Building Language with the PWIM (Picture Word Inductive Model)


PWIM (Calhoun, 1999) is an oft-used and well-cited strategy for students to develop their reading and writing from a picture.  I like it because it engages so many research-based strategies for language acquisition.  Students develop background knowledge, study and play with words, engage in repeated exposures to vocabulary, and all within the context of a single picture. The basic steps are the following:

  1. Choose a picture from a newspaper, magazine or picture cards and display it.
  2. Ask students, "What do you see?"
  3. The teacher labels the objects in the picture, repeating each word and directing students to spell and say the word aloud. (See photo example above.)
  4. Ask, "What do these words have in common?" Next, read and group the words by commonalities in a chart.
  5. Review the chart by reading it and saying the words and their spelling aloud.
  6. Ask, "Can you think of more words to describe the picture?"  Chart any additional words.
  7. Ask, "What would be a good title for the picture?" Discuss and record the title.
  8. Ask students, "What can we say about this picture?  What sentences can we write?"  Record (sentence strips and a pocket chart are great for recording and moving sentences around) and work together to group alike sentences.  Rearrange the sentences into a paragraph, describing aloud why you are putting sentences in a particular position in the paragraph.
  9. Read together a few times.

Looking for Picture Cards?  Buy Now.

Looking for Sentence Strips? Buy Now.

Looking for a Pocket Chart? Buy Now.

Common Core Reading Anchor Standard, 7. Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words. Common Core Writing Anchor Standard, 2. Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

Tricia Gallagher-Geurtsen
Tricia Gallagher-Geurtsen


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