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DR. LORI FRIESEN

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My 10 Favorite Books for the First Weeks of School: (And Activities to Use with Them)

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Show Notes:

Last week, I shared a freebie of 10 Fantastic First Week of School Activities, and so this week, I am going to talk about some of my favorite books to use that can pair with a lot of those activities.

The first day and week of school is often filled with nervous tummies and butterflies (both for the students AND for the teacher), so I invite you to think about this first week as one opportunity of many you’ll get this year to show up in your best way to fill hearts, calm worries, and instill confidence so your students can achieve the life of their dreams.

 And on that note, let's talk about how we can begin to do exactly that by using some fantastic children's books! Just click any book image to grab it on Amazon now. 😊

  1. Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes

 This is an adorable story about a little mouse named Wemberly who worries about EVERYTHING. Wemberly’s parents think that she worries too much and so does her grandmother.

So, you can imagine how poor Wemberly feels on the first day of school.

She has a whole list of worries. What will school be like? Will she make friends? Will people laugh at her doll, Petal?

This is such a great book to use during the first week of school when of course, everyone has some worries of their own.

  2. Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt

This is another adorable (and award-winning) book I love about how to conquer fears and worries.

This book is about a little squirrel who never leaves his nut tree because it’s way too dangerous out there in the unknown.

What if he encountered a tarantula? Or a green Martian? Or killer bees? Or sharks?

But Scaredy Squirrel knows he’s well prepared for any emergency with his antibacterial soap, his Band-Aids, and his parachute.

Then, one day, he finds himself literally out on a limb of his tree – and as he leaps out there into the great unknown, he discovers something he couldn’t have imagined.

This is a really great book to help your new students gather their courage and develop the confidence to conquer new things and achieve huge goals.

Follow-up activity: Something in Common

After reading these books, I love to speak to my students about the fact that one of the best ways to conquer our fears is to let ourselves feel the fear about something and then take action anyways.

Usually, when we do this, we learn that that thing we thought was so scary actually isn’t nearly as scary as we thought it was.

One of the ways I help my students to take action to calm their nerves about their new classroom and meeting their classmates and making new friends is to realize that they actually have more in common with each other than they thought they did.

It’s not nearly as scary meeting new people once you know how much you actually have in common with them. 😊

To do this, I have my students find out more about their classmates by doing a “Something in Common” activity. This activity is included in my "14 Awesome First Week of School Activities" resource on Teachers Pay Teachers, which you can grab by clicking here!

 

  3. First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg

Everyone knows that sinking feeling in the pit of their stomach when they are starting anything new, and so of course, school is no exception.

Sarah Hartwell is scared because she doesn’t want to start over at a new school. She just knows it’s going to be terrible!

However, somehow Sarah manages to pull herself together and get to school – where of course, she meets a new friend, Mrs. Burton, who eases her through this new challenge.

Your kids will love the surprising way that this story ends.

Follow-up activity: Classroom Scavenger Hunt

Help your students to calm their first-day jitters by doing a classroom scavenger hunt (templates included in my 14 Fantastic Activities for the First Week of School resource). Learning more about their new environment (and all of the fun and exciting things I have prepared for them) helps my students to feel safe and much more in control in this new space and experience!

 

  4. Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

This is an adorable story by Kevin Henkes about learning to love and value your name.

Chrysanthemum is a sweet little mouse who loves everything about her perfect name until her first day of school.

When some mean girls tease and taunt her about her name, Chrysanthemum begins to doubt that her name is “absolutely perfect”; she thinks it is absolutely dreadful.

 It is only when the students go to music class and Mrs. Twinkle reveals to the class her own long, flower-based name—Delphinium— that Chrysanthemum feels better and becomes the envy of the three mean girls.

This is a great book for children to come to accept and value the uniqueness of their names - and of their own unique gifts, talents, and abilities.

Follow-up Activity: Secret Compliments

I talked about this activity in last week’s episode, and again, it's included in my back-to-school activities resource
For this activity, students create “secret compliment” envelopes and every day when they come into class and when they leave, they write a compliment for one of their classmates.

 

  5. Back-to-School Rulesby Laurie B. Friedman

This is such a cute book that your students will love, and it’s a great way to introduce class and school rules with your students.

When it comes to surviving school, the main character of this book, Percy shares ten simple rules that show there is more to school than showing up on time and staying awake in class, including no running in the halls, no bouncing off the ceiling, and no crazy scheming!

Percy has a lot to share about being successful at school – and lets your students know how school is going to be a lot of fun.

Follow-up activity: Class Rules (and Student Signatures)

You can either brainstorm “rules” that will make this year the best ever as a whole class, or you can introduce 3-5 classroom rules that you will be using in your classroom this year by printing them on chart paper.

Leave some space around the border of the poster.

Then, after discussing what each rule looks and sounds like (using positive and negative examples), have your students sign their names to commit to these rules all around the border of the poster, and feature this on one of your bulletin boards for the rest of the year where your students can clearly see it.

This way, you can remind your students each time they may be engaging in behavior that may break your class rules that they have signed their name and agreed to follow them.

This is a great visual reminder for your students about following class rules to help ensure a safe and caring classroom community for everyone.

 

  6. How to Get Your Teacher Ready by Jean Reagan

This book is part of a series of other “How to” books like, “How to Babysit a Grandpa,” and “How to Catch Santa.”

You can be sure that your kids will love this creative series, so you might want to add it to your “Teacher Wish List” of books you want for your classroom!

