Margin Notes

Picture Books in Grades 6-12


Although we often think of picture books for younger readers, there are unlimited opportunities to incorporate them into Grades 6-12 classrooms also.  Because they are short, they make excellent mentor texts to use in mini-lessons or to demonstrate writing techniques since you can read them more than once in a short amount of time.  They can be used to develop background knowledge about a concept or topic or for quick writes and writer’s notebook responses.  Picture books can invite dialogue about tough topics and complex ideas. Most importantly, though, they bring students together into a shared experience that invites everyone in the reading community to celebrate beautiful words and images.

It can take time and money to develop an extensive library of picture books, so my advice is to start with one or two titles that you can use in several ways.  Here are four of my recent favorites and some suggestions for using them in your classroom:

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles written by Michelle Cuevas and illustrated by Erin E. Stead

  • Practice describing the author’s style and selecting evidence or examples from the text.
  • Practice describing the illustrator’s style and selecting evidence or examples from the text.
  • Focus on figurative language by inviting students to choose their favorite example, respond to it in their writer’s notebook, and then use it as a model for their own writing.

After the Fall by Dan Santat

  • Use this book as an invitation for a writer’s notebook response about overcoming fear.
  • Incorporate it into a mini-lesson on theme or on gathering textual evidence to support a theme.
  • Ask small groups to analyse one of the images and discuss how it relates to and supports the text.

They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel

  • Incorporate this book into a mini-lesson on point of view, perspective, or bias.
  • Pair this book with two articles about a current issue written by authors who have different perspectives on the topic.
  • Pair it with a text that identifies a single perspective and ask students to identify other possible perspectives that have been excluded.

Love written by Matt de la Pena and illustrated by Loren Long

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