Updated on 8-11-19 with some more favorites!
One of the best first weeks of school activities is to read aloud to your students. The first week, especially, can be unpredictable in terms of planning and knowing how long everything will take when your students are new to your classroom. Having plenty of picture books ready to go is a great use of time when you find yourself with a few minutes.
Besides being a great use of time, I find reading aloud helps bond our class together as a community. Reading books together and having a chance to discuss them builds verbal skills, reading comprehension, vocabulary, and empathy. Plus it’s just plain fun and relaxing. All kids love it, especially when the teacher is engaged and enthusiastic about the book being read.
Here are some of my favorite beginning of the year picture books. I’ve also included a suggestion for discussion with most of the books. This is not to say that you need to read every one of these books! Pick and choose what might fit you and your class, and what might be available.
NERVES ON FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL:
~First Day Jitters – a classic story for talking about feelings of nervousness at the beginning of the year
~Wemberly Worried – talk about nerves on the first days of school
~We Don’t Eat Our Classmates – another cute story for talking about first day nerves
~School’s First Day of School – another story about first day nerves, but told from the school’s perspective
~The Kissing Hand – a fun book about carrying your family’s love with you everywhere you go. Even upper elementary kids love this book!
HOW WE TREAT EACH OTHER – BUILDING CLASSROOM COMMUNITY:
~The Day You Begin – a great book for highlighting individuality and looking for common ground. You could follow this up with a “find a classmate who . . .” type scavenger hunt
~The Colors of Us – talk about similarities and differences
~Each Kindness – talk about the importance of kindness and anti-bullying
~Mr. Peabody’s Apples – talk about gossip & the negative effects
~Ira Sleeps Over – talk about what we need to feel “safe” in our classroom.
~Amazing Grace – talk about believing in yourself; not discouraging others’ dreams or ideas; stereotypes about who can/cannot do certain things
~I Walk with Vanessa – talk about standing up for each other
~All Are Welcome – talk about inclusion and diversity
~The Rabbit Listened – talk about the importance of listening & being a friend
~The Teacher from the Black Lagoon – a good book to read before having students write about what they need from their teacher this year
~Do Unto Otters – talk about using good manners
~My Mouth is a Volcano – fun book about self-control, specifically with blurting out!
~One Green Apple – talk about ways we can include everyone and not allow anyone to feel like an “outsider” in our classroom
~Mr. Lincoln’s Way – talk about bullying & how differences make us special
~The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes – talk about growth mindset
~Your Fantastic Elastic Brain – talk about growth mindset
~Mistakes That Worked and Accidents May Happen– talk about making mistakes and learning from them
IMPORTANCE OF NAMES:
~The Name Jar – talk about the importance of names and the importance of pronouncing each other’s names correctly
~Alma & How She Got Her Name – same discussion as The Name Jar, but this is a newer book and may be one that students have not heard before. This would also fit well with the name origin “Homework” with Chrysanthemum below.
~My Name is Sangoel – talk about the importance of names and the importance of of pronouncing everyone’s names correctly.
~Chrysanthemum – talk about bullying & the importance of names. Optional homework: find out how you were given your name and the meaning of your name if your family knows that information! Then share those stories in class. Please be aware that this could be a difficult activity for some students. Don’t require kids to share if they are uncomfortable.
HOPES, DREAMS & GOALS:
~The Dot – talk about how you might “make a mark” – what are your hopes and dreams, both for this year and for the future?
~Miss Rumphius – talk about how you make the world more beautiful by being a teacher; ask students to talk with each other about some of their goals and dreams
~Ish – talk about believing in yourself & your dreams
~Only One You – talk about individuality and individual gifts
~Giant Steps to Change the World – talk about steps anyone can take to make the world a better place. It uses real-life examples, which is inspiring.
~What Do You Do with an Idea? – talk about the importance of acting on your ideas and turning them into something important
~What Do You Do With a Problem? – talk about not backing away from solving problems
~What Do You Do With a Chance? – talk about having courage and taking chances
~Salt in His Shoes – talk about setting goals; good book for Writing about student goals for the year
~The Bad Seed – talk about how to make positive changes in yourself
~Jabari Jumps – talk about having courage, overcoming fears and giving hard things a try
~Junkyard Wonders – talk about different gifts and supporting each other’s goals
SETTING UP READING WORKSHOP/READING BLOCK:
~Miss Malarkey Leaves No Reader Behind – great book for kicking off independent reading and reading workshop; talk about the importance of finding the right book
~Thank You, Mr. Falker – talk about challenges, bullying, the importance of teachers(!); good book for writing about reading memories & setting reading goals
~Aunt Chip & the Great Triple Creek Dam Affair – talk about the importance of reading
~A Quiet Place – talk about the importance of reading and of the need for quiet when settling in to read
~Biblioburro & That Book Woman – talk about value of libraries & how lucky we are to have access to books
SETTING UP WRITING WORKSHOP/WRITING BLOCK:
~Author – talk about collecting ideas for writing
~Amelia’s Notebook – talk about keeping a notebook & using writing as a way think through your feelings; a funny book that makes this point without being “teacher-ish”
~Max’s Logbook – similar to the Amelia book, but about a boy who begins writing about science experiments, and moves on to writing about other topics; introduces topic of writing notebooks
~Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street – how to turn “nothing” observations into stories
Last year, I implemented #classroombookaday in my classroom with terrific results. Here is a link to the post which explains more.
If you have other suggestions for great books to use or great discussion ideas for the books, please contact me or comment below!
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