10 Picture Books to Teach Grammar in Secondary ELA

Many middle and high school English teachers are either reluctant to use picture books at all in their classrooms, OR they are interested but don’t know where to start.

Grammar in particular is a great opportunity to include picture books, which can add color, imagery, and rhyming to enhance memory of rules. One way to get started would be to put these books around the room and let students rotate to them, taking notes on grammar rules or observations they take from each one!

Chatting with me today is Christina Hanson, a picture book guru who blogs at Hanson Hallway (and who does the #ClassroomBookaDay routine with her middle schoolers)!

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#1.  Twenty-Odd Ducks
Sara: I love Twenty-Odd Ducks as a memorable way to teach hyphens and other punctuation marks (which is SO helpful if you’re a middle school teacher in particular, since some of the “fun” punctuation marks are in our Common Core standards). The whole book is built around sentences punctuated two different way and how each one would change the meaning. (For example: “Well done, steak” vs. “Well-done steak”).

#2: Alfie the Apostrophe
Christina: In Alfie the Apostrophe, Alfie wants to enter the annual punctuation-mark talent show to show off his contraction and possessive-making skills, but he is very nervous.  After the question mark, exclamation point, parentheses, and a few others show off their skills, the host, Mr. Asterisk, thinks the show is over.  But Alfie summons up the courage and performs, but will his tricks work?  This is a fun book full of punctuation puns, and it will be useful for students to learn about how different punctuation marks work.  Plus, students will learn the origin and meaning of the word apostrophe (which I didn’t even know until I read this book)!

#3: The Perfect Punctuation Book
Sara: The Perfect Punctuation Book is a pop-up book, and it's basically a premade Interactive Notebook for punctuation! It would be a great way to review basic punctuation and let students remember little rules they may have forgotten.

#4: Hairy, Scary, Ordinary: What is an Adjective?
Christina: Hairy, Scary, Ordinary is one of 27 books in the Words Are CATegorical series by Brian P. Cleary.  It starts out with the definition of adjective, and follows with many, many examples of adjectives.  To make it easy to find them in the text, the adjectives are even printed in a different color.  The story has a fun rhythm and lots of rhyming that will keep students engaged and learning new, descriptive words.  Other books in this series include topics ranging from verbs to prefixes to antonyms to interjections and more!

Sara: As a side note, I’m now obsessed with this series and want to get all the parts of speech ones!

#5: Eats, Shoots & Leaves
Sara: You might know the grown-up style guide of the same name, but the picture book version of Eats, Shoots & Leaves is similar to Twenty-Odd Ducks in that it shows the power of changing punctuation marks. However, this one focuses on COMMAS, and how the placement or absence of one can change everything.

#6: Exclamation Mark
Christina: Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld team up in this book about the Exclamation Mark.  He has always stood out, and has tried everything to fit in with others.  But with the help of a question mark, exclamation mark finds his voice and where he belongs.  This book not only teaches students about how exclamation marks can emphasize text, but it’s also a good lesson to find that exclamation mark inside of us.

#7: That’s Not My Panda
Sara: Naomi Watt has an entire series of “That’s not my (*insert animal here*)” books, and when I read them to my toddler, I always feel compelled to read it to my students, too. It’s a quick example of parallel structure AND use of the possessive “its” (if you want to review it’s vs. its).

#8: Did You Say Pears?
Christina: Learning and spelling homonyms and homophones can be tricky for students, and this would be a good book to help students better understand them.  With words like horns and trunk (homonyms) and rows/rose (homophones), Did You Say Pears? author Arlene Alda uses simple text along with photographs to create this picture book. 

#9: The Girl's Like Spaghetti
SaraThe Girl's Like Spaghetti is another book similar to Twenty-Odd Ducks, this time focusing on apostrophes!

#10: Fantastic! Wow! and Unreal!: A Book About Interjections and Conjunctions
Christina: In Fantastic! Wow! and Unreal!, author/illustrator Ruth Heller has combined rhyming words and phrases with brightly colored pictures to create this book about interjections and conjunctions.  I loved the vibrant East Asian dragon (“Awesome! Cool! Fantastic! Wow! are all interjections that people say now.”) and colorful zebras (“Although this is a wondrous sight, these zebras do not look quite right, because they should be black and white.”).  Heller has created seven more books in this Explore Language series to help students learn even more about grammar.

Do you have more suggestions? 
Tell us in the comments!

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