Planning a Science Fiction Reading Unit in Elementary

Every year I look forward to teaching my science fiction reading unit to my elementary students. Maybe you can relate to this, but it is a struggle to find great science fiction texts to read in class! A few years ago, I started reading The City of Ember with my elementary students, and I haven’t looked back since. In this blog, I want to share how I built my science fiction unit, and why science fiction is beneficial for students.

Science Fiction Reading Unit

The Importance of Science Fiction Reading

I think science fiction often gets the backburner in the classroom with so many nonfiction, literary nonfiction, and classic novels available. However, reading science fiction with students has some great benefits. 

First of all, fiction is a huge genre, so providing students an opportunity to expand their fiction skills and get them engaged in reading is always a win.

Second, science fiction is full of imaginary worlds and technology beyond what currently exists. For this reason, sci-fi naturally forces students to utilize their imagination and creative thinking. Mental pictures are one way students can build their comprehension skills. 

Lastly, sci-fi can engage students in topics they may have normally been uninterested in, such as math and science.

Why Use The City of Ember

As I mentioned, the City of Ember has become my go-to science fiction novel for my students. There are a few reasons for this. My biggest reason is that my students are actively engaged in the read-aloud every year we read it, and we know that engagement means deeper understanding.

Additionally, the City of Ember makes it easy to focus on several skills sets. Naturally, we can discuss items such as plot, characters, setting, and conflict. But we can also address other areas such as figurative language and author’s purpose.

Lastly, the novel takes place in an underground, dystopian-like society. The fictitious nature of the world and it’s conflicts require students to critically think about what they read and build a mental image of the world they are reading about.

Picture Books to Pair with Science Fiction

While reading the City of Ember and teaching this science fiction unit, I continue to have mini-lessons with students over important reading skills. This allows us to brush up on the skills before applying them to the novel. Here are some recommendations.

Little Red Pen – This picture book is excellent for discussing personification. In the book, several school supplies come to life and debate who is going to grade the school work! We read the novel and find text evidence of personification. 

Tap Tap Boom Boom – This book is a great mentor text for onomatopoeia. This book is about a thunderstorm that sends everyone looking for shelter. While reading, the students point out different onomatopoeia, and we discuss what the sound represents. 

Paper Bag Princess – This book is about a princess who is trying to tame a terrible dragon. I always have my students discuss the conflict of the story and identify different elements of plot within the text.

Ready to dive into this science fiction unit with students? I have all the materials you need to teach this engaging unit. This sci-fi unit includes 20 mini-lessons, 20 read-aloud plans, questions for City of Ember, lesson plans, and more! I will show you how to incorporate the picture books we discussed here, along with several others. Grab the science fiction unit here!