When I’m not librarianing it up as the Rain City Librarian, I work with international students as an English tutor. Teaching is something I’m passionate about, so I’m excited to start sharing some of my experiences here on my blog, in between my book reviews of course. 🙂
Getting to Grips With The Past Tense, Featuring Mr. Wuffles
One of my students was eager to practice conjugating verbs in the past tense (the simple past, to be precise). This is about as thrilling a process as it sounds.
To make things a bit more interesting for the both of us, we looked at the 2014 Caldecott Honor Book Mr. Wuffles, a nearly wordless picture book.
This activity couldn’t be simpler – analyze each spread and describe what happens. Descriptions can be as simple (“The cat was black. The cat had yellow eyes. It sat on the floor”) or as complex (“The black cat was lounging on the hardwood floor, soaking up the warmth of a sunbeam, when its yellow eyes caught a sudden flash of movement”) as a student can manage, and can be expressed verbally or in writing.
While most wordless picture books can work well as writing and discussion prompts, Mr. Wuffles works particularly well because each of David Wiesner’s images is complex and carefully orchestrated. There is simply so much to see and describe.
Mr. Wuffles works so well with adult students too because it isn’t a “childish” picture book. The story is complex, and the illustrations are realistic and beautifully rendered. The plot can be explored through different perspective and lenses, and can lead to fascinating discussions and interpretations. It touches on issues of language and culture, with language barriers, intercultural cooperation and understanding, and differences of perspective playing vital roles in the progression of the story. Adults might very well interpret the story very differently than their younger counterparts.
When it comes to teaching, don’t be afraid to think outside the box, or the textbook. Inspiration can come in the most unlikely forms, and lead to the greatest and most rewarding successes.
Believe me, a beautiful picture book can make even verb conjugations more enjoyable.