Using Picture Books in the Science Classroom


PIcture books ideas and tips to complement the grade 4, 5, 6 science classroom

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Integrating science into the upper elementary classroom can be difficult with so much emphasis on Common Core standards in math and ELA. Often, science and social studies is an afterthought in the education of the United States student. Knowing the pressures of the classroom teacher, I have been creative in how to infuse literacy skills and concepts into my science curriculum so that students are engaged but also so that administrators can be persuaded into seeing the value of science as part of a well-rounded education.

       Having a master's degree in literacy, I feel that the skills needed to become a good reader should transpire throughout all content areas. Science is a topic that I am so passionate about because of the hands-on, real-life nature. While all of my science units include informational reading passages for students to gain knowledge about the concept, this summer I realized I wanted to do more.

       One goal of mine this year is to incorporate picture books into the science curriculum. Picture books help stimulate students in different ways. Students are drawn in not only by the wording of the book but also the pictures. For students who are struggling readers, picture books help them to gain a better understanding of what is going on in the story.

Why use picture books with upper elementary and secondary students?


  • Illustrations are just as important as the words. The illustrations can help them observe more about the story and make deeper inferences.
  • Picture books will better hold student attention than informational text articles. 
  • “Colorful pictures and graphics in picture books are superior to many texts for explaining abstract ideas,” (Kralina 1993). 
  • Improve reading skills in science. Picture books give you another opportunity to work on critical thinking skills.
  • Correct science misconceptions. Picture books are more likely to have scientific inaccuracies. This is OK because it gives you an opportunity to have a conversation about it and correct student thinking.
  • Reading aloud allows you to model fluency for your students. It also allows you to continue to work on comprehension strategies as you stop and question student knowledge. 

 How to Use Picture Books in the Secondary Classrooms.

       How you use picture books in your classroom is entirely up to you. You can use it:

An introduction to the topic this will allow all students to gain background knowledge before they start learning about the science concept. Having this information will prep their minds into focusing on the concept. It will also engage them on the topic and get their minds to start to question what they are learning about.

Wherever you see fit! It’s your classroom, your science unit, your students. If you know you have a few minutes left and can squeeze in reading, go for it. While you can make it an activity for the class period, it doesn’t HAVE to be. Sometimes the most meaningful lessons are the ones where my students and I were having a conversation about a book.

At the end of the unit once your students have gained all the knowledge to rock the science concept, you can reinforce their learning through a picture book. Your questioning will determine how much, or how little, they will get out of it. 

Where do I start?

       Here are some picture books that I have used or researched to use for my science units. Have a great idea? Share it below!

Observations and inferences:

Making observations and inferences using picture books


  • Seven Blind Mice: When reading, do not show students the pages that depict the elephant. Have them guess what the mice are running on. 



States of Matter:



Chemical and physical changes:


  • Pancakes, Pancakes by Eric Carle I will also be making pancakes with my students to question them about the physical and chemical changes while we are cooking.

Force and Motion:


  • Gravity is a Mystery Another book that gives students the basics of the concept. Great for an introduction to your unit. 

Environmental Hazards

These books help to support a unit on natural disasters or environmental issues in the world. 


Food Chains and Food Webs:

Butternut Hollow Pond: Review ecosystems using this delightful book that is also rich in figurative language.
Using picture books like Butternut Hollow Pond to enhance your science unit on ecosystems and ecology

Human Body:

Magic School Bus: The Human Body
I am Human by Susan Verde

As I come across more great finds, I will add them here. If you have any books that you use to enhance your science units, please comment below so I can add them to the list. 

We've got tons of ideas for turning your students into "wild readers!" Be sure to check out these other helpful ideas for upper elementary teachers! 


Strategies to Help Motivate Reluctant Readers // The Little Ladybug Shop

How to Promote a Love of Reading In Your Classroom // The Stellar Teacher Company


Looking for more great ideas to add to your science classroom? Consider joining my science tribe. You will receive weekly tips and ideas to easily implement into your classroom. Sign up below to access the F-R-E-E resources to use with Dr. Xargle's Book of Earth Hounds.

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