Best Back to School Picture Book in Middle School

If you haven’t started using picture books in middle and high school, you AND your students are seriously missing out. By the end of the first month of school, I have used at least 20 different picture books with my classes.

One lesson I do with picture books is a theme lesson. Picture books are a great way to do a quick mini- lesson on the standard how theme develops since these books can be read quickly and in the small space of time, students can see the theme develop over the story.

Other ways I use picture books is to begin a new unit with a picture book. One of my first units with my sixth grade students is a unit on Identity. Lats year I started using Toni and Slade Morrison’s picture book, The Big Box, as a wonderful addition to discuss how we make people and their ideas of who we are ‘box’ us in.

But my favorite book for the new school year is one called Rain School. It tells the story of children in the savanna of Africa whose school has to be rebuilt every year due to seasonal flooding. But it allows for them to have the opportunity to focus on what’s the most important aspect of school and that’s the learning. After reading aloud, I then invite my students on the first day of school to tell me about the type of school they would want to build. I ask them to share about the type of teacher they learn best from, the type of classroom environment they thrive in, the classmates they want, and also what classes they would like to have beyond the four core content areas.

I learn so much about the students with this one activity. Their inner thoughts and fears are oftentimes revealed. Students write about not wanting students in class with them who laugh if they are wrong. I’ve even had a student write about not wanting teachers to call his mother on the weekend with bad news because he then loses playing privileges and that is the only time he gets to spend with his older brother. Through reading what they write, I am able to recommend them to the art teacher for those wanting schools to have an art program.

When my son started middle school two years ago, he had six teachers. He came home and said, mom I did the same “All About Me” worksheet three times today. Yikes! That is another reason why I love picture books. They are engaging, they are surprising, and they can allow teachers to be able to get that same and more information in a way that doesn’t require a “worksheet”.

I hope to follow up with another blog on the picture books in middle school that I mentioned earlier and how I use them in the first month of school. Fingers crossed for a smooth back to school so I can keep writing this awesome sauce for you.

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