Children’s literature is literally one of my favorite things and so of course I’m all about bringing great read alouds into the classroom. With an amazing book, a companion activity is a sure fire way to ramp up the fun even more and continue fostering a love of reading! Back to school time is the perfect time to start read alouds as a core part of your classroom so your students know just how integral reading will be throughout the school year.
These companion resources are typically activities that guide students to practice an important skill that ties into the integral lesson of the story. Most of these activities may be geared towards primary grades, but I believe that there is also value for older grades. The best part is that many of these activities can be found for FREE on Teachers Pay Teachers! And if you’d like to check out more awesome back to school read alouds, head over to this post HERE!
You’re Finally Here!
This adorable and funny book by Melanie Watt is about a bunny going through an abundance of emotions while waiting. It’s a great story to show your students how hard it’s almost been for YOU waiting to meet them! Aroundthekampfire has the BEST resource for this book! Snag the cutest bulletin board to accompany the read aloud and get into TONS of wonderful activities including a retelling activity, first day writing, and of course, an ADORABLE craft!
First Day Jitters
I love to end the first day of school with this book. There are so many great activities that can be done with this book, but one of my favorite community building activities is to use a first day feelings chart. We’ll enjoy great discussions on how we felt on our first day. I also love to use the poem pictured below because the students get a kick out of it. We also complete some engaging and interactive activities to help identify and discuss our feelings and emotions from THIS bundle. It has digital and print versions of some really great games, journal entries and crafts! The best part is ending with a refreshing glass of Jitter Juice made by them!
Teamwork Isn’t My Thing, And I Don’t Like to Share
This is a great book by Julia Cook to introduce the class to working together as a team and why it is so important. After reading, we chart what a good teammate looks and sounds like. Then we get to the really fun part…The Cup Stacking Challenge! We get to practice BEING a good teammate in groups of 4 or 5. Each group is given a stack of cups and a rubber band with 4 or 5 paper clips (based on the number of students in the group). They are NOT allowed to touch the cups or rubber bands, only their paperclip, and they have to work as a group to stack the cups into a pyramid! Students love the challenge and although some get super frustrated, it’s a great way for them to practice great teamwork skills! You can find more team building activities HERE!
The Name Jar
Your name is something to be proud of, but sometimes kiddos need a reminder! Some kids may even need a little encouragement to absolutely love their name. The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi is the perfect read aloud to show how one Korean student learns to appreciate her name. Couple this book with a fun STEM activity to challenge, engage, and encourage some critical thinking for your students. THIS resource is the perfect way to get your students to collaborate and engineer during back to school while also learning to be proud of their name. This resource also goes great with Your Name is a Song by Jamiyah’s Thompkins-Bigelow and Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes.
David Goes to School
David is always a fun and entertaining character. He always shows us the WRONG things to do and kids love it. One of my favorite things to do after reading David is discuss good choices vs. poor choices. I’ve created THIS comprehensive resource that includes some great social and emotional practice for students as a whole group, partner, or individual. It also includes a fun book for students to create about making good choices!
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I have been reading this book since my first year of teaching and completing the same activity that I believe is super powerful for students. I cut out as many little red hearts as I need for each student to have one. Before reading I explain that we will crumple our heart every time we hear a hurtful thing said in the book. This not only keeps their attention, but it also gives them something to do while listening. After reading, we discuss what was said and I challenge them to try and un-crumple the heart to get it back to what it started as. When they can’t, I tell them that all of those bends and marks represent how hurtful things leave scars that we cannot see or undo. We then make a class promise to be kind to one another and I have each student write their name on their crumpled heart. We tape them all to our promise as a reminder and I keep this up most of the year. If you’d like to extend this, check out THIS jam packed resource that includes tons of hands-on activities to practice and reinforce what it means to be a good friend! Want something digital? Check out these Being a Good Friend Boom cards!
