Top Ten Texts to Link to Year 5 Science

Like most primary teachers, I love a good book! Anyone who’s worked with me (or anywhere near me to be honest) will know I also love teaching science, and so combining these two in the classroom can only be a good thing! I’m planning to write a series of blog posts with science/story links for each year group, and as I currently work in Year 5, this feels like a good place to start!

Hidden Figures – Margot Shetterly

This picture book follows the stories of the four African-American mathematicians and their role in the space race at a time when being black and being a woman limited what people could do. The book does a really good job of telling the separate stories in a coherent way and directly references the difficulties faced by black women at the time. As well as the content being amazing (there’s even a timeline and mini biographies of all four women at the back), the illustrations are beautiful, and make it clear that this is a book aimed at older children.

The Darkest Dark – Chris Hadfield

I LOVE this story! Another great one to use when learning about space, it’s written by the Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who became very familiar to my class thanks to his wonderful YouTube videos about everyday activities in space. In the story, young Chris faces his fear of the dark to become an astronaut. As well as being a really lovely story, it’s written in a way that makes it a really good one to read aloud. I can’t quite explain why, it just works!

Curiosity, the Story of a Mars Rover

I heard somewhere that scientists think the first person to walk on Mars is going to be someone who is alive today and is not too far off the age of a Year 5 child, which is a brilliant fact to share with the class when learning about space! Unlike the book above, I wouldn’t say this one is best suited to reading to the class (feel free to disagree!), it’s more the type of book that kids pick up themselves then incessantly share facts with you from for the next 20 minutes. The Nasa Education website has a great lesson on moon landers that I’ve used with Year 3 and Year 5 in the context of a Mars lander which went down an absolute treat! This book would be a really good one to share alongside that activity, or to lead into it.

Old Bear – Jane Hissey

This one is a favourite from my own childhood and so I love the opportunity to bring it out in the classroom! It might be intended for younger readers but personally, I don’t think you’re ever too old for picture books! It’s likely you’ve come across the story before, but in case you haven’t, it follows Little Bear and his fellow toys as they mount an expedition to rescue Old Bear from the attic. To get themselves back down from the attic, Little Bear and Old Bear use parachutes made of handkerchiefs and drift safely to the ground. In Year 5, this provides a good context for investigating parachute materials for teddies while learning about forces (with bonus links to properties of materials). I’d planned to do this in a lesson but of course things didn’t quite go to plan this year (thanks, global pandemic!) so it ended up being set as a home learning task instead. It went down really well with the children and, in general, we concluded that handkerchief fabric would not make the best parachute after all!

The Ugly Five – Julia Donaldson

A gang of unattractive animals form a club in this story, bonded by their shared ugliness, but there’s a lovely twist in the tale that shows actually, they’re quite lovely. The tale is told in Julia Donaldson’s usual rhyming style and there is a lot to look for in Axel Scheffler’s illustrations. Plus, the geek in me loves the extra safari animal info in the back (I learned what an ant lion was thanks to this book!) and will no doubt appeal to lots of children too. This book would be a great starter to learning about animal life cycles, and the ‘Ugly Five’ and others that appear across the pages would be great starting points to research mammal, bird and insect life cycles.

Beetle Boy – M G Leonard

If you’re learning about insect life cycles, this would be a good book to read alongside. I’ll always remember it as the book that took me through the very first part of the UK Coronovirus lockdown! As well as a gripping story, there are detailed descriptions of lots of different kinds of beetles that could lead to some further research and will hopefully inspire a few future entomologists!

The Boy in the Tower – Polly Ho-Yen

Boy In The Tower: Ho-Yen, Polly: Books

I don’t want to give too much away about this story; it really kept me glued to the sofa! There’s a great link in there to plant reproduction though, which could lead into exploring how other plants reproduce and which are more successful than others and why. One of the girls in my other half’s Year 6 class enthusiastically told him recently that this was the best book she’s ever read; high praise indeed! (A word of caution, it may only be suitable for more mature Year 5 classes; make sure you read the whole thing first and decide if it’s right for your particular lovelies.)

