Picture-Perfect Science Lessons, Expanded 2nd Edition: Using Children's Books to Guide Inquiry, 3-6

NSTA Press Book (also see downloadable pdf version of this book)

How do you improve upon perfection? For years, new and experienced elementary school teachers alike have extolled the virtues of Picture-Perfect Science Lessons—the expertly combined appeal of children’s picture books with standards-based science content. The award-winning, bestselling book presents ready-to-teach lessons, complete with student pages and assessments, that use high-quality fiction and nonfiction picture books to guide hands-on science inquiry.

This newly revised and expanded 2nd edition of Picture-Perfect Science Lessons manages to surpass the original. Classroom veterans Karen Ansberry and Emily Morgan, who also coach teachers through nationwide workshops, know elementary educators are usually crunched for science instructional time and could often use refresher explanations of scientific concepts. So the authors added comprehensive background notes to each chapter and included new reading strategies.

They still show you exactly how to combine science and reading in a natural way with classroom-tested lessons in physical science, life science, and Earth and space science. And now they offer five brand-new lessons—“Batteries Included,” “The Secrets of Flight,” “Down the Drain,” “If I Built a Car,” and “Bugs!”—bringing the total to 20.

Picture-Perfect Science Lessons draws on such diverse—and engaging—books as Dr. Xargle’s Book of Earth Hounds, A House for Hermit Crab, Rice Is Life, Oil Spill!, Sheep in a Jeep, The Perfect Pet, and Weird Friends: Unlikely Allies in the Animal Kingdom. As a result, both reluctant scientists and struggling readers will quickly find themselves absorbed in scientific discovery. You’ll love how effective this book is, and your students will love learning about science.

For more information on how to implement Picture-Perfect Science in your classroom—including key reading strategies and NSES connections—download the free e-book of chapters 1 through 5, Why Read Picture Books in Science Class?

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Reviews (6)
  • on Mon Jun 06, 2016 6:42 PM

The well-written, reader-friendly book, Picture Perfect Science Lessons: Using Children’s Books to Guide Inquiry, 3-6, is intended for any upper elementary science teacher, 3rd-6th grade, who is looking to enhance a current curriculum. With the assistance of the 20 strong, inquiry-based lessons presented in this book, any science teacher can create an atmosphere for learning that is student-centered and accessible to all learners. All expertly-designed lesson and objectives used in the book align with the National Science Education Standards. The purpose for this book is for readers to have access to a wide range of fiction and nonfiction picture books that can be used during science instruction in order to promote the science inquiry process. Picture books are used as the basis for this book due to the fact that they significantly enhance learning. “Picture books, both fiction and nonfiction, are more likely to hold our attention and engage us than reading dry, formulaic text … Engagement leads to remembering what is read, acquiring knowledge and enhancing understanding” (Harvey & Goudvis, 2000). Furthermore, each lesson plan also includes reading strategies to use in order to support students as they learn to read and read to learn. As mentioned previously, the content in this book reflects many of the National Science Education Standards. The lessons were created in order to guide the inquiry process and utilize the 5 E’s Instructional Model. This Model allows students to engage, explore, explain, elaborate and evaluate. Each lesson explicitly states how the teacher will guide students through each of the 5 E’s. Some of the lesson topics presented in this book include: ocean life, Earth and space, pollution, sound, life cycles, simple machines, etc. The book begins with five introduction chapters which educate the reader about the topics presented in the book, and provide an explanation for why inquiry-based learning through picture books is important. Following these five chapters, the remaining chapters in this book are each dedicated to one specific lesson. Since each of the lessons is divided into its own chapter, the reader is able to navigate the book very easily. In addition, all lessons are written in the same format which makes the book inviting and practical. Each lesson begins with a brief lesson description, suggested grade level, and lesson objectives. Following this is information describing the picture books that will be used during the lesson. Each lesson also includes a list of materials, printable student journal pages and graphic organizers, as well as, a quiz/assessment. This book is a fantastic purchase, and I would highly recommend it to any elementary science teacher. I do this because I believe that any elementary science teacher would benefit from reading this book. Picture-Perfect Science Lessons: Using Children’s Books to Guide Inquiry, 3-6 is full of valuable information and lessons for teaching science in grades 3-6. In addition, the book has a ton of high-quality printable resources that eliminate the stress on teachers to gather/create it all. Overall, this book does a terrific job supporting educators in their journey to promote inquiry-based learning through picture books and hands-on experiences.

