Thursday, June 18, 2015

Get Ready, Get Set... What I Read on the First Day of School

Let's talk about read-alouds on the first day of school!!

I know, I know...

"Why are you talking about the beginning of the school year?  Summer just started!!"

Well, for a lot of the country, summer did just start.  Technically, my summer vacation just started, too.  Except that we got out of school a month ago.  I just managed to finish a good chunk of my homework for the summer semester yesterday.  (I'm working on a graduate certificate in teaching ESL.)  So, until my books come in for my next assignment, I have some down time.  Down time in the teacher brain means... next school year! 

First, the best idea I ever had was under-bed storage bins!  Genius, if I do say so myself.  *toots own horn* 

I have one for every month of school, and I put everything that I need for the month in there.  Read-alouds, craftivities, lesson ideas, templates for random things I've done, holiday-themed stuff, calendar (that would be the month that goes on my bulletin board... doubled as the bin label.  Just full of random good ideas, I tell ya!)...  Everything for the month.  It's a mess in there!  (We can take a look inside a little later.)  EDIT:  "Later" happened... Check out what I have in the bin [here].

I will say that I often outsmart myself with this system.  What did I find upon initially opening the box?  My to-do list from the beginning of last school year, that's what!!  (And yes, I definitely channeled my inner Junie B. there.)

Now I don't need to start over in trying to remember what I do at the beginning of every year.  Brilliant.  Way to go, Carrie!! 

Because I have a separate bin for each month of the school year and I only spend maybe the last three days of August with students in my classroom, the August bin is just the things I need to set up my room and the "first days of school" stuff.  The other things that I use for the rest of the beginning of the year are in the September bin.

Now that that's out of the way, I wanted to talk to you about first day of school read-alouds.  What are your favorites?  I took this bin out so I could share some of mine.  I don't like to force read-alouds in, so I have a few that I make sure to do on Day 1, then the rest are just when we have time in the first few days.

I usually try to read several books on the first day.  This will give my reading and writing mini lessons the kickstart they need later.  (I'll explain what I mean by that some other time.)

You're Finally Here! by Mélanie Watt reminds me of the Pigeon books by Mo Willems.  The character in the story, the bunny, is just so demanding in wanting to know why you didn't show up sooner!  I just bought the book, and I plan to read it to my students during morning meeting right after breakfast on the first day.

The Night Before First Grade by Natasha Wing is a great book to read aloud now and use later for rhyming words.  (Remember when I said I use what I read now for later mini lessons?)  I used to read this book first, but this year I'll read it after we've had some time to settle in and unpack our school supplies.

Later in the morning, I'll read First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg.  I'm sure that you're all familiar with Sarah Jane Hartwell and her lack of desire to go to her new school on the first day.  I have a couple of writing activities that I usually do with this text, but I might revamp those to use this book as a close reading text.  I'll think more about that later.

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn is a favorite among many teachers.  A lot of you do a fun craftivity in which the kids make tiny hearts and glue them to a painted handprint.  Yeah.  I'm jealous of you!  I have so many things to do in this first week of school that I never can get to the handprint.  It's probably okay, though.  I usually have a community building craft that I have the kids do on the first day.

First Grade, Here I Come! by Nancy Carlson is another book that I only recently bought.  I plan to read it during our closing circle.  It describes the main character's, Henry's, first day in First Grade.  I'm hoping to guide the students in having ideas about which they can talk to their parents when they go home.  "How was your day?" "What did you learn?" and "Did you make new friends?" are questions that are prompted in the text.  By addressing this at the end of the day, it would be fresh in the students' minds when they see their parents.

Those are the books that I will make sure to read to my students on the first day of school.  What books do you like to use?  I'm always looking for fun, engaging new titles!

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