For intermediate students...
I love "Oh, the Places You'll Go." It models so many poetic devices and it has such a beautiful theme. You could then follow-up with a writing activity where students create a vision of where they will go - and you can help them to see the connections between the skills you're teaching and the professional they wish to become in the future.
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My favorite first day read aloud is, Leo the Late Bloomer. I forget the author as I do not have the book in front of me, but is a great story for elementary school children. It has a powerful message that given time and patience all children are capable of learning.
"Thank You Mr. Falker" by Patricia Palacco is a wonderful short story. The story is based on the narrator's experience overcoming dyslexia. The theme is overcoming adversity.
You can incorporate document based questions to delve deeper into the text.
I love the book, "You are Special" by Max Lucado. Many of my students have special needs or cultural differences. It is a great way to help students see their uniqueness and set the stage for acceptance by peers. Students LOVE being read to and it also sparks some great dialogue with and between students.
Chrysanthemum is a wonderful story about self- acceptance
I like to read "Wolf!" by Becky Bloom to help set the stage for what I want reading workshop to look, feel, and sound like in our classroom. The story is about a wolf who tries to frighten a group of farm animals, who are all busy reading. The wolf decides he needs to learn to read, and by the end of the story he is welcome at the farm for "educated animals."
I have also used "Amelia Bedelia's First Day of School" by Herman Parish. It may be more appropriate for 3rd and under than for 4th and 5th grades. It's a picture book which portrays Amelia as a child who confuses her teacher's directions leading to some humorous situations. I have used it as a way to lead into discussions about following directions and listening carefully.
First Day Jitters
One of my favorites is "A Bad Case of Stripes.
"How You Got So Smart" by David Milgrim is a great book that will send a positive message to the students. Not only are children being recognized by their new teacher as being smart on the very first day of school but this book can serve as a springboard for discussion on how much smarter they will be by the end of the school year.
For high school students (especially freshman) I like to read a chapter out of Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak where Malinda starts her first day of her freshman year. I use her voice, sarcasm, and relatable experience to connect with my new students and show them that I don't take myself or school too seriously
Hello Jennie. For my third grade classroom, we read “Little House in the Big Woods” and they absolutely loved it. It’s a children’s novel by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Highly recommended!
I love to read "The Kissing Hand" on the 1st day of K or 1. In this story the mom kisses her son's hand so that he will carry her love with him all day. I usually have a number of kids who need reassuring that they will be ok away from their parents and parents who need reassuring that their kids will be taken care of in my classroom. At the end of the book I have parents who are there give a kiss to their child's hand. If there are any students whose parents aren't there, I give them mine to hold in their hand all day. This is a great way to send off the parents and start the day filled with love.
I like to read Patricia Polacco's "Than You, Mr. Falker". It's about a little girl with undiagnosed dyslexia and her feels because of the disability. It touches on bullying and the power of one person. The story turns out to be an autobiography. My students love it and often refer to it through the year.
By far my favorite book for the first day of school for my first graders is "Listen Buddy". A story about a little bunny who wasn't a good listener and the trouble that can cause. It definitely sets the tone for my kiddos on learning to carefully listen to oral directions. Cute and funny story for K-1.
I have always read "Hooray for Diffendoofer Day" to my 3rd graders. It talks about testing and reminds us all that when we learn how to think we will do okay with high stakes tests.
In addition to Oh, the Places You'll Go, my favorite is "First Day Jitters" by Julie Danneberg. It's a wonderfully engaging book about feeling nervous, not knowing anyone, being certain that it's "going to be awful" and needing to be coaxed to go to school on the first day by a loved one. The surprise ending will have all of your students talking!
I like "The Giving Tree" because I want my students to understand that I want them to be happy and use everything they learn to make their life better. I am here to give them all that I have. They just have to accept it.
I used "The Watertower" by Gary Crew. It has some suspenseful elements and people in the town are gradually taken over by some force (the watertower). There is a symbol on the watertower that takes over the people. While not inspiring, it grabs kids' attention and gets them interested, showing them how exciting reading can be.
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