book and then say, “All right, what did the author do?”  You’re only going to set up your kids to fail and be frustrated.  Instead give them warning to look for certain types of words.  Our first time through they looked for adjectives.  After listening to the story we talked about adjectives being describing words, and how they make the story much more interesting.

picture books to teach writing

For the first day their writing assignment was to find 10 adjectives in the story.  Princess got this concept right away, she’s my born writer.  The boys needed a bit more help, and we spent some time going over the book together to find a few.

Eventually they found a good collection of adjectives and we talked about how these words really gave the story more flavor and interest.  It’s much more interesting to read about a dusty house in a desert than it is to read about a house.  A house is boring.  A dusty house in the desert sounds like the start of an adventure.


Don’t be afraid to reread the picture book as you teach writing

The first time you read the picture book to the kids they’re going to be caught up in the story.  After all you’re not going to use a book for an example if it wasn’t a good book.  They may not notice all of the details you want them to get.


Go back, and reread.  Stop at the end of a page and comment on the word choice or the unusual phrase.  “Jack and the Giant,” has some great word pictures as Jack talks about the giant’s kingdom and what it’s like.  Part of why I chose this theme is because Western books in general are great for this topic, they already have character built in.

Put what you learned into practice, now get writing

After you’ve read a few times and you’ve got a good idea of what an interesting paragraph looks like get to writing.  Add in more of those details.  We’re currently reading Ella Enchanted (affiliate link), and their big writing assignment for the week is to write a paragraph about one of the characters.

To be honest, their first paragraphs were terrible. Absolutely terrible. All of the sentences started the same, they were all short and boring, and needed a lot of work.

Then we talked about voice and word choice from reading “Jack and the Giant,” and the kids understood a bit more of what makes for interesting writing. Their final paragraphs, while still not great, were better. That’s what I was looking for. Improvement.


Great picture books to teach writing (with a Wild Wild West twist)

In honor of this month’s Poppins Book Nook theme I’ll stick with some more Wild, Wild West books for you to read.  All of these are books we’ve read and activities we’ve done in this theme.  Most of these books are a great example of Voice for teaching 6+1 writing, assume so unless I note otherwise.

picture books about the wild wild west*


Poppins Book Nook




Enchanted Homeschooling Mom ~ 3 Dinosaurs ~ To the Moon and Back ~ Planet Smarty Pants ~ Farm Fresh Adventures ~ Growing in God’s Grace ~ Chestnut Grove Academy ~ Learning and Growing the Piwi Way ~ The Usual Mayhem~ Preschool Powol Packets ~ Monsters Ed Homeschool Academy ~ Adventures in Mommydom ~ Teach Beside Me ~ Life with Moore Babies ~ Kathy’s Cluttered Mind ~ Are We There Yet? ~ Our Crafts N Things ~ Hopkins Homeschool ~ ABC Creative Learning ~ Joy Focused Learning ~ P is for Preschooler ~ Laugh and Learn ~ A Mommy’s Adventures ~ Inspiring 2 New Hampshire Children ~ World for Learning ~ Ever After in the Woods ~ Golden Grasses ~ A glimpse of our life ~ Journey to Excellence ~ Happy Little Homemaker ~ Little Homeschool Blessings ~ Raventhreads ~ Tots and Me ~ As We Walk Along The Road ~ Stir the Wonder ~ For This Season ~ Where Imagination Grows ~ Lextin Academy ~ The Canadian Homeschooler ~ School Time Snippets ~ Peakle Pie ~ A Moment in our World ~ Every Bed of Roses ~ Finchnwren ~ At Home Where Life Happens ~ The Library Adventure ~ Embracing Destiny ~ Day by Day in our World ~ Our Homeschool Studio ~ A “Peace” of Mind ~ Thou Shall Not Whine ~ SAHM I am ~ eLeMeNo-P Kids ~ Simple Living Mama


Check out some more Poppins Book Nook ideas on Pinterest.

Clip art by Melon Headz

* Picture used according to CC license, cropped and text added


9 responses to “Using picture books to teach writing”

  1. Great description! This is how we do it, too.

    1. I thought it might be, and getting back into this sure has my kids excited about writing.

  2. I was just helping out in Lily’s kindergarten class this morning, and they were using a picture book to inspire the kids to write little mini (one-page, and dictated that they illustrated) stories.

    1. I remember those days. We were cleaning out the kids’ desks the other day and I found some of their stories like that, it just made me smile. The kids were so confused when I explained what the papers were.

  3. Great ideas for teaching kids go beyond the story line. I should try it at home 🙂

    1. Especially with Smarty starting to get a little more into writing.

  4. Annette Whipple Avatar
    Annette Whipple

    Love this. I’ve been meaning to ask…where are your favorite places to link up posts? I have a few homeschool-friendly posts I want to share. 🙂

    1. I keep forgetting to email you that. I’m horrible at linking up to people, but there’s a couple of place that run linkies, let me get them.

  5. Using picture books is a great way to teach writing!

    Thank you for helping to bring a spoonful of reading fun to the Poppins Book Nook this month!

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