The first week of school sets the tone for the rest of the year. Build connections and community in the classroom with this list of read alouds to share during the first week of school. From time-tested classics that teachers return to year after year, to newer releases that are sure to become student favorites – we’ve rounded up the books and activities for the first week of school that are sure to please!
By Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael Lopez
Everyone has a story to tell. This book encourages students to use their voices, even if they feel different. The Day You Begin shows students that school is a place, “Where every new friend has something a little like you, and something else, so fabulously not quite like you at all.”
Try This Activity: All About Me Poster
Create an “All About Me” Poster from the Back to School Bonus Pack so students can show how fabulously different they are!
“Pencils sharpened in their case. Bells are ringing, let’s make haste. School’s beginning, dreams to chase. All are welcome here.” begins Alexandra Penfold’s ode to the beginning of a new school year. With beautifully inclusive illustrations, students are sure to see themselves in this book as they are welcomed into the classroom.
Try this activity: Get to know your classmates!
Play the “Find Someone Who Likes To…” Game from the Back To School Bonus Pack.
By Shannon Olsen, illustrated by Sandie Sonke
This story explores the many ideas of what makes a family. Families are filled with kindness, support, and love. A class can be a family, too!
Try this activity: Family drawings
Draw a picture of a house on chart paper. Brainstorm with the class the different qualities that make up a family, and write it on the paper. How are these qualities the same and different in a class family. Finally, have students fold a piece of paper in half. On one side of the paper, have students draw a picture of their family. On the other side, have students draw a picture of their class family.
A teacher shares her hopes and goals for the new school year with her class in this delightful book.
Try this Activity: The Question Jar
Have each student write down a question for the teacher, and place it in a “Question Jar.” Take time during the first week of school to answer the questions together so students can get to know their teacher better.
By Adam Rex, illustrated by Christian Robinson
A new school building is ready for its first day of school. But School wonders – “will the students like me?” Told from School’s perspective, School’s First Day of School is a fun twist on the traditional first day of school story.
Try this activity: School Scavenger Hunt
Introduce students to their new classroom and school building with a school scavenger hunt. Choose an image that represents your class (butterfly, frog, star – whatever fits your theme!) and post that picture outside important places in the school, like the nurse’s office, cafeteria, library, main office, etc. During the first week of school, see how many pictures the class can find as they walk the halls during transitions. Point out the rooms and why they are important to the school community. The Back to School Bonus Pack features an editable classroom scavenger hunt, too!
By Jamilah Thompson-Bigelow, illustrated by Luisa Uribe
Kora Jalimuso is discouraged after her first day of school. No one in her class, not even her teacher, can pronounce her name correctly. On their walk home from school, her mother shows her that every name is a song, meant to be sung loud and proud! Kora Jalimuso gains the confidence to share the beauty of her name with her classmates and encourages her new friends to find the music in their own names.
Try This Activity: Name meaning and origin
For an at-home extension, have students research their name meaning and origin. Write it down on a card, and have students take turns trying to match the names with their meanings.
By Melanié Watt
A Bunny has been waiting (not so patiently!) for a reader to enjoy his book. This silly story is a great read-aloud for the first week of school, especially since many students may not have had a traditional in-person school experience. Share the excitement with your students since they are FINALLY here at school!!
Try this activity: Class Contract
In You’re Finally Here!, the Bunny asks the reader to sign a contract saying that they will stay. Create a contract with your class: as a group, discuss expected behaviors and goals for the year. Then have each student sign the contract as an official welcome to the class!
By Ryan T. Higgins
Penelope Rex gets off to a bumpy start on her first day of school. Will this little dinosaur be able to make new friends? Little learners will love listening to this laugh-out-loud tale about friendship and learning from mistakes.
Try this activity: Get to Know You – Toothy Style!
Penelope Rex really wants to know how many teeth her classmates will have (this is very important information to a little dinosaur!). Students will have fun learning about their classmates by playing the “Get to Know You Toothy” from the Back to School Bonus Pack.
By Julie Danneberg, illustrated by Judy Love
Teachers have turned to this book on the first day of school for over 20 years! Published in 2000, First Day Jitters tells the story of a girl who is very anxious about going to school. Students and teachers alike will delight in the surprising ending, showing that everyone feels a little bit nervous on the first day of school!
Try this activity: First Day of School Feelings
Create a “First Day of School Feelings” chart. Give each student a sticky note. Have them draw an emoji to match how they feel about the first day of school. Revisit the chart at the end of the week.
By Kevin Henkes
Chrysanthemum, Chrysanthemum, Chrysanthemum! How we love this sweet mouse, created by award-winning author-illustrator Kevin Henkes. Chrysanthemum loves everything about her name until she is teased about it when she starts school. Chrysanthemum learns that being different is a beautiful thing in this story of self-confidence and friendship.
Try this activity: Classroom name graph
Make a classroom name graph. Have students write their names on a card, count the number of letters in their name, and add it to a class name/number graph. Who has the longest name? The shortest name?
By Laura Numeroff, illustrated by Felicia Bond
If you brought a mouse to school, what would he want to do? What would your teacher think? Students will enjoy seeing a familiar character on a new adventure at school!
Try this activity: Write a class story
Create a class story together. Start with, “If you take a mouse to school, he will want to…” Have each student add a segment to the story, each part building upon the last. The sillier, the better! Try this as an oral activity, or a student writing activity.
By Mo Willems
Mo Willem’s pigeon is back again with zany antics, and this time, it does NOT want to go to school. Will the Pigeon change its mind and be ready for the first day of school?
Try this Activity: Speech Bubble Photo booth props
Have students write their favorite thing about school in a speech bubble. Next, cut out the speech bubble, then tape it to a straw or popsicle stick. Finally, take their photos in a class “photo booth” (a table cloth backdrop or fun frame to hold up!). This would make a great bulletin board or class book to share!
By Shane DeRolf, illustrated by Michael Letzig
“We are a box of crayons, each one of us unique. But when we get together, the picture is complete!” goes the famous line from The Crayon Box That Talked. When a box of crayons argues about who is the best color, they learn that they all shine when they work together.
Try This Activity: Collective Class Masterpiece
Have each student choose a color from a large crayon box. Then allow each student to add an item to a collective classroom drawing, on butcher paper or poster board. When all the colors come together, it creates a class masterpiece! Hang it in your classroom as a reminder that each student is a unique part of the whole class.
Looking for more?
Looking for more lesson plans and ideas that are perfect for the first week of school? Click on the image below to check out some great relationship-building activities for back to school.
Keep the read alouds going strong all year long! We’ve got suggestions for the best read alouds to keep students engaged and inspired:
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