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.

Super Scale! (with free maths/science resource)

Maths skills with a science content and links to art; everyone wins!

I am absolutely in love with these books! I first came across them at the STEM Learning Centre in their wonderful resource library and very swiftly bought copies for myself! First and foremost, the geek in me loves them because of the cool facts. The information on each page is illustrated in such a unique way and really inspires curiosity; despite each book being relatively short, children return to these again and again just to be amazed by the facts and pictures inside. On top of this, the teacher in me loves them for the great scope they have for cross-curricular learning, with links to science, maths and art. There is SO much potential here.

Actual Size is full of pictures of animals (or parts of animals, lots of them are very big!) that are drawn to scale with a note on their size and weight (in metric measurements). Readers can compare their tongue to that of a giant anteater, or see how their feet measure up to those of an African elephant.

Prehistoric Actual Size is more of the same, only this book contains prehistoric creatures and, as well as information on their size, you can see how long ago they walked the Earth.

Just a Second is a little different, but follows the same theme. This one tells you what can happen in a second, a minute, and hour and so on, drawing facts from the natural and manufactured world. For example, did you know in one minute the Moon travels 61 km around the Earth, a hamster’s heart beats about 450 times and a snail can slither a mighty 4.5 metres (measurements in this one are given in both metric and imperial).

Any teachers who have gotten this far down are probably already thinking about potential maths links; there are a huge amount of possibilities for calculating and applying maths skills. Pupils could…

Practise their measuring skills in a new context

There’s a wealth of ideas here, and a quick Twitter search will come up with some great stuff that other creative teachers have done. Pupils could:

  • Measure their classrooms and see which prehistoric creatures could fit (Would they fit through the door? What if you took the roof off? What could fit in the school hall?)
  • Investigate how many of our feet could fit into the footprint of a larger animal.
  • Create their own actual size drawings of animals. There’s loads of fun ways to approach this; pupils could draw the larger animals in whiteboard pen on the tables (see below) or recreate the very biggest ones in chalk on the playground.
  • Compare the size of domestic animals to some of the more exotic ones in the book; pupils could draw an actual size Atlas moth alongside a familiar cabbage white butterfly or a common carpet moth. They could look at how many times bigger the larger animals are or just find out the difference in size.
  • Compare their top running speed to that of a cheetah (or if you’re in Year 4 and have swimming lessons, you could compare their speed to that of a sailfish).

Apply understanding of scale

This one takes more set-up than some of the ideas above, but if you use the free resource below it shouldn’t be too tricky! In upper Key Stage 2, simply drawing animals to scale will not be challenging enough for many pupils. Using Actual Size as a stimulus, I’ve done a lesson in which pupils have scaled-down images of gigantic animals and been tasked with taking measurements, scaling them up and drawing them in actual size. As they end up quite large, we drew them directly onto the tables using whiteboard pen. (*Gasp* “On the tables Miss? Really!?”)

The resource I handed out is below, with the first two pages being cut up and pupils selecting one at a time to draw, and the last page being extra challenges that can be done as homework, or taken on as part of the lesson if your space/resources/staffing permits. The green lines are there to give children a starting point to get a rough outline done, then they choose which extra measurements they need to take to add detail. Having done this lesson with a familiar class, while on a supply day and in an interview, I’m confident in saying it’s a good one! (Yes, I got the job :))

Carry out some research using secondary sources and pattern seeking investigations

With the range of animals and different types of information available in the books, there are lots of jump-offs for further enquiry. This could simply take the form of pupils researching other animals that aren’t in the books. If you wanted to be more adventurous though, there’s more you could do:

  • Just a Second tells us an elephant’s heart beats about 30 times a minute and a hamster’s heart beats 450 times; Is there a link between animal size and heart rate?
  • Actual Size tells us a pygmy shrew consumes twice its body weight in food each day and is a fierce predator; Do all small mammals eat this much in relation to their body weight? Is there a relationship between the size of the animal and the amount of food consumed daily?

Create a gallery

Your pupils have created wonderful pieces of actual-size art (these could be paint, pastel, pencil, collage…) so why not display them with pride!? Work like this would make for a wonderful corridor display that would catch the interest of passers by. You could even host a gallery opening and invite families and the local community to come in and see how they measure up against some of the worlds largest and smallest creatures.

Spark a discussion

Some of the facts in just a Second are quite thought-provoking. For example, in one second, around 1500 chickens are killed, and in one day people use the equivalent of 200 billion sheets of letter-size paper. Engaging in discussion around topics like this with your class will help them to see the world beyond their classroom and how everyday actions have an impact that we rarely consider.

Having just made the move up to Year 5 from Reception this September, I’m looking forward to sharing these wonderful books with my older pupils to see their thoughts; they’ll undoubtedly have many more creative questions and interesting ideas than me! If you’ve used these books in the classroom, do comment below and let me know how it went!

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