Back to School

Back to school is not only one of my favorite themes, it's also my favorite time of year.  Everything is shiny and new, and everyone is excited about starting a new year.

My Back to School Unit is a mixture of several themes that I use over the first few weeks.  Whether I'm teaching kindergarten, first grade, or a multi-age class, I begin my year the same, and each child participates at his or her personal level, which is what I always expect of all my students, regardless of their age or grade.

During the first two weeks, I incorporate materials from the following themes:

Back to School
All About Me
A Rainbow of Colors
Me and My Family
I Love My ABC's

Have fun visiting my Back to School pages.  Books are linked directly to -- click on the cover or title to get more information, then use the back button on your browser to return to where you left off.

[ Back to School ]  [ The First Day of School ]  [ First Day of School Stories ]
[ More Favorite School Stories ]  [ Back to School Poems & Activities ]
[ My Daily Schedule ]  [ My Themes, Month by Month ]
[ Beginning of Year Assessment ]
[ Setting Up Your Room ]  [ First Day Checklist ]
[ Author Study - P.K. Hallinan ]
[ Read Aloud Chapter Books ]

I wondered and I wondered
When I could go to school.
They said I wasn’t old enough
According to the rule.

I waited and I waited,
I was patient as could be.
And now I’m all excited ...
It’s time for school for me!

September is here.
September is here.
School's begun and we'll have fun,
September is here.

The First Day of School

Getting Started

I'm in my classroom early on the first day of school, to meet the children and their parents as they arrive.  Some years, I'm able to arrange for the children to visit me in my room the Thursday before school starts, but I don't always have a principal who allows that -- our district doesn't post the official class lists until Friday afternoon, so it's not easy to get a head start on some things.

On the first day of school, I have a special Beary Good Work folder on each student's desk or table, along with a new box of crayons and a basket with pencils, an eraser, a glue stick, and a pair of Fiskars for Kids.  I also have books, puzzles, and pattern blocks available for the children to choose from.

This gives me time to talk with the parents and find out any important or special information about their child.  I usually wait at least 15 minutes after the bell rings before I bring the children together on the story floor, because we always have latecomers the first few days of school.  We don't have instructional aides at our school, so I try very hard to enlist the help of a parent or one of my friends the first day or two, to minimize interruptions once I begin working with the children.

Off to School We Go
(Tune: A-hunting We Will Go)

Off to school we go,
Oh, it's off to school we go,
We'll take our lunch and ride the bus,
With everyone we know.
Off to school we go,
Oh, it's off to school we go,
We'll learn our ABC's and more,
With everyone we know.

Hello Song
(Tune: Frere Jacques)

Hello, _____, hello, _____
How are you? How are you?
We're so glad to have you,
We're so glad to have you,
Here at school, here at school.

In Our Class
(Tune: It's a Small World)

We will study hard
And we'll make new friends.
There's so much to do 'til the school year ends.
We will read, write and spell,
And do math very well,
In Mrs. Smith's First Grade class.

In Mrs. Smith's First Grade class.
In Mrs. Smith's First Grade class.
In Mrs. Smith's First Grade class.
There's so much for us to do!

My Teacher's My Friend

Once everyone has arrived, we go to the story floor.  I always start our first story time by reading P.K. Hallinan's wonderful rhyming story "My Teacher's My Friend."  It's short, has a lot of rhythm and rhyme, and it leads into a natural discussion about school and this new person in the childrens' lives, Mrs. Smith.

My Teacher's My Friend

Hallinan is one of my favorite children's author/illustrators, and he's the subject of our first author study, which we call Star Author.  We'll read many of his books throughout the year, and we focus on his books about friends at the beginning of school.

After we read the story, I tell the children about me and my family, and let them ask questions.  And then we take some time to let each of the children introduce themselves and share something they'd like us to know.  To finish, I read the story again, encouraging the children to help me with the rhyming words.  We'll revisit this book many times the first week of school, as we talk about school and friends.