Jessica S
Jessica S

  • on Sun Jun 05, 2016 11:50 AM

The book, Picture-Perfect Science Lessons: Using Children's Books to Guide Inquiry: Grades 3-6, was a great purchase. I would recommend this book to any teacher who teaches science within grades three through six. The Picture-Perfect Science program originated from Emily Morgan’s and Karen Ansberry’s (authors) shared interest in using children’s literature to make science more engaging. Emily and Karen were both convinced picture books engage students in inquiry science and increase the understanding of science. They went to a school in Ohio and trained the science teachers, grade three through six, with inquiry based science lessons. The book provides the teacher with twenty lesson plans that are ready to use. The lesson plans are designed using the BSCS 5E Instructional Model. The model is a learning cycle based on the constructivist view of learning. Constructivism embraces the idea that learners bring with them preconceived ideas about how the world works. The information in the book is present through chapters; chapters one through twenty-five. Before the chapters begin, there is information on about the authors, the picture-perfect program, the acknowledgment, the preface, and the foreword. The first five chapters explain why reading picture books aloud benefits students and the models are presented through the different lesson plans. Chapters six through twenty-five are different science lessons for the students. Within the first five chapters, there are bolded headings to organize the information. Chapters six through twenty-five included the different lessons; in each chapter there are objectives, lists of materials, hand-outs, and the schedule for the lesson plans. An example lesson plan would be “Sheep in a Jeep.” The lesson plan is designed for grades 3-5. The students will investigate forces and motions using ramps, toy cars, and small plastic farm animals and share their findings in a poster session. The students will also design and evaluate a device to slow the motion of a falling object. The objectives for the lesson plan include planning and carrying out investigations, and analyzing and interpreting data. The core ideas are forces and motions and types of interactions. The crosscutting concept is cause and effect. The picture book that goes along with this lesson plan is “Sheep in a Jeep.” The planned schedule included: Day 1: Engage with read aloud of Sheep in a Jeep, and Explore with Checkpoint Lab, Part A and Part B, Day 2: Explore with Checkpoint Lab Part C and Part D, and Explain with Poster Session (from Checkpoint Lab, Part E), Day 3: Explore and Explain with Motion and Forces Sentence Cards, Day 4: Elaborate with Sheep Leap, and Explain with Sheep Leap diagram, and Day 5: Evaluate with Review and Motion Quiz. An example of an inquiry based question that will be provided in the lesson plan is “Will the jeep travel farther on rough or fine sandpaper?” Other lesson plans include: Earth Hound, Name that Shell, and Turtle Hurdles.


  • on Wed Jul 02, 2008 2:17 PM

I met Emily Morgan while we were OSCI trained in Columbus, OH a few years ago. She introduced me to her book and I thought it was wonderful. The lessons follow the 5 E’s Model that allows students to EXPLORE, EXPLORE, EXPLORE. The inquiry method of teaching is so important when teaching children science. I use lessons from the Picture Perfect Science in my 6th grade classes too and the workshops that I facilitate the OPFERST classes at Youngstown State University. The teachers in the workshop are so impressed with the lessons that we have ordered both books for over 70 teacher participants. Many teachers are used to not teaching much science or teach it as a reading lesson. After using Picture Perfect Science lessons in the workshop, most teachers were excited about teaching science and cannot wait to get back to the classroom to teach using the 5 E’s Model. Integrating Picture Books is a great way to integrate Language Arts into Science while using inquiry.

Sharon Ragan  (Youngstown, OH)
Sharon Ragan (Youngstown, OH)

  • on Mon May 05, 2008 6:45 PM

Picture-Perfect Science Lessons is an explanation and guide for using picture books and other children’s literature as a way to teach science. The book begins by outlining an argument for using such literature in science and provides best practice methods for reading picture books aloud to children. The first chapter defines a picture book as being “…unique to children’s literature as they are defined by format rather than content. That is, they are books in which the illustrations are of equal importance as or more important than the text in the creation of meaning” (Strickland and Morrow 2000). Picture books tend to capture the interest of children for longer periods of time and lend themselves to comprehension strategy practice. The book gave four research-based arguments for using picture books. First, they give context for concepts. Rather than having student memorize lists of facts, books give a real-life context in which new concepts can better be learned and observed. Second, picture books provide a greater depth of coverage. Unlike textbooks which often give broad coverage on many topics, picture books allow for in-depth coverage on one topic. Third, research shows that children showed great gains in literacy skills when introduced to children’s literature and literacy instruction in the science program. Their attitude towards science also improved. Finally, using picture books within the science curriculum provided opportunities to correct science misconceptions. “Repetition of the correct concept by reading several books, doing a number of experiments, and inviting scientists to the classroom can facilitate a conceptual change in children (Miller, Steiner, and Larson 1996). The second chapter gave tips for reading aloud and reading comprehension strategies. The authors also listed tools for improving reading comprehension including anticipation guides, visual representations, rereading, stop and jot, think-pair-share, and word sorts. The third and fourth chapters discussed using an inquiry model and leading children through prediction, inferring, and questioning. The authors introduce us to the BSCS Instruction Model (Biological Sciences Curriculum Study) and the 5E model. The 5E model is Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate and Evaluate. The purpose of the Engage stage is to capture students’ attention. The Explore stage provides opportunities for students to engage in activities, giving them concrete experiences, concepts and skills. In the Explain stage, students are given a chance to put their ideas into their own words, clarifying the concepts. This gives the teacher a checkpoint to assess student understanding. In the elaborate stage, students are challenged to extend the concepts learned and apply them to new situations. At the evaluate stage, the teacher is able to assess student’s understanding and give opportunity for students to self-evaluate. The remainder of the book lays out each chapter as a lesson plan, including goals, objectives, all required materials, activities, questions and a rubric for assessment. Each chapter provides the worksheets needed for the activities and lays out each lesson according to the 5E model. I would highly recommend this book for its many strategies and usability.

Melanie Zook  (, )
Melanie Zook (, )

  • on Fri Apr 27, 2007 3:07 PM

This book is wonderful! Deserves the Nobel Prize and a National Book Award.

Claire T  (Anytown, TX)
Claire T (Anytown, TX)

  • on Wed Oct 31, 2007 4:56 PM

My goal as a teacher is to proviide an introductory activity that immediately engages students with the topic. One of my favorite methods for doing this is picture books. This book is an excellent resource for integrating picture books into the science curriculum. It suggests some great books and gives ideas on how to use them in the most effective manner.

Sharon M  (Spanish Fork, UT)
Sharon M (Spanish Fork, UT)

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