I DO love back to school time. I love the freshly sharpened crayons, the clean pink erasers, and I especially love the pencils that are all the same size and perfectly pointed for the first (and possibly the last) time in my classroom. Back to School is a time of new beginnings, the glorious Spring of the school year. It's also the perfect time to read some great books to teach concepts like classroom rules and procedures, but more than that, to teach our newbies the deeper things that we want in a class community, like respect, caring, and tolerance.
So which books do I enjoy? I actually could have written a post with about 50 of them but I narrowed it down to my current top ten:
1. How I Spent My Summer Vacation
Having kids write about what they did during the summer is a classic. In fact it's been done so long, I think they might even have done this in ancient Egypt. What I like about this book though, is instead of telling the usual "What I Did Over the Summer" story, the boy in this book tells the class about his summer by starting out realistically, but eventually he weaves it into a tall tale that your kids will enjoy. This makes it a great springboard for your kids to do a different kind of story writing activity, instead of the traditional one they may have done before.
2. Miss Nelson is Missing
I think I have been in love with this book forever. It tells the story of a very sweet Miss Nelson (I'm thinking she sounds a lot like me...hmmm) who has to disguise herself (possibly, can't give it away) as Miss Viola Swamp, the no-nonsense substitute to snap the kids back into shape. Nice book to discuss how we give our students freedom to do certain things (maybe get a drink or go to the bathroom as needed) but if they take advantage of the rules, we may have to change things up.
3. Never Ride Your Elephant to School
This book describes what might happen if you bring an elephant to school and talks about all of the mischief that it might get into. I love to do a take-off writing activity with this book and let the kids decide which kind of animal they would bring to school. When the writing is done, have kids do a watercolor picture of the animal they brought to school, and then display them with their stories on a fun bulletin board.
4. What if Everybody Did That?
This is a great book to discuss how what we do has an affect on others, whether it's tossing trash around or forgetting to be respectful to our classmates. Great book to illustrate this point.
5. You're Finally Here
This book tells the story of a bunny who finally sees his owner but has had to wait so long. It goes through all of the emotions that we feel as we have to wait. Nice discussion piece for talking about how we need to be patient this year in our classroom and how the teacher may not be able to always help us as quickly as we had hoped. What can we do while we wait? Time to talk about procedures here.
6. The Girl Who Never Made MistakesBeatrice is one of those students we dream about...conscientious, careful, methodical, but perhaps a bit too perfect. Her brother on the other hand is the opposite. In this story, Beatrice finally makes a mistake while juggling in the Talent Show and she laughs it off, learning that it IS okay not to be perfect. Nice lesson to do our best but not to stress.
7. The Art Lesson
This is one book that might not typically be found on a back to school list but since I love art and I like the message, it made my top ten. This is the story of a boy who learns to celebrate his individuality with the help of a very wise art teacher. After this book is done, you've got to make some art!!! One thing I do every year is to make self-portraits to hang around the room for the whole year, as a border near the ceiling. We mount these on black paper (about an inch all around for a border) and the kids create patterns on the black paper or simply decorate them however they want using construction paper scraps.
8. Because You Are My Teacher
This is an awesome book about a teacher who takes her students on amazing adventures around the world. You can use it as a springboard to all of the places (topics/themes) that you're excited to share with them or perhaps use it to talk about how books take us places. I think you'll love this book.
9. Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon
The illustrations in this book alone are enough to sell it to me! This is the story of how a little girl who had confidence in herself was able to befriend the school bully. This is a good starting point for a bullying discussion and how we need to be respectful of others.
10. Do Unto Otters
Who doesn't love Laurie Keller? This book focuses on character education, specifically the Golden Rule, which pretty much covers everything. Reading this book and discussing the importance of treating classmates the way we want to be treated, is a good starting point for building classroom norms. Great book!
Do you have some back to school favorites to add to these. I would love to hear from you!
Have a wonderful year!