Friends Poem

I have this poem in a pocket chart in our reading area, with an extra set of words for matching.  The same poem is on a large bulletin board, which is actually the paint easel area of my classroom.  This will be the first poem in their Poetry Journals.  I use three-ring binders to hold their poetry collection, and send the binders home at the end of the year.

by Jill Eggleston

Friends share.
Friends care.
We need friends

The Kissing Hand

The Kissing Hand
30% off publisher's price

This book is the perfect First Day of School story.
It's about Chester Raccoon, who doesn't want to leave his mother to go to school.
His mother shares a secret with him -- the Kissing Hand.
Your students will love this story, and you can do many different follow up activities, including handprints with hearts in the middle, and hand-shaped cookies with a Hershey's kiss in the palm.  Dozens of teachers have shared their terrific ideas for the Kissing Hand on the KinderKorner mailing list this summer, and they'll soon have a page of their own.

When You Go to Kindergarten
This is a delightful book filled with
color photographs ... my students always enjoy looking
at this book, and we make our own version about *our* classroom.
Under $5

Class Rules

One of things we have to do on the first day of school is talk about school rules and safety.  First we brainstorm a list of rules the kids think we should have in our class -- I always get lots of "no hitting, no pushing, no spitting" responses.  I list all of their ideas on a Language Experience chart, using different colored markers on alternating lines.  After we discuss their ideas for a few minutes, we talk about our school's official rules and also the rules in our classroom.

I have the following poem on chart paper,
attached to the front chalkboard all year long:

We raise our hands to speak.
We work quietly at our seats.
We use voices soft and sweet.
We keep our places tidy and neat.
We are helpful, friendly, and fair.
We take turns and willingly share.

We usually agree on the following rules for our class:

Be nice.
Do what you know is right.

Those two rules seem to cover most situations, and they're easy to remember.
I add three other important rules:

1.  Listen to the teacher and follow directions.

2.  Do not interrupt Mrs. Smith when she is working with another student
unless you are having a "B Emergency."

B Emergencies are bathroom, blood, and barf.
The kids love this rule, and it's one they respect from the very beginning.
No one has ever had an "accident" in my classroom, after learning this rule.

3.  Only Mrs. Smith may use the classroom sink.  Students must go to the restroom to wash their hands and get drinks.  I have this rule so that I will have a sanitary place to wash and disinfect my hands, which keeps me from catching their colds and runny noses.

Important Rules
(Tune: Twinkle, Twinkle)

Here are some rules for you and me,
See how important they can be.
Always be honest, be kind and fair,
Always be good and willing to share.
These are rules we all should know,
We follow these rules wherever we go.

Rules Rap
(lightly slap your knees to this one)

Rules can be helpful,
Rules can be good.
They help us behave,
The way we should.

We follow the rules,
And we don't do wrong.
The world's a happier place
When we all get along.

I Spy School Days
A Book of Picture Riddles
An engaging book that you'll want to keep
with your Back to School collection
for your students to enjoy ... a great conversation starter!

Where Are the Bathrooms?

After we finish talking about rules, we walk to the bathrooms and drinking fountain, so everyone knows where the bathrooms are and what the rules are when using the bathroom.  Then we take a walk from our classroom door to the spot where we line up on the track during fire drills, so that they will know where to go and how to walk nicely when we have our first fire drill later in the week.  My class always lines up in ABC order, no matter where we're going.  That way, there are no arguments about who got to the front of the line first.  Having the kids in ABC order makes a lot of things easier all year long.

Self Portrait

I have another poem by Jill Eggleston that I share with the children:

There are millions of people
All over the place
But nobody else
With exactly my face.

I give each child a paper that has the outline of a head and shoulders on it, and they draw their self portraits.  I cut freehand around their drawings, and display them on the bulletin board with the two poems.  I write each child's name on a sentence strip cut to size, and place it beneath their drawing.  After a week or two, I move these to a spot above our sink, where they remain for the rest of the year.  We make self-portraits again during the last week of school and I mount the two portraits side-by-side on black paper and laminate them as a gift to their parents.

