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July 26, 2018

5 Back-to-School Books That Teach Classroom Behavior

By Genia Connell
Grades 1–2, 3–5

    There is a big basket of books on my teacher shelf labeled Back-to-School. These books are special because they teach lessons, or have meaningful lines in them that students remember. For example, when the class is acting up, I might remind them they do NOT want Viola Swamp to pay a visit. If I’m standing on a chair trying to hang something from the ceiling, I can always count on someone to remind me of Officer Buckle’s safety tip #77.

    This week I wanted to share a few of these titles along with extension activities we do in my class that help establish a safe and respectful classroom environment.

    The Teacher from the Black Lagoon by Mike Thaler

    This story uses humor to get students to relax and acknowledge their fears about the first day of school. Students can relate to the tale of a boy who imagines worst-case classroom scenarios after he discovers his teacher is Mrs. Green, a “real monster” according to rumor.

    Read this book with your class and discuss what perceptions they may have had coming to school, stories they had heard about their new teacher (you!), and the importance of forming your own opinions about people — including their classmates. Scholastic offers a discussion guide to use with your class if you would like to do extension activities.

    First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg

    first day jitters coverFirst Day Jitters is the perfect follow-up to The Teacher from the Black Lagoon. In this story, Sarah Jane is worried, expecting the worst from her new school. She refuses to get out of bed, certain that no one will like her. When finally forced to go, she discovers it is not as bad as she imagined. Every year my class loves the surprise ending. Spoiler alert: Sarah Jane is the teacher!

    With this book, teachers have a great opportunity to let your students see you as a real person with anxiousness and fears on the first day. I tell the class that I have trouble sleeping the night before school starts every year, which they find surprising. Sharing that sort of information with your students makes you that much more relatable and approachable to them.

    Scholastic Teachables offers a wonderful discussion and activity guide that comes from the resource book Teaching With Favorite Back-to-School Books by Immacula Rhodes. 

    Miss Nelson is Missing by Harry Allard

    Every school-aged child should know and fear Miss Viola Swamp! When the story begins, the children in Room 207 are the worst-behaved class in the school. They refuse to listen to their teacher, the sweet and kind Miss Nelson. One day Miss Nelson is gone and in her place is the awful Miss Viola Swamp. Soon the children realize how much they miss Miss Nelson and when she returns, they are so overjoyed to see her, they become the best class in the school.

    There are many possibilities for extension activities with this book, but my absolute favorite takes place in my absence! On the first day I have a substitute teacher, I have ready a Miss Nelson is Missing class book activity. In the story, after Miss Nelson is missing, the students go on a quest to find her. They speculate on the many different outlandish things that may have happened to her; perhaps she was gobbled up by a shark or carried away by a swarm of angry butterflies. My students each create a page guessing where I might be. Upon my return it's always fun to read the pages with the class and discover the fate that they came up with for me.

    Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann

    You just can’t help but love Officer Buckle. In order to keep school safe, he has an ever-increasing list of rules he presents during school assemblies. The only problem is, no one listens to him — until he gets a canine partner, Gloria. When Officer Buckle realizes it is Gloria the students are learning from, and not him, his feelings get hurt.

    This is a wonderful book to use as you establish classroom rules and teach teamwork. Officer Buckle’s rules are mostly common sense like keeping your shoelaces tied and wiping up spills, but these can sometimes be the most difficult rules to get your class to follow.

    Scholastic offers an activity guide to use with this book. My favorite after-reading activity is having students generate a list of safety rules they may not always follow such as forgetting to hang up their backpack or keeping hands to themselves in line. The rules seem more memorable when the students act them out and I take their picture. I use artistic effects on Photoshop to turn the picture into a cartoon drawing and add a speech bubble. We hang these in our room for reminders of the everyday rules we need to follow to keep ourselves safe.

    .

    I have also put together a class book with each student contributing one safety tip. I pair up students and have them brainstorm ideas, even allowing them to walk around the building to look for possible infractions. When all the pages are completed I bind them with spiral rings and add to our class library. Throughout the year, if I see something happening that could potentially end in a mishap, I’ll ask students, “What would Officer Buckle think of that?”

    Do Unto Otters by Laurie Keller

    The message in this book is very clear: treat others the way you would like to be treated. In the beginning, Mr. Rabbit meets his new neighbors, the Otters, and he is afraid he will not get along with them because he doesn’t know a thing about otters. The wise owl, however, tells him to simply remember the golden rule: to do unto otters the way you want otters to do unto you.

    Scholastic has a discussion guide for this book that includes several different before and after reading activities. This year, I plan on having students create an "Otter Gallery" showcasing the character traits highlighted in the book, which include being friendly, polite, honest, kind, cooperative, and fair. Using Do Unto Otters early in the year helps foster a kinder, gentler classroom enviroment all year long.

    Why It's Smart to Reread Books and Use Other People's Wheels

    When you teach the middle elementary grades, students have often heard these books before. That’s okay! When a student tells me that they have heard a book before, I tell them that every time they read or hear the same book, they may get information out of it they missed the first time.

    You may have noticed I’ve linked study guides created by others to many of these books. There was a time when I used to always create my own. With only so much time in my day, I have evolved into a huge believer in using someone else’s wheel instead of trying to reinvent a new one all the time!

    A Few of My Favorite Back-to-School Resource Books

    Going back to school isn't just for the kids. My teacher resource library is huge, and these are a few of my favorites for the beginning of each school year. 

