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Using Picture Books with Older Readers: Zombie Makers (Johnson)

Our school recently did a Zombie Apocalypse for our Year7 (6th grade) students. For 18 days at the end of the school year, our school was overrun by zombies (also known as Year6 students), and our Year7 students were our only hope for survival! Year10 was taken first, followed quickly by Year9 and several teachers. Our Year7 students learned about zombies in literature and the science behind viruses and how they are spread. They calculated the rate of infection, percentage infected, and how quickly the virus would spread throughout our school. In Design Technology, they designed and built zombie shelters in MineCraft, Terraria, or other student-selected programs. In Humanities (social studies), they discussed plagues throughout history, including their social and political ramifications. They created newscasts of zombie apocalypse updates and efforts to contain the infection. All this was an effort to keep the last weeks of school relevant and interesting for students, and we got tons of positive feedback from students and parents. Cool, huh?

The Zombie Apocalypse was project-based learning that encompassed all subject areas, including the library. I did two different lessons, both of which are detailed below. Of course, my favorite zombie lesson involves Rebecca Johnson’s nonfiction picture book Zombie Makers. I also included ideas for science, biology, health, debate, and reading classes.

AUTHOR: Rebecca L. Johnson
PUBLISHER: Millbrook Press
PUBLICATION DATE: October 1, 2012
ISBN: 9780761386339

Disclaimer: All the lessons below are my own and do not reflect what teachers did in their classes for our Zombie Apocalypse. I do have access to the specific lessons, but since I do not own them, I will not reproduce them here.


I started out by showing the book to students and allowing them to pass it around during the lesson. All of the videos below are listed in the Additional Resources section at the back of Zombie Makers. We talked about survival of the fittest and how smart (and cruel) nature can be. Because all the “zombie makers” in the book are parasites, we also discussed the difference between the viruses the were discussing in science class and a parasite.

I downloaded these videos using Download Helper (free) and put them into the PowerPoint below. One of the teachers said she thought the jewel wasp video might have been too much for the students to handle (she had to leave the room), but the students didn’t seem to think so. I also gave a big warning before the guinea worm video as it is pretty gross for those with a weak stomach. I told the student that the video was of small children having guinea worms extracted, and while it isn’t bloody, the children are crying and clearly in distress. I only had 2 students out of 80 look away during that video, but I was glad that I gave fair warning.

If you only watch one of these videos, the zombie snails (the green-banded broodsac) is a must-see! If the videos do not play within the presentation (not sure if they will work), they are all linked on the last slide of the presentation. Here’s the zombie snail one, my favorite!


Use Zombie Makers to support discussions about parasites, communicable diseases, and the importance of personal hygiene.

Storrs, Carina. “Parasites worm their way into back-to-school season.” CNN. 28 Sept 2015.

“Can we fall prey to hidden parasites?”–video and audio resource from NPR’s “TED Radio Hour”

Transcript from NPR’s “All Things Considered” about benefits of some parasites

Listen to the audio (4 minutes)–Audio download is also available via the NPR link above:


Many schools require students with head lice nits to be nit-free before they return to school. Read this article from the CDC and discuss why the CDC recommends students with nits return to school anyway. What is your school’s policy on nits? Are students required to stay home? Do you agree with the CDC?

The 2016 Summer Olympics has been plagued with problems, including the prevalence of the mosquite-borne zika virus. Read the two articles below and debate the two sides:

Article from UK Daily Mail

Oskoui, Ramin. “Cancel the Olympics.” US News & World Report. 17 June 2016.

DiMeglio, Steve. “Jordan Speith will not participate in Rio Olympics.” USA Today. 11 July 2016.


This booktalk is downloadable free on SlideShare. It includes 10 YA zombie titles and links to some of their book/movie trailers.


Miller, Andrew. “Zombie-Based Learning–Braaaaaaains!” Edutopia. 17 Oct 2014.

“Common Core Resources to Prepare for the Zombie Apocalypse.” Marygrove College. 13 Sept 2013.

There are also lots of zombie lessons on Pinterest!


  • Wow, impressive!! I almost couldn't watch the snail video, I think I could be in trouble with the others. I'm also an international school librarian in China, in Teda (near Tianjin). I really like your bog!

    • Thanks, A! I know where Tianjin is, but not Teda. China is a HUGE place! Glad to hear I have some international librarians and teachers following!


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