Teaching science with stories can feel more difficult in Upper Key Stage 2 where picture books are shared far less often, but it is definitely still possible and there are plenty of great books out there that link really well to Year 6 science topics. Here are my ten favourites:
I absolutely adore this book. Written in lovely rhyming verse, it tells the story of a bird and her (often ill-fated!) chicks, illustrating how evolution and inheritance work in the process. It’s an absolute must-have for any Year 6 classroom, not only because it supports the teaching of these tricky concepts, but because the language in there is absolutely amazing and there’ll be plenty for children to magpie and drop into their own writing (scorchingly red, wrenched from the arms of the branches, her attitude radically altered… love it!). Lovely science leader Suzie Ruddy from Rothwell (@ruddysuzannah on Twitter, worth a follow!) used this book as a jumping off point for her lessons on evolution and did a great activity where children hid differently coloured molliebirds around the school grounds to investigate how easy it was to find them.
This is another great book to bring out when you’re learning about evolution. It tells the ‘true story’ of the peppered moth and how they have changed over time in response to their changing environment. The book does a really good job of explaining how species slowly change over time and should help to dispel the misconception a lot of children have that individual animals can adapt mid-life to survive. It’s beautifully illustrated to boot – definitely a winner!
At first glance, this looks like a book that might be better suited to use in a space unit in Year 5, but it’s actually perfect for learning about classification. As well as content about life on Earth and classification in general, there are specific sections for each of the five kingdoms and the smaller groups within them. The double page spreads for various classes and phyla will make great guided reading texts, or could be used for extra research, and they’re packed with colourful photos and really cool facts; did you know that the most toxic substance made by any living thing is regularly injected into people’s faces to make them look young? Or that giant water lilies ‘kidnap’ beetles overnight to cover them in pollen?
This one seems to be out of print now so it’s a little more tricky to get hold of, but you can still find it from second hand booksellers online easily enough. The book is full of funny animals created by the writer, who are so terribly poorly suited to their surroundings that they mostly come to unfortunate, unceremonious endings. Sharing this book, or even just a few extracts, with the class would be a great precursor to discussing adaptation, or to children inventing their own animals either well-adapted or comically unsuitable for their environments.
This initially quite creepy tale is about Lazlo who is afraid of ‘The Dark’. In the story, The Dark is personified wonderfully and, although there isn’t a great deal of writing in the book, an awful lot is portrayed in the carefully chosen words and interesting pictures. As well as being a great link to learning about light (whether ‘dark’ actually behaves like it does in the story is an interesting discussion to have, especially as light is drawn as travelling in straight lines in the pictures), the use of language and sentence structure to create atmosphere can be examined in English lessons.
You might recognise this one from by blog on the best books to use with Year 3, but I definitely think it’s worth another mention! Firstly, it’s always wise to revisit previous learning, as if they don’t use it, they’ll lose it! It’s likely your Year 6s haven’t really thought about soil since they learned about it in Year 3, and this will be a good refresher for them! As well as that, there’s absolutely bags of stuff in here that’s valuable for Year 6s, and the colourful pages are just so flipping attractive that they won’t be able to resist picking it up and leafing through it! There’s lots of info about various different kinds of living things, including invertebrates and microbes that will be useful when learning about classification, and there are also plenty of facts about how various living things are adapted to survive well in harsh environments that will be relevant when learning about adaptation and evolution. Among my favourite of these are the ‘living stones’; pebble plants living in very dry habitats can absorb water from fog , shrink below ground during droughts and avoid being eaten by herbivores because of their pebbly appearance. If all that wasn’t enough to convince you this is an amazing book, there’s also the fact that profits made on the sale of the book are donated to the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), an amazing charity who, among other things, have a wonderful range of free educational resources – check them out here.
Any book that celebrates diversity in science is a winner (see also: 1001 Inventions) and this is a wonderful addition to any book corner, perfect for dipping in and out of. As well as being a permanent fixture in your classroom to inspire budding scientists in quiet reading times, it’s also packed full of inspiring figures that can be pulled into lessons where it’s relevant. For example, children could learn about entomologist Maria Sibylla Merian when they’re doing classification, Elizabeth Blackwell when they’re doing healthy living or Edith Clarke when they’re learning about electricity. While we’re on the subject of diverse representation in science, you might find this book list helpful…
This gorgeous book will look just as good on your coffee table at home as it will in your book corner! Packed with beautiful illustrations and poems about plants and animals, it was written with the aim of bringing wildlife back into children’s everyday lives. As well as enjoying the poems and learning about the flora and fauna described, there is great scope here to write your own class book filled with poems and art about nature that is special to your children.
I read all of these when I was young myself, so the Horrible Science books have a special place in my heart! Dipping into a chapter of this instead of a story during your daily whole-class reading would be a great way to increase interest in science and non-fiction texts in general while learning (or reinforcing!) something new.
If you’ve read my other ‘Top Ten Books’ blogs, you’ll already be familiar with this one! These magazines are wonderful, inspiring and interesting and they cover loads of different science topics so there’s something relevant to every class. On a practical level, they’re also really sturdy! This might sound like a daft thing to get excited about, but over a decade in the classroom has taught me that resources need to be tough to survive lots of use by heavy-handed kids, and these magazines, despite being made of paper, are just that! Such a small thing, but if I’m spending money on something, I want to know it’s going to last!
What are your favourite science-linked texts to use with Year 6? Let me know via the comments; I’m always looking to expand my library!
If you’ve found this list useful, you might also be interested in these blog posts and resources: