Saturday, October 18, 2014

Spark Student Motivation: Picture Books

Linking up again with Joanne from Head Over Heels for Spark Student Motivation Saturdays!

I remember thinking when I first moved to 6th grade 16 years ago that I was going to have to get "more grown-up" with my teaching style, book selections, rewards, discussions, etc.  But, after a few years, I realized just how wrong I was.  These little 11-12 years olds, who yearn so badly to be grown-up, are just little kids deep inside.  Stickers--they love them.  Tiny toys for prizes--they collect them.  Tell them that they can twirl around on the grass at the end of PE, and you have 30 6th graders falling to the ground in a dizzy delight.  And listening to picture books--they sit spellbound and ask to hear the story again.  You would think the "big kids" would turn up their noses and sniff "That's for babies..." but they don't. 

Over the last few years, I have incorporated using picture books as mentor texts into my reading instruction.  I teach skills with the simpler shared stories so that they can grasp the concepts more easily.  Picture books are more non-threatening to them than the longer novels.  The pictures help them make meaning more easily,  and they only have to follow about 32 pages to see how an author builds theme, or to examine how characters undergo change.  They are fun to listen to and seem to motivate their discussions (in fact, my class this year can barely keep themselves from shouting out as they are listening to the story.)
Usually, I will teach the skill first, and then we will practice using it with the picture book after that.   And later on we will apply that knowledge as we are reading novels.  A kiddo who can't recall how to find theme can head back to his interactive journal to see what it is and how we practiced it.   It is also a good way for me to make sure that my students who head off to Read180 during our reading block are at least exposed to the standards.  I also integrate them into other areas, such as writing or art, as much as possible.

The hardest trick is finding stories that are new to them.  I know that they wouldn't mind hearing an old favorite, but the novelty is part of the magic.  
Here are a few titles and the reading skills that I teach with them:
Martina and the Beautiful Cockroach: Plot
Mi Abuelita: Figurative language
The Cloud Spinner:  Theme
The Dead Family Diaz:  How characters change
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore: Comparing a book to a film


  1. I couldn't agree more Emily! Even 4th and 5th grade teachers are nervous to call their kids to the carpet to read a picture book to them. I do it almost every day! Thank you for introducing me to some new titles!!! I only have The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. Thanks for sharing and linking up!
    Head Over Heels For Teaching

    1. I spend too much time scouring Amazon for books I have never read. I have a new one coming called The Sweet Tooth--I hope it is good and usable!