Classroom read alouds are most often associated with younger classrooms, but reading aloud to older students is just as important!
According to Edutopia, research has shown that reading aloud to older students has proven benefits such as “improved comprehension, reduced stress, and expanded exposure to different types of materials.”
With that in mind, beginning the school year with a read aloud for older students is a great way to help calm their nerves and start the school year off with reading in mind! Below you will find some of my favorite back to school read alouds for upper elementary along with a suggested activity for each.
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The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael Lopez
In this beautifully written and illustrated book, the author and illustrator work together to create a story about how it is sometimes hard to feel like you belong, especially when in a new environment. Whether it be the color of your skin, the way you talk, the food that you eat, or the games that you play, there are many reasons why walking into a classroom for the first time can feel really scary and lonely. The story continues by celebrating the fact that taking steps outside of our comfort zones to tell our own stories, no matter how different they may be, is a very brave and courageous act. And how showing up and sharing our perspectives and viewpoints helps us to connect with people who are not like us.
Create a 4×4 grid with different activities/characteristics (e.g. traveled this summer, wears glasses, was born in another country, has a birthday the same month as you, plays sports, etc.). Leave space in each box for students to find someone who has done those things and have them walk around and get to know one another while celebrating their differences.
I Didn’t Do My Homework Because by Davide Cali and Benjamin Chaud
Reading a book to make your students laugh is a great way to begin the school year. This story begins with a teacher asking one of her students why he didn’t do his homework. The student goes on to list off a number of outlandish excuses including things like being abducted by a UFO, being kidnapped by a circus, being attacked by carnivorous plants, his brother turning into a werewolf, and a tornado sucking up his books. After making all of his excuses, the student asks his teacher why she doesn’t believe him. Her response is that she has read the same book (from which he found all of his excuses).
Have students create a similar homework excuse by drawing and illustrating an extra page for the book.
School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex, illustrated by Christian Robninson
The author of this picture book brings the school to life by making it anthropomorphic. The tale begins shortly after the school has been built and the school shares its initial feelings about getting a name and meeting the janitor for the first time. The janitor tells the school that students will be filling it soon and the school is frightened and worried that the children won’t like him. Once the children arrive, the school does feel scared and nervous, but eventually finds a little girl who feels the same way and that makes him not feel so scared. At the end of the day when the janitor comes back to clean, the school decides that it wasn’t such a bad day and asks if all the children can come back again tomorrow.
Have students draw a portrait of their school and write four things they like about it.
How to Read a Book by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Start the new school year off by reading this picture book that helps students explore the feelings that go along with curling up to read a good book! Kwame Alexander uses a poetic format to help students taste, see, feel, and experience what it is like to read. The feelings that he elicits via imagery help students to experience the feeling of reading in their minds: “Page by rustling page,” “Get real cozy between the covers” and “Squeeze every morsel of each plump line.” Melissa Sweet illustrates each page using collage (with pages from actual books) to reinforce the imagery that Kwame creates.
Have students think of a character or scene from one of their favorite stories and illustrate it!
Teacher tip: This post had many activity suggestions. Once you have the books, get a sticky note and write down the activity and stick it on the inside cover of the book. Any time you do the read aloud, you can remember the easy no-prep activity!
This post was written by my friend Erienne Jones. She is a former school librarian turned entrepreneur who continues to immerse herself in the world of books!