In this book, “How to Get Your Teacher Ready,” your students will go through a fun and exhausting year of school with an adorable look at how to help get their teacher ready for all of the main events – including the first day of school, the 100thday of school, and all of the other special events and celebrations that happen throughout the school year.

What students realize is that preparing their teacher is really all about preparing themselves to be ready for all of these events. This is such a sweet role-reversal that will have your students laughing out loud.

Follow-up activity: Class Rules (see #5, above)

Have students a compile a list of rules that will help your class (and the teacher) have the best year ever!

 

7. Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes

This book is a great follow-up to teaching your class rules because the star of this book, Lilly, has a REALLY hard time following class rules! Lilly might be one of my favorite characters of all time – she’s a bit of a diva and she’s just so funny.

Maybe the best way to describe Lilly is to say that she is a spirited little mouse, and she loves everything about school, especially her teacher, Mr. Slinger.

Lilly just can’t wait until Sharing Time to show off her pink movie star sunglasses, her shiny quarters, and her purple plastic purse.

So, she interrupts Mr. Slinger again and again to show her classmates her fancy new stuff. But then, when Mr. Slinger takes Lilly’s things away from her, Lilly decides she needs to get revenge and draws a mean picture of her teacher.

It isn’t until Mr. Slinger gives her belongings back to her with a kind note and snacks that Lilly feels some remorse and realizes that maybe she owes Mr. Slinger an apology.

It’s just such a sweet story and the characters are so endearing that I know your students will love this book!

If you want to do a mini author study using Kevin Henkes’ books at the beginning of the school year (I used to use Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse, Chrysanthemum, and Wembly Worried in the first couple of weeks of school), just click here for a FREE download of discussion topics, and art and writing activity ideas that align with common core standards!


  8. Splat the Cat: Back to School, Splat! by Rob Scotton 

This book is part of an entire series of “Splat the Cat” books, so if you love this one, you might consider investing in the series for your classroom.

You can even buy a stuffed “Splat the Cat” plush that your students can take turns keeping at their desk to read to during silent reading each day! Just click here to check out the Splat the Cat plush now.  

Poor Splat – on the first day of school, he is allowed to share only one of his summer adventures with the class.

He spends a lot of time trying to decide if he’ll tell them about the time he went searching for treasure or when he swam with sharks in the ocean, but then finally figures out exactly what he needs to share with his friends.

Follow-up activity: My Summer Adventures (Memory Book)

Have students write about one of their favorite summer adventures (and this can go into their Memory Books – if you’ve downloaded my freebie, you’ll see that one of my favorite things to do at the beginning of the school year is to create the beginning of Memory Books, so go ahead and download that so you can see how I do it – it’s SO much fun and very simple. Your kids absolutely love it!)

 

  9. You’re Finally Here by Melanie Watt

I love Melanie Watt. This book, “You’re Finally Here,” is a perfect read-aloud book to show your students how excited you really are to finally meet them!

This is an adorable book for anyone who has ever been kept waiting for something they were really excited about.

This little bunny wants to know “Where have you been?” because he’s been waiting long enough to learn an entire accordion solo, (among other things).

Bunny bounces through such an endearing range of emotions that will likely mirror your own students’ feelings in the weeks before school starts, and offers a great starting place to talk about what it feels like to wait for important events. 

Follow-up activity: Memory Books or Secret Compliments 

Again, you can have your students write about their summer adventures, or what it felt like to anticipate the first day of school, or you can have students do the “Secret Compliments” activity to help calm their nerves during their first weeks of school and to help each other to feel like they really belong here in this new space.

Also, you can get your hands on a whole bunch of other FREE classroom activities to use with books by Melanie Watts by clicking here!


  
10. This School Year Will Be The Best! by Kay Winters

This is a great book for the first day of school because it features a class of kids who are asked to share what they really want to happen this school year.

From familiar to off-the-wall crazy ideas, the students’ wishes are illustrated in exaggerated detail, which your students will love.

Of course, the students conclude that this year most definitely will be the best year yet!

Follow-up activity: This School Year Will Be the Best! bulletin board

Have students cut out a star shape, print their name on it, and print one wish they have for the school year on it (or you could give each student 3 stars).

Use this as a border for your bulletin board that will feature your students’ work throughout the year. 😊


All right – those are 10 of my favorite books to use during the first weeks of school to help my students get off to a great start in our school year!

I hope you’ve found a few goodies that you want to add to your list and that this will help you as you begin planning for your first school year.

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Don’t forget to tune in next week, because it’s going to be another MUST-LISTEN-TO episode. I’m going to be sharing my First Day of School Welcome Packet, where I will share 6 Essential Things to Send Home with Students on the First Day of School, and I’m going to be sharing all of the templates you need so you can create your own back-to-school welcome packet for your students. 

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Until next week, I hope you have a wonderful week preparing for your first school year, and remember, just because you are a beginning teacher, there is no need for you to struggle like one.

I’m here with you every step of the way.

You’ve got this, I know you can do this – and it’s going to be a whole lot of fun!

❀️ Lori

Dr. Lori Friesen | Beginning Teacher Mentor

Creator of the R.E.A.D.Y. for School Academy, Dr. Lori Friesen has mentored thousands of beginning teachers across the country through her workshops and courses. Host of the popular podcast, Beginning Teacher Talk, and creator of the innovative literacy program for 1st and 2nd grade, Dogs Help Kids Read and Succeed, Dr. Lori is dedicated to serving educators and inspiring learners. Learn more at drlorifriesen.com and at howdogshelpkids.com.

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