Creating back to school lesson plans can be intimidating! Here is a list of my favorite first day of school books for back to school season in upper elementary, and super simple activities you can do with each read aloud! Click on the pictures to shop each title.
1. First Day Jitters
A classic in my back to school books section! My activity for this one is simple. I have my students write down one (or more) thing that they were a little nervous about this school year. Then, they fold it up, and rip it up!
I like to make a big spectacle of having each student walk to the trash can RIP up that thing they were anxious about, and throw it right into the trash can. Again – it’s a simple and quick activity but can really start to build a sense of community in that everyone gets nervous sometimes!
2. Do Unto Otters
I use this one when we talk about classroom rules and expectations. An activity you can do to go along with this back to school read aloud is having your students create their own ‘do unto otters’ posters! I like to have them turn one of our classroom rules or expectations into a silly poster in the style that the book is written in. You’d be surprised at their creativity!
3. The Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors
This book isn’t necessarily back to school themed, but it’s SO much fun! First day of school books in upper elementary do not have to be long and boring! I like to use this as just a little break in the day. Then, have a class-wide rock, paper, scissors tournament! If you really want to get into it, you can create a bracket up on the whiteboard and everything! Perfect for Friday afternoon the first week of school.
4. If I Built a School
This one is so fun! To follow this silly back to school read aloud, I like to have my students write their own version of, “If I Built a School.” Have them be as silly or as serious as you want, but include everything that their perfect school would have! They can even illustrate if you have time. Then, give students a chance to share their schools. It’s always fun to see what everyone comes up with, and the students love to hear each other’s ideas! This would be a cute hallway display for back to school as well.
5. Your Name is a Song
After this read aloud, I like to give my students a printout of their name in bubble letters (I print these ahead of time). Then, I have students fill the letters of their name with things that represent them. I give kids the chance to share what they drew and why (only if they choose to) and it’s a fabulous way to get to know each other better, and emphasize the importance of everyone’s name! You can also then use these as desk name tags for the first few weeks of school.
6. The Cool Bean
This is another of my favorite first day of school books. I don’t do anything fancy for this one, just a simple writing assignment. I have my students write about a time that THEY went out of their way to help someone out with a small gesture, or someone else helped THEM out with a small gesture.
If they can’t think of anything I also let them write about a hypothetical situation where they could make someone’s day just with one random act of kindness. This is great for just a casual class conversation about how being kind doesn’t have to be big, grand gestures, and we can really make a difference in our classmate’s lives just with small acts that show we care.
This picture book is super fun, and written in more of a comic book-style. So, you can have your students create their own comic strip with school supply characters! The premise of the book is hilarious, and students LOVE taking the characters and adding some more events to the story. This is great for partner or group work as well.
If you want to relate it back to something else you are working on in the first week of school, you can have them create a comic with school supply characters portraying a school or classroom rule or expectation. For that, I used to have students create a story from the supplies’ point of view, about what happens when we as humans don’t take care of the classroom supplies!
8. Thank you, Mr. Falker
I love this one because it is one of the more serious back to school books, but its message is amazing. For this one, I like to have students write a letter to a former teacher thanking them for making a difference in their life in some way and wishing them good luck in the new school year.
I like to do this because I find that some students struggle to make that transition to the new grade, and it can be hard to completely start fresh, with no closure on the prior year. I find that having them write letters to their old teachers gives a good sense of readiness for the next year.
9. The Office, A Day at Dunder Mifflin Elementary
Another super fun picture book to add to your repertoire of first day of school books. This book is adorable if you or your students have seen ‘The Office,’ but it’s a cute story regardless! Following this story, I put students into groups, give them a piece of chart paper, and have them brainstorm what makes a good leader. I tell them to think about what makes good peer leadership, as well as what qualities they want their teacher to have as they ‘lead’ the class.
I give a few minutes to brainstorm, then we share out as a whole class and see the similarities! We combine all of our ideas into one agreed upon list, and keep it up in the classroom all year to remind us what is important to us as a class.
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