August 2019 - Miss Clark's Spoonful

First Week of School Read Alouds: Everything You Need to Know!

The first week of any school year is filled with introducing routines and procedures, fun "getting to know you" and team building activities, and the beginnings of building your classroom community. Oh, and there are A LOT of feelings! Nervousness, excitement, and happiness to name a few.

First three days of second grade lesson plansI have four trusty read alouds that I fit within my first three days of school lesson plans every single year. Read alouds are a wonderful way to channel some of those "first week" feelings! They allow for everyone to decompress a little bit, and tune back into developing attentive listening skills. Plus, they are a perfect opportunity to have your first rich classroom discussions!
Let's get into it, shall we? 

first day jitters by julie danneberg
First Day Jitters is the perfect first day of school read. If you're not familiar with this one, it's from the perspective of Sarah Jane Hartwell, who is scared and doesn't want to start over at a new school. Spoiler alert.... it ends up that Sarah Jane Hartwell isn't a student, but she's the teacher! 

The kids ALWAYS get a kick at this ending. Everyone knows that uncomfortable feeling in the pit of the stomach just before diving into a new situation, and this is the perfect opportunity to discuss how everyone gets nervous (even teachers!). We stop to make some text-to-self connections, and also to notice how the author used certain words to let the readers know how Sarah Jane was feeling.

After we read the story, we enjoy these activities from the fabulous Abby Mullins!

jitter juice activity and poem

second grade back to school activities
Jitter Juice (Hawaiian Punch + Sparkling Seltzer) usually does the trick! The kids LOVE reading this poem, which doubles as reading fluency practice and attending to punctuation for expression! Also, we get to do some math with the "Does our class like Jitter Juice?" graph! 

swimmy by leo lionni
Next up, Swimmy! Long story short, a happy school of fish lives deep down in the sea, which is full of wonder. However, the little fish are afraid to come out of hiding because of a big, scary tuna fish. Swimmy hatches a plan for all of the little fish to swim together in the shape of a big fish to overcome any danger. This is such a heartwarming story about teamwork. It's also a Caldecott medal winner for the beautiful watercolor illustrations!

We read this story during our first week of school, and talk about how Swimmy's feelings change from the beginning to the end. We also discuss what the author's message is, and how important it is to work as a team.

Finally, we each color our own little fish (perfect for guided discovery of crayons/colored pencils). I color the "Swimmy" fish! Finally, I place all of our little fish in the shape of a big fish, just like in the story. 

swimmy activity
It's a lovely reminder to display outside of our classroom.

chrysanthemum by kevin henkes
Chrysanthemum is perhaps my favorite story ever! It's the perfect introduction to Kevin Henkes, an author that we'll see a lot of during the year. Much like the other stories we read during the first day of school, a large theme throughout is the complex feelings about going back to school. Chrysanthemum loves her name, but when she starts going to school, the other kids make fun of it. The story follows Chrysanthemum in her journey to find a way to love her name again! It's a wonderful way to make text-to-self connections to times that we've felt like Chrysanthemum. 

We use Chrysanthemum to honor how everyone has their own important identity. It's a great opportunity to celebrate NAMES! The kids work together to complete this activity that involves collecting data about the names of everyone in the class, and interpreting the data.

chrysanthemum name activity

chrysanthemum by kevin henkes
You can find the name activity as part of this larger mini-unit in my TpT shop!

the kissing hand
Finally, we end the week reading The Kissing Hand! Many children experience separation anxiety and worried feelings during the first week of school. This story will acknowledge and validate those tricky situations.

In the story, Chester the raccoon also has to confront the first day of school. He needs a little reassurance, as we all do in the first week of school. Chester's mom kisses his paw, and tells him whenever he is feeling nervous, he can put his paw to his cheek (I'm not crying, you're crying). This eases Chester's back-to-school worries, and the reminder of his mom's love gives him the boost he needs to conquer the world when things feel a little bit scary.

As we read The Kissing Hand, we stop to identify how Chester is feeling, and make text-to-self connections to times that we've felt nervous or scared. We also work to use text evidence to identify the author's message at the end: With a little bit of confidence and reassurance, we can do hard things!

At the end of the day, my kiddos get a sweet treat to take home with them to celebrate their first week of school.

the kissing hand gift tag

the kissing hand gift tag
You can grab this for FREE in my TpT shop!

There you have it, friends! Whether you use these stories and activities during the first week or the first month, I hope you'll be able to find some of this useful. I'd love to see how you implement some of these ideas in your classrooms this year!