Centrally Heated Knickers – Michael Rosen

I’ll be the first to admit, I probably don’t share as much poetry with my class as I should (if anyone has any really good poetry book suggestions by the way, sciency or otherwise, please do give me a shout!) but I have been known to dip in and out of this one! There are poems covering all areas of science, which means it may pop up in other blogs of this type, but some that particularly link to Year 5 science include ‘Chippy Breath’ which is about writing in ‘breath’ on a window (states of matter), ‘Acorn, Conker and Key’ which is about different types of seeds (plant reproduction) and ‘Night Time Kitchen’, in which different materials in the kitchen debate over which is most useful (properties of materials).

Chemical Chaos – Nick Arnold

Who doesn’t love the Horrible Science books!? This is another one I have fond memories of when I was younger, as I graduated onto these from the Horrible Histories books. Their particular kind of humour will really appeal to children, including those who might be more reluctant readers, and snippets and sections from the book would make excellent guided reading texts when learning about properties and changes of materials.

Kaboom! Explosive Science to Blow Your Mind 

This one’s a magazine rather than a book, which only makes it even more exciting! This particular issue will be really good to link to learning about changes of materials. To be honest though, there are a whole bunch of past issues of Whizz Pop Bang magazine that will be relevant to Year 5 science (as well as lots more which will be really interesting to children of this age, regardless of the science within!) so it’s worth having a click around on the website and maybe even subscribing. The shop on the website can helpfully be searched by topic, so if there’s something you’re looking for in particular, it’s really easy to find. As my old school, we sent out three of these each week per class along with a scrapbook for children to record their thoughts inside. They were encouraged to do whatever they wanted with the ‘homework’, whether that was just reading the magazine or going further by carrying out an investigation or doing some research of their own around something that inspired them. I really can’t speak highly enough of this magazine!

What are your favourite science-linked texts to use with Year 5? Let me know via the comments; I’m always looking to expand my library!

If you’re interested in other book links to science, check out this blog post exploring a science/maths link and my Science Story List with Enquiry Questions.

Please note, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases directly made from this page.

Explorify: What can it do for me?

(In a rush? Too busy to read a lengthy blog post? Skip to the green bits)

One thing that makes me feel incredibly lucky to be a primary science leader is the vast amount of support and resources out there to help teachers, often for free. Wading through all this can be a daunting task though, especially for newer subject leader; where to start!? So, with this in mind, I’ve decided to write a series of ‘What can it do for me?’ blogs, to share some of the great stuff that’s out there and hopefully help subject leaders and teachers locate what they need to help with teaching great science. Having just spent the day with Louise Stubberfield and the wonderful education team at the Wellcome Trust, Explorify seems like a good place to start!

First and foremost, it’s free! This is (sadly, but realistically) the first question teachers have about new resources. Luckily, everything available from Explorify is completely free. You do have to register and log in to use the resources, but once you’re in nothing is behind a paywall.

Now that’s out of the way, we can get down to what it actually is! The resource comes from the Wellcome Trust, a politically and financially independent foundation that exists to improve health by helping great ideas to thrive.

They acknowledge how important it is that children receive a high-quality primary science education and are working to support teachers with this. And they really, genuinely care about what teachers want, and are interested in providing useful resources. The education team are led by the wonderful Louise, who spent many years teaching and leading schools herself, and on top of this they regularly engage with actual, real teachers to find out what is needed and how to improve the existing offer. Case in point, here I am with a bunch of lovely fellow-educators at the Wellcome Trust building earlier this week!

(As a sidenote, if anyone is looking for some helpful primary science Twitterers to follow, this bunch is a good start! @katesutton70, @Snotlady5 @ErChilvers)

To summarise the resources on offer in one sentence is difficult (they can be used in so many different ways!) but I’ll have a go! Explorify offers a collection of ready-made resources that allow teachers to facilitate scientific discussion in the classroom, with interesting concepts that can be easily linked to the curriculum if needed. The best way to become familiar with them will be to log on and have a click around yourself, but the activities include:

What if? activities, in which pupils think about what would happen in a given scenario, for example, what if the sea was gloopy like ketchup?

Odd One Out activities, which ask pupils to use scientific reasoning to choose which of three objects/images is the odd one out and explain why (the great thing about this is, so long as you can justify your reasoning, there’s no wrong answer!)

What’s Going On? videos linked to a range of different scientific concepts, which pupils can watch then discuss their ideas.

Zoom In, Zoom Out activities, which show pupils a highly zoomed-in image that they then discuss and suggest ideas for what it could be, then repeat as the camera zooms out to different degrees until the object is finally revealed. These ones were absolute favourites of every class I’ve had, and it’s wonderful to talk about our original ideas not exactly being wrong, just based on limited evidence (much like ‘wrong’ ideas that scientists have had in the past, such as the Earth being flat).

