Picturebook lesson series: Exploring Social Issues

Download this practical resource book with four picturebook-based lessons, each of which adresses the theme of hardship and resilience. 


Child putting paper family near Earth drawing

About this resource book

This resource book has been developed by Gail Ellis and Tatia Gruenbaum. 

The picturebooks that have been chosen for this lesson series discuss social issues such as experiencing homelessness, relying on foodbanks and turning to crime and bullying to survive or save face.

They link to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (#1, #2) and The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (#9, #19, #24, #26, #27, #40).

Information about the teaching notes

In order to offer teachers clear guidance and a comprehensive overview of each picturebook, the notes have been divided into four parts A - D. See below for more information.

Part A: Picturebook information

Part A provides general information about the  picturebook such as the publisher’s synopsis and background about the authors / illustrators and the teacher is  invited to share selected information with their pupils  as appropriate

Part B: Lesson information

Part B provides lesson information about age/level suitability, lesson objectives, cross-curricular links and links to children’s rights and world-event days.

Part B also includes an A-Z or vocabulary for each picturebook.

Teachers are encouraged to share the lesson objectives with their pupils to make learning explicit and purposeful.

Part C: Lesson plan

Part C comprises 5 key-steps and pupils are invited to participate by responding to questions with their own personal interpretations and opinions. 

To add a metacognitive dimension in order to make learning visible, pupils are encouraged to systematically reflect on, review and evaluate their own learning and decide on their personal action.

This reflection also inspires pupils to transfer their newly acquired awareness and knowledge from inside the classroom to informed involvement with the world outside the classroom.

Part D: Extra activities

Part D provides suggestions for supplementary activities and links to additional resources.

Pupils are invited to choose from the extra activities according to their needs and interests.

Story-based methodology

The lessons are informed by a story-based methodology (Ellis and Brewster, 1991; 2014) and a story-based e-methodology for video picturebook read-alouds (Ellis and Gruenbaum, 2023).

In addition, the lessons are embedded in a children’s rights perspective (Ellis, 2019; 2021) and comprises three categories: protection, provision and participation. This threefold categorisation is referred to  as the ‘3Ps’ which  we have applied to our picturebook-based English Language Teaching (ELT) lessons to create a pedagogical framework (see below). This framework enables teachers to create a relationship of shared control with their pupils and allows pupils  to exercise their agency and participate  fully in their own learning.

The following table offers an outline of the ‘3Ps’ in picturebook-based ELT:


Teachers set up a safe space in a positive, inclusive classroom climate where all pupils are respected and learn with and from each other. Pupils may encounter social issues for the first time in the classroom which provides a window into the lives of people different to their own or may offer children who are experiencing difficult circumstances the opportunity to understand that they are not alone. It is especially important, therefore, to ensure a learning environment conducive to exploring such topics and to encourage empathy and understanding.


The lesson sets provide a structured plan and clear guidelines for pupils  to engage with an authentic piece of children’s literature, a picturebook, in which both the words and the pictures create meaning. Individual differences in primary and lower secondary pupils are especially marked, but picturebooks can be interpreted on many levels and thus satisfy pupils  of different ages and at different points in their English language learning. The lessons provide activities which teachers can select according to the age, language level and interests of the pupils  in their classes and provide pupils  with stimulating activities to develop their critical thinking as well as their English language skills. 


The lessons are structured around four parts which facilitate pupils’ agency and active participation. The activities offer opportunities for decision-making and respect  pupils’ right to an opinion. In return, listening to pupils’  views, offers teachers the opportunity to discover pupils’ feelings and lived experiences. 

We would like to point out that it is not necessary to complete every activity and / or include all the vocabulary and expressions. Teachers are encouraged to adapt the lessons to suit the needs of their learners. However, we recommend completing the book-cover-based activities  to encourage pupils to make predictions about the story from the title and cover illustrations, and to appreciate the picturebook’s different features.  

About the authors

Gail Ellis is an independent teacher educator and adviser who has been working with picturebooks since 1989. Her main interests include children’s rights, picturebooks in primary ELT, young learner ELT management, and inclusive practices. Her recent publications include Teaching English to Pre-Primary Children with Sandie Mourão (DELTA Publishing/Klett, 2020), Teaching Children How to Learn with Nayr Ibrahim (DELTA Publishing, 2015), and Tell it Again! with Jean Brewster (British Council, 2014).

Tatia Gruenbaum is a lecturer and researcher at Avans University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands. She holds a PhD in Applied Linguistics and her research focused on the use of picturebooks as a tool in pre-service primary teacher education in the Netherlands. After completing an Erasmus+Project on intercultural citizenship education through picturebooks in early language learning (ICEPELL), her current research focuses on the aspect of quality in picturebooks. 

Gail and Tatia are two of the co-founders of Picturebooks in European Primary English Language Teaching (PEPELT), a finalist in the 2020 British Council ELTons awards.

Download the resource book at the bottom of the page

The resource book contains notes and materials for all of the four lessons. You can also access the individual lessons by clicking or tapping the links below:

It's a No-Money Day (Primary)

Still a Family (Primary)

Lunch Every Day (Secondary)

The Promise (Secondary)



Submitted by deverapaula on Sat, 10/07/2023 - 03:22

Is there a chance for us to receive a proof or like a certification when we watch the recorded broadcast like this Picturebook lesson series: Exploring Social Issues?

Hi Zeinab

Which course are your trying to enrol on? This page is about a lesson series and you can access the resources here without registration.


TeachingEnglish team

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