Our Favorite School Stories

Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten
A favorite story about the beginning of school

30% off publisher's price

Froggy Goes to School
Jonathan London was our visiting author two years ago, and my K's and 1's LOVE Froggy

Under $5

Never Spit on Your Shoes
What one first grader learned on the first
day of school
Under $6

Franklin Goes to School

Under $4

My Teacher Sleeps
in School
Another class favorite

Under $5

Annabelle Swift, Kindergartner

Under $5

Pooh's First Day of School

30% off publisher's price

A charming story about a boy who doesn't want to give up his blanket when he goes to kindergarten

30% off publisher's price

Back to School for
Rotten Ralph
Kids love the Ralph stories

30% off publisher's price

Will I Have a Friend?
One of my personal favorites

Under $4

We graph the letters in our names after we read this
popular story

Under $4

Nobody's Mother Is In Second Grade
A humorous tale that my first graders enjoy

30% off publisher's price

Billy and the Big
New School
A well-told tale of a boy's
fears about starting school.
Chicken Soup for Little Souls: The New Kid and the Cookie Thief

An outstanding first-day-of-school story.

Perfect for discussing how everyone in different and special in your class.
Clifford's First School Day

Everyone's favorite
Big Red Dog
Under $3

Barney and Baby Bop
Go to School
Kid-friendly photographs
Under $3

Starting School
A gentle story about what goes on at a busy school
Under $5

Suggested Story Follow-Up Activities

I always read My Teacher Sleeps in School sometime during the first day or two.
After we discuss the story, I share a photo album with pictures of my house and my family, to help the students know me better.  The album becomes a favorite part of our class library, along with a similar album we create of class pictures throughout the year.  After I share my personal pictures, I usually serve the children cupcakes or cake like the teacher did in the story.  It's a nice, informal time for us all to get acquainted.

If I have a kindergarten class, I also read Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten on the first or second day of school.  Then each child draws a picture of something they did to get ready for kindergarten, and I write a sentence about their picture.  This becomes one of our first class books.

Thanks to Sharla Prather for this next one.

A morning song my kids love ...

It's to the tune of the army cadence you're familiar with, so we call it
"The Army Song."  First we start marching in place and I call out
"left, right, left, right left."  After doing this a few times, I start ...

First grade, first grade, what you say?
(Students echo)
We're gonna have some fun today!
(Students echo)
We're gonna read and write and spell!
(Students echo)
We do these things very well!
(Students echo)
Sound off!
(Students sing out 1,2)
Sound off!
(Students sing out 3,4)
Bring it on down now!
(Students sing out 1,2,3,4...1,2....3,4!)

Go To

More Favorite School Stories

Back to School Page 2
for Pocket Charts, More Poems,
Activities, and Big Books

[ Back to School ]  [ The First Day of School ]  [ First Day of School Stories ]
[ More Favorite School Stories ]  [ Back to School Poems & Activities ]
[ My Daily Schedule ]  [ My Themes, Month by Month ]
[ Beginning of Year Assessment ]
[ Setting Up Your Room ]  [ First Day Checklist ]
[ Author Study - P.K. Hallinan ]
[ Read Aloud Chapter Books ]

Looking for more ideas?

My bookstore pages have lots of information on how I use various materials in my classroom, and on activities you can do with your students.  The thematic pages are complete unit resources, with lots of poems, songs, and activities on each page.  Make yourself comfortable and take a look around!

Choose from the categories below.
Underlined subjects are links, the other ones are coming soon!

Top 10
Must Have
Phonemic Awareness
Integrated Curriculum
Balanced Literacy
Mini Books
for Emergent
Pat Cunningham Books &
4 Blocks Books
Writer's Workshop
Guided Reading
How to
Trade Books
and others
Pocket Chart Resources
 Songs and
About Me
Back to School
Marvelous Math Books
Read It!
Draw It!
Solve It!
What's In A
Literature for Math
I Love
Monthly Themes
Their Way
Bears Everywhere
Down on the Farm
Rain Forest
Going Buggy!
Read Aloud
Chapter Books
Spring Has Sprung!
Come Into
A Camping We Will Go!
Under the Sea
A Rainbow of Colors
I Lost
Me & My
 Special Books for Special People
reading for pleasure
Coming Soon!

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so please come back soon to see what's new at KinderKorner!

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