Hooking Students Right from The Start
Consider the visual your students will create and the puzzled look that would come across their faces if you started your lesson with this line from If You Hopped Like a Frog– “If you were as strong as an ANT . . . you could lift a car!” Picture books can be great lesson openers and a way to hook your students right from the start! Choosing a picture book that is related to the content you are about to teach gives students a context for their learning, helps activate prior knowledge, illustrates another way to connect the learning, and develops curiosity about the skill.
Use the Story to Explore a Concept
Picture books can be a great way to explore a concept, too. Often times, picture books are designed so that students can work through the problem of the story with the characters of the book. For this type of learning experience, a well-crafted activity sheet can be used to give students an opportunity to experience the skill with the characters. In one of my favorite books, One Hundred Hungry Ants, 100 ants marching to a picnic in a line decide to change their formation in order to arrive at the picnic faster, They try a variety of formations until they reach a 10 x 10 array. Through this book, students can explore the concept of an array and draw the arrays as the ants make the formations.
Use the Story to Explain and Make Sense of a Concept
How many times do we stand at the front of the room and explain a concept just to realize that our students don’t understand? Picture books can also support student understanding of a skill after an initial learning experience. Many books actually explain how or why to use a skill or procedure and then gives students an opportunity to apply it in the context of the story. Imagine reading about a sick French philosopher, Rene DeCartes, who while tracking the landings of a fly who is landing in various spots on his ceiling, creates a grid system and then uses coordinates to record the landings of the fly (The Fly on the Ceiling). What if we could build on the story with a human coordinate plane where students use coordinates to locate objects? What a cool way to explain a concept that students often have trouble remembering correctly!
Support Student Understanding
Picture books make great tasks for math stations. For example, what if, instead of doing another worksheet for adding and subtracting decimals, students listened to a story about a family of pigs on the hunt for loose change around their home so that they could buy some dinner. During the reading, students record the amount of money found in each location, add up all of their money at the end, and use a menu to help the pig family determine their bill and the change they will receive after eating at a restaurant (Pigs will be Pigs). What a great real-world example (minus the human-like pigs)! Series such as the Pig books by Amy Axelrod and books by Stuart Murphy are great for stations and can be placed at a station with an accompanying activity sheet for students to complete during the story or after the reading.