This is Not a Box
This book by Antoinette Portis is such an amazing story to encourage students to use their imagination to the fullest. The activity that goes along with it is one that challenges and pushes some students out of their comfort zone. The book shows how creative this little bunny is and we discuss it before putting on our own imagination caps. Afterward, each student is given one bottle cap and a piece of paper and I tell them that it’s not a bottle cap. They are then given time to create something out of their bottle cap. Students can use glue, markers, and crayons with the only requirement being that they have to incorporate their bottle cap somehow in their creation. When their creative time is up, together we write about what we created. The length of the writing will depend on their grade. For beginning of the year first graders, I like to use the sentence stem, “This is not a bottle cap it is a __________.” Check out some of their awesome creations below! This is also apart of the First Week of School Mega Kit!
This book by Marcus Pfister tells a sweet message that allows students to see why they are special, why sharing matters, and how to be kind. Check out this fun writing activity and craft for students to complete to accompany this story. I love hanging them in the hallway when completed because they all turn out so unique. What better way to start your year off by celebrating the special qualities of each of your new students!
How Full is Your Bucket?
I love using this book at the beginning of the year for many reasons, however the most important is that I believe it is such a great analogy for students. After reading, we complete a sort of different behaviors that could be considered as Bucket Fillers vs. Bucket Dippers. This is language that we use for the entire year to help students understand how their actions impact others whether it be in a positive or negative way. Students then write about how they will be a Bucket Filler throughout the school year.
These resources are both apart of the First Week of School Kit!
Leo the Late Bloomer
Leo is such a loveable character brought to us by Robert Kraus that many students can relate to. His friends can all do things that he can’t… yet! This is one of my favorite books to use for goal setting. We discuss how everyone blooms at different times and how we will all learn a lot throughout the year together. We all set goals, including me, and we hang them up as a reminder of what we want to strive for. HERE is the template I like to use and it also has a bulletin border banner for display!
Giraffes Can’t Dance
This is another great book to talk about goal setting and open up student’s minds to having a growth mindset. We discuss what a growth mindset is and watch the VIDEOS from Class Dojo. These videos go super in depth about what it feels like to have a growth mindset. The website also has discussion guides and activities to accompany the videos. I typically do different writing activities to go along with the videos and we watch them over a few days. We have a lot of discussions about having a growth mindset and continue that over the year. You can also check out THIS growth mindset resource, including bulletin board sets, anchor charts, and activities that have students practice using the power of yet, training their brain, and the difference between growth and fixed mindset.
Officer Buckle and Gloria
Let’s talk SAFETY! This is super important to discuss with students and this book by Peggy Rathmann is a fun way to do that! Officer Buckle’s dog Gloria helps make safety more entertaining and we can have some serious discussions after about it and why it’s important. After our conversations, the students can create their own safety tips and they LOVE this activity. You can check out this activity and more in the First Week Kit Mega Bundle so you can have the stress of back to school melt away with every detail, lesson, and activity planned for the first week of school!
The Most Magnificent Thing
This story written by Ashley Spires is another great book for discussing the importance of having a growth mindset. I love using this to introduce and set up our classroom expectations for STEM. We discuss what STEM is and how we are all engineers. I use these posters from my Pigeon STEM resource to help establish expectations and then we get busy creating our own most magnificent thing. I love using this FREEBIE from Buzzing for Books! It is so fun to see their creativity AND their struggle!
Kindness is Cooler Mrs. Ruler
This book by Margery Cuyler helps set up the expectation of kindness in our classroom. In the book, Mrs. Ruler gives the students an assignment of doing 10 kind things. I typically read this book on the Friday of the first full week of school to end with a weekend task. Each student receives 10 hearts to fill out with 10 kind things they do at home over the weekend. The following week, students get to present the kind things they did and I hang them up outside our room! It’s the perfect reminder every time they walk past, feeling proud and kind of the things they’ve done.
These are just SOME of my favorite back to school activities. Just like with books, there are so many more activities out there. Don’t forget to couple these with some great team building activities!! The First Week Kit is jam packed with team building, community building, management, and social emotional activities to make back to school a breeze!
I really hope you enjoyed learning more about back to school activities and how to make it fun and enjoyable for your first days together! You can check out ALL of my back to school resources HERE! Don’t forget to subscribe to my email list! Not only will you get the most up to date tips, tricks, and classroom projects… and of course more fun FREEBIES including The Good Choices Book FREEBIE! But you will also have exclusive access to tons of digital how to videos! If you would like to learn about this and other things happening in my classroom follow me @sweetnsauerfirsties on Instagram.
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