Hooking Students Right from The Start
Consider the visual your students will create and the puzzled look that will move across their faces if you start 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, activates 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. Most picture books are designed for students to work through the problem of the story with the book’s characters. For this type of learning experience, a well-crafted activity sheet can be used to give students an opportunity to experience the problem with the characters. In 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 French philosopher, Rene DeCartes who creates a grid system and then uses coordinates to record the landings of a fly on his 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! (Reference: The Fly on the Ceiling)
Support Student Understanding
Picture books make great tasks for math stations. For example, instead of doing a worksheet for adding and subtracting decimals, students can listen to a story about a family of pigs on the hunt for money to buy dinner. During the reading, students follow the pigs on their journey. They record the amount of money found in each location and then find the sum at the end of the story. Students then use a menu to help the pig family determine their total bill and the change they will receive after their meal. 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 when used with an accompanying activity sheet for students to complete during the story or after the reading. Check out a free activity for this book here! (Reference: Pigs will be Pigs)