For some students, back to school is the most exciting time of the year. They have spent the summer packing and repacking their book bags, admiring their shiny new supplies, and playing school with their stuffed animals. But for others it is a truly trying and emotional right of passage, and I am not just talking about the parents! For some pre-schoolers and kindergarteners, this will be their first time away from mom or caregivers they have known since they were born. Even if they have been in full-time day care, a school environment is very different, with lots more children and adults, strange rooms, rigid schedules and new faces.
Story time read alouds are so important. Just listening to a story in itself is very comforting. For a few moments a nervous 5 year old can lose him/herself in a picture book, and if that book has characters and situations that students can identify with and empathize with, then so much the better.
The following books are ones that I have not only enjoyed over the years, but are absolute must-haves in my classroom.
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Llama school begins today
Time to learn and time to play!
So begins Mama Llama enthusiastically in this classic book by Anna Dewdney. There is so much to love about this book. Without the pictures, the rhyming couplets tell the story of an exciting day ahead with the prospect of new friends, new school and a new teacher. But it is the illustrations that I love the most – poor llama’s face as he goes from apprehension to worry to break down. So many children can identify with his situation, and this book helps them laugh at his coping and share in his joy at the end of the day when mama returns.
It sort of goes without saying that this wonderful book by Audrey Penn would be on the list, but there is a reason that this book is a perennial favorite. Even the most excited student understands Chester’s apprehension and his need to keep a little bit of his mom with him in school.
There are tons of crafts on the internet to go alongside this book. My students made their own raccoons and cut around their hands to make the ASL sign for love. We taught students that hand sign as a way to let them know that we loved them when we had to be silent in the hallways or any time we were in an assembly. It was kind of like saying, “I know we have to be quiet, and this is tough, but I love you”. And they would give the sing back. Awww.
Cinderella on the stairs
I spy the Three Bears
Three Bears out hunting
I spy Baby Bunting
I cannot emphasize enough how much I love this book. I just can’t imagine teaching Kindergarteners without it! It is so fun to use in conjunction with fairy tales and nursery rhymes, and the Ahlbergs are experts at merging those magical worlds. Each page has rhyming couplets linking fairy tale or nursery rhyme characters, and each new page begins with the last words on the previous page – perfect for emergent readers. Indeed, this book is always one of the first books students would tell me they could ‘read’, using the detailed and beautiful drawings and the repetitive patterned language sequences.
Many children come to school not knowing nursery rhymes or fairy tales. Nursery rhymes are such a good way of learning and playing with language onset and rimes, and fairy tales are a great introduction to story sequences, problems and resolutions.
This Hickory Dickory Dock craft activity is a free download in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.
These fairy tale retell hats are a great way for students to sequence a fairy story and retell the story with picture prompts.
This book by Martin Waddell has been a favorite with my new nervous students. After I read this book over and over and over again (just like parents do at home – this is so important. It is how we first learn to ‘read’), I would put it in a basket labeled “Books we love” and there would be fights over who got to read it! Add a baby stuffed owl into the mix and you have the perfect comforting read for a jittery newbie.
We always made an Owl Babies bulletin board nests of three babies birds. Each student made their own baby owl and covered it with cotton balls to make the fluffy down. We nested them on a fall tree with the moon peeking behind the branches. This board gave us good value as we changed the heading in October to “Look whooooooooo is learning in Kindergarten” and added spooky spider webs! For your students who are ready to write, I have this cute owl craft in my store:
“Excuse me!” coughed a cricket who’d seen Gerald earlier on.
“But sometimes when you’re different you just need a different song.”
I left this book by Giles Andraea to last because it is a more in depth read, but it is perfect for when you have been in school a while and you start to learn who are your fixed mindset students. Gerald the Giraffe has to join in at the jungle dance but believes he cannot dance. It is a great way to teach that success doesn’t always look the same for everyone, and that finding a way to learn is sometimes just a matter of finding “the music that you love.”
Best wishes with your new little ones this year and please share the books you love to read aloud to your newbies to ease their anxieties in the comments below!