    There is a big basket of books on my teacher shelf labeled Back-to-School. These books are special because they teach lessons, or have meaningful lines in them that students remember. For example, when the class is acting up, I might remind them they do NOT want Viola Swamp to pay a visit. If I’m standing on a chair trying to hang something from the ceiling, I can always count on someone to remind me of Officer Buckle’s safety tip #77.

    This week I wanted to share a few of these titles along with extension activities we do in my class that help establish a safe and respectful classroom environment.

    The Teacher from the Black Lagoon by Mike Thaler

    This story uses humor to get students to relax and acknowledge their fears about the first day of school. Students can relate to the tale of a boy who imagines worst-case classroom scenarios after he discovers his teacher is Mrs. Green, a “real monster” according to rumor.

    Read this book with your class and discuss what perceptions they may have had coming to school, stories they had heard about their new teacher (you!), and the importance of forming your own opinions about people — including their classmates. Scholastic offers a discussion guide to use with your class if you would like to do extension activities.

    First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg

    first day jitters coverFirst Day Jitters is the perfect follow-up to The Teacher from the Black Lagoon. In this story, Sarah Jane is worried, expecting the worst from her new school. She refuses to get out of bed, certain that no one will like her. When finally forced to go, she discovers it is not as bad as she imagined. Every year my class loves the surprise ending. Spoiler alert: Sarah Jane is the teacher!

    With this book, teachers have a great opportunity to let your students see you as a real person with anxiousness and fears on the first day. I tell the class that I have trouble sleeping the night before school starts every year, which they find surprising. Sharing that sort of information with your students makes you that much more relatable and approachable to them.

    Scholastic Teachables offers a wonderful discussion and activity guide that comes from the resource book Teaching With Favorite Back-to-School Books by Immacula Rhodes. 

    Miss Nelson is Missing by Harry Allard

    Every school-aged child should know and fear Miss Viola Swamp! When the story begins, the children in Room 207 are the worst-behaved class in the school. They refuse to listen to their teacher, the sweet and kind Miss Nelson. One day Miss Nelson is gone and in her place is the awful Miss Viola Swamp. Soon the children realize how much they miss Miss Nelson and when she returns, they are so overjoyed to see her, they become the best class in the school.

    There are many possibilities for extension activities with this book, but my absolute favorite takes place in my absence! On the first day I have a substitute teacher, I have ready a Miss Nelson is Missing class book activity. In the story, after Miss Nelson is missing, the students go on a quest to find her. They speculate on the many different outlandish things that may have happened to her; perhaps she was gobbled up by a shark or carried away by a swarm of angry butterflies. My students each create a page guessing where I might be. Upon my return it's always fun to read the pages with the class and discover the fate that they came up with for me.

    Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann

    You just can’t help but love Officer Buckle. In order to keep school safe, he has an ever-increasing list of rules he presents during school assemblies. The only problem is, no one listens to him — until he gets a canine partner, Gloria. When Officer Buckle realizes it is Gloria the students are learning from, and not him, his feelings get hurt.

    This is a wonderful book to use as you establish classroom rules and teach teamwork. Officer Buckle’s rules are mostly common sense like keeping your shoelaces tied and wiping up spills, but these can sometimes be the most difficult rules to get your class to follow.

    Scholastic offers an activity guide to use with this book. My favorite after-reading activity is having students generate a list of safety rules they may not always follow such as forgetting to hang up their backpack or keeping hands to themselves in line. The rules seem more memorable when the students act them out and I take their picture. I use artistic effects on Photoshop to turn the picture into a cartoon drawing and add a speech bubble. We hang these in our room for reminders of the everyday rules we need to follow to keep ourselves safe.

    .

    I have also put together a class book with each student contributing one safety tip. I pair up students and have them brainstorm ideas, even allowing them to walk around the building to look for possible infractions. When all the pages are completed I bind them with spiral rings and add to our class library. Throughout the year, if I see something happening that could potentially end in a mishap, I’ll ask students, “What would Officer Buckle think of that?”

    Do Unto Otters by Laurie Keller

    The message in this book is very clear: treat others the way you would like to be treated. In the beginning, Mr. Rabbit meets his new neighbors, the Otters, and he is afraid he will not get along with them because he doesn’t know a thing about otters. The wise owl, however, tells him to simply remember the golden rule: to do unto otters the way you want otters to do unto you.

    Scholastic has a discussion guide for this book that includes several different before and after reading activities. This year, I plan on having students create an "Otter Gallery" showcasing the character traits highlighted in the book, which include being friendly, polite, honest, kind, cooperative, and fair. Using Do Unto Otters early in the year helps foster a kinder, gentler classroom enviroment all year long.

    Why It's Smart to Reread Books and Use Other People's Wheels

    When you teach the middle elementary grades, students have often heard these books before. That’s okay! When a student tells me that they have heard a book before, I tell them that every time they read or hear the same book, they may get information out of it they missed the first time.

    You may have noticed I’ve linked study guides created by others to many of these books. There was a time when I used to always create my own. With only so much time in my day, I have evolved into a huge believer in using someone else’s wheel instead of trying to reinvent a new one all the time!

    A Few of My Favorite Back-to-School Resource Books

    Going back to school isn't just for the kids. My teacher resource library is huge, and these are a few of my favorites for the beginning of each school year. 

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