SOL16 Day 8: Picture Book Superpowers

The other day, M wondered, half-moaned aloud, “Why are we reading all these picture books?” and “When are we going to read chapter books?”

Great question!

D responded before I had a chance, “We are working on easy books so we can learn to think deeper. It’s sort of like a drill.”

Yeah. What he said.

At the beginning of the year, I started TCRWPs 5th Grade Reading Unit on Interpretation of Theme. After bend one, I knew we would need to return to it later in the year. Students weren’t ready. Yet.

Over the past two weeks, we’ve read nothing but picture books with big accessible ideas.

They build on each other in predictable ways and connect in surprising ways.  Every book lights up the room with deep thought and pure pleasure. That’s the beauty of a well-written and illustrated picture book.

Yesterday, we began our study around strands of the TCRWP’s reading progressions.  I had hopes of big kid thinking about picture books would demonstrate what they might do in their middle-grade fiction books.  As D had mentioned, this was the drill.

Each club got a form for note taking.

They looked at their choices.


They chose a book and identified a story element to study.

Character Relationships






Character Traits


Repeating Object

I could have stopped at this point and been thrilled.  They knew what story element drove each story.

They got it.

They talked.


Picked up their club books.

Asked each other, “What story element should we focus on?”

Bam! Zap! Pow!

Picture book super powers!

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers for the March Slice of Life Challenge. Reading slices is a joy. Find them here.



20 thoughts on “SOL16 Day 8: Picture Book Superpowers

  1. I love that you are using picture books with older students…so many still see them as “only for little kids”. It sounds like your kids are doing big thinking with little books!

  2. Brilliant, Julieanne! I love D’s take of reading picture books. It is “sort of like a drill,” with the added bonus of spending time with beautiful books with profound themes. Can’t wait to here more about this work, as our 5th grade struggled with this unit, too.

  3. Julieanne, I love this classroom snapshot. Your kids get it! Thanks for sharing this. Can’t wait to read more.

  4. I love the idea of picture book super powers and the idea of clubs centered around them. You can just tell from the tone of your post the success that occurred in your classroom. Thanks for sharing.

  5. I am a huge fan of picture books and love the way you have described them – yes, they do have super powers! Loved the talk in your classroom centered around these books – teaching them a lot about how to write a good story (they will internalize their learning here) as well as deepen their comprehension. Theme is such a difficult thing to teach. Sounds like your kids are really growing from their experiences. Of course, love that you built in choice – they could choose the book and story element to study. Great ideas! Thank you!

  6. Love: Bam! Zap! Pow!

    Picture book super powers! That sums it all up – reading needs to be active and powerful to engage our readers. Love how you knew you would need to spiral back and did not see it as a deficit – just what they need. Also love that you put them in control -thank you for sharing such powerful books through this slice.

    Final thought — reading slices is a joy! Thank you for naming it!

  7. I love your slow and deliberate method. This is what works, right? When we go too fast or we expect to fill their brains with information, it doesn’t work. When we give them what they need to grow and connect at their own pace, they do. I’m going to share this with my fifth grade teachers.

  8. Julieanne,
    Such a joy to seek out and read about superpowers today! You capture your students so well that I think I could walk into your room and name them! Such a good observer and then describer! Super Writer! Thanks!

  9. Great post. Thank goodness for kids like D, who help us out. We are about to start the TCRWP’s 6th grade informational writing unit. I think the kids will love it, but I know I have a few M’s in my class.

  10. I used lots of picture books with my 12-13 year olds, too, Julieanne. What wonderful learning comes from them. Looks like you do indeed have superpowers, coming from the “drills”. (You need to remember that one!)

  11. You’ve been an inspiration to all who’ve read your post today, and will read it later. Only a seasoned, insightful teacher like yourself could have seen the need for “baby steps” leading toward the Big Picture or the theme. Then you provided the scaffolding through the use of picture books enabling them to take the challenge and really run with it. I am sure your students are as thrilled as you are with the results. Good work, teacher!

  12. One of my goals for the year was to incorporate more picture books. I haven’t kept my deal. This is a great reminder to me to go back to making picture books a part of each week.

  13. This reminded me of how we teach students to read up in their research. Picture books are powerful for all ages! Kind of like poetry, big punch in a little package! Thanks for sharing.

  14. Fantastic for so many reasons! I wanna read like that. How awesome that they are using these higher level thinking skills to put the books they’re reading into a PLACE. Go super teacher go!

  15. A whole display of some of my favorite picture books! What a treat! Like you, I love that combination of “deep thought and pure pleasure.” How satisfying to see how far your students have come and what they can now notice and talk about.

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