Using Picture Books With Upper Elementary Students (e.g. Math, Science, etc.)

Using Picture Books With Upper Elementary Students (e.g. Math, Science, etc.)

OK ….  so if you were a fly on my Grade 5 classroom wall you would see picture books everywhere (e.g. on shelves, on display, in hands … and yes, even sometimes left on the floor 😉
I love reading/exploring/sharing picture books with my Grade 5 students. I use them in all(!) subject areas: Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies, etc. They are quite simply a fantastic resource.

So when a colleague recently asked me for a list of pictures books that I use to teach math in the classroom I was thrilled!

Rewind: Same School – A Different Time:

I’ll never forgot the day:
I was teaching an upper elementary homeroom for the first time and I had gathered my students on the “imaginary” (I didn’t have one in the room) carpet to listen to a picture book read aloud.
I was reading “The Greedy Triangle” as a springboard into geometry.
Shortly after starting the book two teachers walked by and I swear I could “hear” them rolling their eyes! After all, what was I doing with those big kids at the “carpet”? & reading a “baby book” no less!
Well, that belief system didn’t last long, and needless to say one year later not only did I have a real(!) carpet in my classroom but most upper elementary teachers were using pictures book regularly as an additional means of teaching math, science, etc. concepts. Yippee!

& Now down to the nuts & bolts of it:

I love using math picture books during math (for example) because they …
… both educate & entertain
… provide a great transition from one subject area into another
… provide a springboard / narrow a purpose
… set the stage: provide a background & develop a theme
… build vocabulary
… make otherwise “dry” facts & figures come alive/fun
… make otherwise abstract concepts concrete
… introduce & develop reading strategies
model fluency & expression
develop reading comprehension, predicting and inferential skills
develop listening and speaking skills
excellent, non-threatening, encouraging forum for discussion & exploration

Picture books are ….
… friendly
… bite-sized
… non-threatening
… great for all (especially visual & auditory) learners
… fun, playful, entertaining

Finally, there is something comforting about gathering everyone at the carpet to listen to a picture book … it’s community building.


PS If you are looking for picture books to use in your class for math for example, please see the bottom of my blog entitled: “How to Structure a Weekly Math Program (A Most General Approach … + Picture Books)”at


3 responses to “Using Picture Books With Upper Elementary Students (e.g. Math, Science, etc.)

  1. >Hi Ally,I like the idea of using picture books to springboard new concepts. I've done this on occasion, but I'd like to incorporate this more.I was wondering how many students you have in your class. I have 36 and that leave no room for us to gather on the imaginary rug. Any suggestions?

  2. >Wow! You do have a big class! I have taught big classes but never that big.Ok … so here are three simple suggestions:1. Be a strolling minstrel. Walk around the room, holding the book up for all to see. Waltz a little 🙂 Read to entertain as well as to inform. 2. What's the weather like where you are? Are you able to take your students outside? Nice to get the fresh air too.3. "Play" readers chair. Split students into 4(?) groups and assign readers to conduct read alouds.Just some thoughts.Good luck.Cheers,Ally

  3. >Like koolkat, I like this idea too. Adding visuals to learning materials gives a great deal of assistance to children. And there's no better way to learn and have fun at the same time than using a computer. In my son's case, I let him use WordSmart. Complaints have been heard and published, but still, there are those who purchase the program and get contented. So why believe in such thing as a WordSmart scam? What matters is that our children are learning. That's what we should believe in.

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