Extend Learning with Picture Books

This is a guest post from Jane Moore, a teacher for more than 26 years. Jane attended our recent webinar about using picture books with tweens and teens, then reached out to share some of her rich experience both in the classroom and from her trainings with teachers. Thank you, Jane!

What a wonderful webinar “Not Just for Kids, How to Use Picture Books with Tweens and Teens” was!!  So many interesting, diverse books for all levels of readers!! Teachers, now that you have great reading suggestions for students, what are you going to do with it?  How can you maintain students’ interest and extend the learning?  Read on for some suggestions that I have!

Have each student bring in a prop that represents the book.  This can work well for plugged and unplugged learners. So take for an example a book most of us have read, The Very Hungry Caterpillar.  Have students bring in their favorite prop from the story: a leaf, an apple, pear, cheese, etc.  Have them describe why it’s important to the story–or even why it’s important to them.  (I’d bring in chocolate cake :). Then have them line up with the items in chronological order for the story. This is great in person, where the kids can talk to each other and remember which thing was first.  Student leaders emerge and you get to sit back and observe.  This activity is great because it helps those students who didn’t understand the story and/or students who struggled with the order things happened.  Students love to learn from other students.  

I did this on Zoom and asked the kids to bring in items about Montezuma and what he would like, based on the non-fiction article we read.  This was an awesome activity for the kid who forgets his homework! If a student forgot the prop, he could just randomly get something from his home and show it to the class and justify why he chose it.  When kids’ cats or dogs came into the screen, we used that, too.  Montezuma was interested in all kinds of things including animals. It made reading come alive for all of us and is so simple to do. 

Once you have the kids’ interest in the book, it’s really easy to get them to write about it.  They could write why their prop is important to the story.  They could also write their own story based on that one prop.  More advanced learners could compare one prop, say an apple, from the story they read in class with another artifact from another story they’ve read–say Johnny Appleseed or One Green Apple.  Have them share their stories with each other.  What’s great about this activity is they come up with the ideas on what books to compare it to.  I accept anything–this is the time for the kids to be creative.  

Another extension of reading a great picture book is to have the students create their own picture book based on the concept or theme of the book.  So for The Very Hungry Caterpillar, maybe students could focus on patience, growth, change, etc.   A couple of years ago, I had students create a picture book on basic economics.  This activity is so simple, but really hard to do well.  Students have to really understand the material, and then break it down and make it accessible and understandable for others.

Two books featured in the “Not Just for Kids…” webinar, sponsored by Lerner Books were The People Shall Continue by Simon Ortiz and Stay Curious by Paul Brewer.  The People Shall Continue is great for development of chronological order, focusing on Native Americans.  Stay Curious is about Steven Hawking and all of the things he was interested in, including board games, beehives and books. Some props might be easier than others to bring in–haha!  There are lots of artifacts in the book to choose from and many things to peak students’ interests. 

So what books could you use in your classroom- ones with lots of potential props for students ? How can the picture books you use generate interactivity among the students?  Finally, how can you use these activities to make learning fun and engaging?

Jane C. Moore, Ed. S
National Board Certified Teacher
Teacher for 26 years!
Visit my website for more ideas and professional development:  Mooreactions.com.

One thought on “Extend Learning with Picture Books

  1. Carolee Dean

    This is a great article. Thanks for the link to the webinar. I’m a speech-language pathologist and frequently use picture books to work with older students. In fact, I have a book for teachers that just came out this month that focuses on story structure and plot using narrative nonfiction picture books as model texts – STORY FRAMES FOR TEACHING LITERACY.

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