Could there be a more exciting month for teachers and students than September? It’s a time when children reconnect with old friends and meet new ones. It’s also a time when children experience a wide range of emotions — anticipation, excitement, nervousness, and sometimes fear of the unknown. But, for most, back to school time holds the promise of a brand new year, new learning, new experiences, and a fresh start. I used children’s literature all year long, even with my fourth graders. And there are some outstanding books that are perfect for September to ease the worriers, introduce new students, set expectations for a healthy classroom community, and jumpstart opening day projects. Here are a few of my picks. Post a comment if you like these, or share some of your favorites for back to school!
Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes
Lilly loves so many things about school, but one day she has a falling out with her teachers. This is a great book to let students share likes and dislikes about school and set the framework for a discussion about expectations for respect and friendship.
Kindergarten Rocks! by Katie Davis
Dexter is apprehensive about his first day of school in this charming story about a little boy who faces the unknowns of kindergarten. This is a great book to use to ease the worries of first-timers.
Countdown to Kindergarten by Alison McGhee
Another great book to ease the pre-kindergarten anxiety. This lighthearted book uses humor and the wonderful illustrations of New Yorker cartoonist, Harry Bliss, to ease the first day jitters.
First Grade Stinks by Mary Ann Rodman
This entertaining picture books help ease the transition from kindergarten to first grade. The humorous text and the fantastic illustrations will engage students and easily prompt conversation about the anxiety and excitement of the new year.
First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg
The ink and watercolor illustrations complement this funny book just beautifully. The surprise ending will have you and your students laughing out loud. (This is a great gift for first year teachers, too!)
The Name Quilt by Phyllis Root
This story presents one family’s deep connections and history. It’s a great story starter to use before creating a “name quilt” for your class as a way of introducing students to one another.
The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown
This is a great first day book for any elementary class. A classic that has been around for years, this book is perfect to use as a springboard for a class activity that enables children to introduce themselves and share what is important about them. Click here for a great lesson plan using this book as a springboard to create a classroom book.
A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon
This is one of my favorite books to use with grade 3-4 students to address the challenge many children face when they choose to act independently. Camilla Cream worries about everything, especially what others thinks of her. The wild illustrations explode with color and energy.
Loser by Jerry Spinelli
This is a great chapter book for older children about a young boy who has been teased all through school. Use this as a framework to discuss respect and bullying. This one one of my favorite read-alouds to start the year with. I started the year reading few pages at the beginning or end of each day, and soon my students were begging me to read more. Check out this Literature kit for great student activities and instruction ideas.
With contributions from over 70 authors, this collection of stories shares insights from the bulllied, the bystander, and the bully himself. This is a must-have for any classroom teacher that wants to establish a bully-free classroom. Find a few minutes during the day (at bus time, before/after lunch, etc) and read a few pages.
Louise the Big Cheese and the Back to School Smarty Pants by Elise PrimaveraA great addition to the Louise and the Big Cheese series! This story is for every over-achieving diva out there. One of my favorites for the students who just have to get all A’s this year!
If you incorporate literature into your instruction, be sure to browse our selection of literature units and novel guides.
Filed under: Back to School on August 30th, 2011