Top 10 Texts to Link to Year 6 Science

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:

The Molliebird – Jules Pottle & Rufus Cooper

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.

Photo Credit: @ruddysuzannah

Moth – Isabel Thomas

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!

A Beginner’s Guide to Life on Earth – Gill Arbuthnott

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?

Flanimals – Ricky Gervais

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.

The Dark – Lemony Snickett

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.

Under Your Feet – Dr Jackie Stroud

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.

Women in Science – Rachel Ignotofsky

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…

The Lost Words – Jackie Morris & Robert Macfarlane

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.

Horrible Science: Shocking Electricity – Nick Arnold

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.

Shocking Science – Whizz Pop Bang Magazine

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:

Top Ten Texts To Link to Year 3 Science

Top Ten Texts to Link to Year 5 Science

Science & Maths Links Via an Awesome Book

Science Story List with Enquiry Questions

Diverse Representation in the Book Corner – Text Suggestions

The World in your Classroom

Making the most of ICT to teach & inspire pupils

When I think back to my experiences of ICT at primary school, the resounding memories are using the school’s single boxy computer to write my initials by programming a little turtle, and then a few years later getting every single question wrong on that bizarre Encarta quiz. In comparison, the opportunities available to pupils in our classrooms today are absolutely mind-blowing. Although I very much feel like I’m hitting that age where new technology isn’t quite so easy to figure out any more, I have managed to gather up a bunch of easy ideas over the years to enhance my teaching, all tried and tested!

Communicating with the World

Skype and Facetime have made it possible to invite guests to the classroom without them having to even enter the building, and they don’t cost a thing! Various organisations have realised this, and it’s now possible for your class to speak to scientists from all different walks of life without leaving their seats. I have recently been introduced to Facetime a Farmer, led by LEAF Education and was so excited by the idea that it inspired this entire blog post! Over a series of weeks, pupils can meet and chat to a farmer (and in our case, the sheep!) to get a real insight into running a farm and the science involved in successful animal-rearing and crop-growing. Such a fantastic way to increase children’s Science Capital, and clear links to a whole bunch of curriculum areas.

There’s also the amazing work done by the folks at Encounter Edu, that allows children to speak directly with scientists/explorers in far-flung parts of the world in real time. At least once a year, their team heads out on a research expedition and offers Skype chats in a couple of different formats to help children find out more about the work of research scientists. In recent years, they’ve been to the Arctic, a coral reef and down to the depths of the Indian Ocean in a submarine. Having taken part in Arctic Live in 2016 with my Year 3 class, I can honestly say it was one of the highlights of the year for the children. We had a 30 minute chat with the lovely Jamie (who was ever so patient while we worked out our technical difficulties!) that allowed our budding explorers to ask direct questions and get a good look around the base camp. Afterwards they were so inspired and, despite being far more savvy with tech than we were at their age, they still found it hard to believe that we had spoken to an actual explorer in the actual Arctic.

The website also has a whole bunch of lesson plans and a bank of fantastic images which meant that, as well as the chat, we had a bunch of lessons around the Arctic environment and the life of an explorer, without any addition to my workload! And as if that wasn’t enough, they also have ‘bite-size’ CPD for teachers on their website with tips and pointers to improve STEM teaching. Amazing!

Lights, Camera, Action!

Many schools are now lucky enough to have a class set of iPads or other tablets, which give children a whole host of new ways to report their learning in science. Modern science communication is not just about writing down your findings, so why should recording in the classroom be limited to written explanations? The ‘Spoken Language’ section of the National Curriculum requires that children (among other things) give well-structured descriptions, explanations and narratives for different purposes, speak audibly and fluently with an increasing command of Standard English, participate in discussions, presentations, performances and role play and select and use appropriate registers for effective communication. All of these objectives can be met through creating some form of presentation or piece of drama that communicates pupils’ learning to a given audience. Children could put together reports, short informational programs or vlogs that they then edit with video editing software such as iMovie or more simple apps like Tellagami or Shadow Puppet Edu. They could even add a bit of excitement to their creations by using a green screen app such as Green Screen by Do Ink. Amazingly, I found you don’t need an actual green screen to use green screen software; green display backing paper will do! Although if you were to invest in a green sheet, pupils could use it to cover themselves up and appear to be floating heads! Just be aware that if, like my previous school, you have a green uniform, the videos will look very odd!

Ditch the KWLs

My personal opinions about KWL grids notwithstanding, the use of tablets can make carrying out a pre-assessment much more engaging and, arguably more accurate. At the beginning of our new topic on Plants, we used Pic Collage to show what we know. Pupils were tasked with heading outside to take pictures of leaves, stems, roots and flowers, then using these to create picture collages that explained the purpose of each part. From the examples below, you can see that misconceptions became very clear and I was able to see what children already knew at a glance.

I printed these collages out and stuck them into the children’s books at the beginning of the topic, then at the end had them go back and ‘mark’ their work, explaining their errors and suggesting improvements. This was a great way of showing progress, and also helped me to see which children had hung on to their misconceptions and needed a little extra learning.

Although I used this technique for plants, thanks to the wealth of images available on the internet, this sort of pre-assessment could be done for topics including animal classification, evolution, forces, space and nutrition.

Stay up to Date

I think ReachOut Reporter is definitely one of my most favourite things to share with other teachers. For those of you who haven’t come across it, I’d suggest heading there immediately! They create weekly news updates that are all from the world of science and technology, and are delivered in a child-friendly way. Take a look at this news update from this summer , which includes a round-up of stories over the past year to help you get a flavour for the sort of thing they report on:

New updates are added every Thursday, so the ReachOut Report became a Friday afternoon staple for my Year 3 class. They also do articles and stand-alone videos which were great for sharing with pupils. My particular favourites are the Hawaiian Pom Pom Crab and the Peacock Spider; take a look, I promise you won’t regret it!

As a side note, if you prefer your science news updates in written form, check out the Topical Science Updates from @Glazgow, added monthly here:

These could make fab guided reading texts, or could be up on the board for pupils to read and discuss when they come in in the morning.

I’m aware that there will be loads of fabulous ICT opportunities that I’ve missed, so do let me know in the comments if I’ve not mentioned your favourite!