There are other activities, so do have a click around yourself; those are just a flavour of what’s there. They all come with explanations of the science behind the activity for teachers and suggestions for use in class.

Now, what can it do for you? In other words, how could you use this in your classroom. Well, there are soooo many ways you could go with this! One of the reasons I love these resources so much is the versatility. Here are a few ideas (although I’m sure there are many more I’ve not thought of!)

Lesson starters

You can search the activities by topic (e.g. Plants, Materials etc.) and use an activity to get discussion going to introduce a topic or at the start of a lesson. Personally, I think the Odd One Out activities are great for this, as you can start eliciting vocabulary from children and noting it down somewhere, or doing some subtle formative assessment by listening in to their conversations (who doesn’t love a bit of sneaky AfL!?). Doing this can also be a good way to identify any misconceptions pupils in your class have about your current topic.


As mentioned above, Explorify activities can easily be used for formative assessment. As the activites are based around discussion, you could easily listen in to what children are saying to gauge their understanding of a particular concept. Or, if this proves tricky with your particular bunch (some classes are just noisier than others!) you could get them to write responses on whiteboards and hold them up, or do a ‘vote with your feet’ where pupils move to different, designated areas of the classroom to show their opinion, then you strategically choose children to explain why they have chosen a particular option. You could even carry out the same activity at the beginning and end of a topic to see how pupils’ views have changed as they have gathered more knowledge. Far more inventive than a KWL grid!

Early Bird/Morning Work

…or whatever you call that first bit of the day where children come in and work on something independently before/during the register. Activities like What If? And Odd One Out can be left on the board for pupils to think about/discuss/jot down thoughts independently once they are familiar with the activities. It’s a great way to sneak some extra science into your day!


You know all those times when assembly is suddenly cancelled, or you have to wait an extra 15 minutes to go into the Early Years Christmas performance dress rehearsal because it’s taken them a little longer to get into their costumes than anticipated? Throw an Explorify on your interactive whiteboard! Rather than fill the time with more Heads Down Thumbs Up, seize the opportunity to squeeze in some extra scientific discussion and allow your class to practise using all that new scientific vocabulary you’ve been teaching them. (It feels important to note here, these activities are too good to be resigned to just being gap-filling exercises, but if your pupils are familiar with them already through lessons, they’ll likely love the opportunity to try out more and you’ll be making the most of every minute in the classroom!)

Alternatives to Story Time

You’ll be getting absolutely no argument from me against story time being a vital part of the day, no matter how old your pupils are. However, if you did want to mix it up a little and squeeze a bit more science into your weekly timetable, you could swap story time for an Explorify activity one day a week/fortnight/month/term.

Supply Teachers & HLTAs

Every now and again, I do a bit of supply teaching. It’s a great way to see what’s happening in other schools and extend beyond my comfort zone a little. I’ve found that Explorify activities are incredibly engaging, even for more challenging classes, and the vast majority of them require no advance preparation and no resources beyond internet access and an interactive whiteboard. If you find yourself with spare time at the end of a day or a session, or just want to enhance a science lesson. In a previous school, I worked with the most wonderful HLTA I could have asked for (shout out to Miss Kilvington, you legend!) who, as I’m sure is the case for many HLTAs, was often asked last minute to cover other classes, and so collected a ‘bag of tricks’ that she could pull out with children of all different ages. Explorify activities are a wonderful addition to that arsenal, and there’s no need to worry about subject knowledge, with all the relevant info being supplied with the activity.

Home Learning

Some of the activities could easily be sent home for children to discuss with their families (love a bit of no-pencil homework!). In particular, the ‘What if…’ questions would be an easy one to pop into home-school diaries, or even pose to pupils at home time and ask them to talk about it with their family on the walk home, or any point that is convenient. A great way to sneak in some extra science learning while engaging families!

In short, Explorify is a versatile resource that promotes scientific thinking and discussion in an engaging way, with high-quality resources. Oh, and it’s free! What more could you ask for! You can get there by clicking the ‘Explorify’ logo at the top of this post, or here:

Have you used Explorify in another way? Do you have resources you’d like me to investigate and blog about? Are there any areas in particular you’d like me to identify resources for? Let me know your thoughts and comment below!