I remember the transition from picture books to “real” books. Somewhere between The Magic Treehouse series and Hatchet, the pictures slowly disappeared from the books I was reading. And while this is a totally good and normal process, there’s something exciting about opening a book and seeing pictures. So why wouldn’t we as teachers harness that nostalgia and use picture books in our teaching? This is my all time favorite list of picture books to teach food chains and food webs!
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The Case for Using Picture Books in your Middle School Classroom
Picture books are pretty simple on the outside. What makes them a powerful tool in your classroom is that simplicity. They’re not intimidating. Whether your students are high achievers or struggling learners, they love being read to.
What I think I love most about using picture books to teach middle school science is that it has the ability to break down, and even scaffold, content and vocabulary that can initially be tough for kids to get the hang of. But with a guided read aloud, these science concepts can easily be highlighted by the teacher and are usually emphasized by pictures.
Without further ado, these are my personal favorite best picture books to teach food chains and food webs!
The name says it all. This is a picture book about food chains and food webs. I love how simple this book starts and slowly scaffolds into complex food webs. The author really focuses on the complexity of a marine food webs about halfway through, including producers and consumers. The end of the book shares about how humans can impact food webs, using the example of otters killed for their fur.
If you use this picture book to teach food chains and food webs, ask students to make a venn diagram showing the differences and similarities. You can also ask students to compare and contrast land and marine food webs.
This is one of my favorite picture books to teach food chains. While simple, there are a lot of different directions you can go with this book in a science classroom. We open up to algae in a pond, that is eaten by a mayfly, that is eaten by a beetle, who is eaten by a frog. The food chain continues. This picture book about food chains follows one very long chain all the way up to a coyote.
If this book is about a pond food chain, how can it be so versatile? First, and very simply, it is a basic food chain. Talk about the idea of where each organism gets their energy and how long the food chain is. The raccoon eats owl eggs. Is that the same as eating an owl? Why or why not?
My favorite way to incorporate this book is after we’ve learned about trophic levels. I read the book once, we talk about it, and then I ask them to make a trophic level pyramid using all the organisms from the book. I love hanging their trophic level pyramids on bulletin boards because they look so good!
What’s for dinner? Is a different book than the others. There are 29 short poems about food chains and food webs. The poems are witty, funny, informative, and right on with your middle school student’s humor! Trust me, they will love it. And while these poems are entertaining, this picture book teaches about food chains and food webs with great accuracy.
This book is fun to use in stations or a carousel type of activity. Copy the poems you want to use and hang them around the room or set up stations. Create quick questions or activities based on the poems you choose. Students will LOVE this activity and learn some stuff too!
I really like this book to teach about food chains because it is just a funny story. Each one of the animals has a small part and something clever to say. This picture book about food chains highlights a couple of very small food chains with great images and catchy rhymes. I also enjoy that it includes a few lines about each animal’s adaptations. It’s a very fun and clever book.
Okay, this one isn’t exactly about food chains and food webs, but it sure is great! I use this book all the time. You’ll find every topic you’d ever need to teach about in middle school science in plain english for you or your students! I love copying this text to scaffold or accommodate for students. Each topic is written in a way that defines every word a student may not know and includes so many pictures. There is a whole section in this picture book about Interdependence and the Cycling of Energy and Matter, which is exactly where you’ll find all your information on food chains and food webs.
There you have it. My ultimate list of picture books about food chains and food webs. Here is my challenge to you. Incorporate more picture books into your middle school science lessons. You’d be surprised at the engagement you get when you pull out a picture book instead of a text book.