Monday, August 3, 2015

It's Almost Time

Photo by Jen Houlette

A few short weeks, and it will be time.

Time for schedules, lessons, organizing, preparing, decorating, planning.....and so on!

But most importantly, it will be time for building relationships, both old and new.

Over the last 20 years in the classroom, I have used a variety of activities to get to know my students: surveys, all-about-me activities, ice-breakers, sharing bags, partner interviews, and even the occasional "sign the box if you have this characteristic" game. :)

But last year was a year I did a lot of things differently. Yes, I still did a few of the things listed above, and they were great. But beyond knowing what makes each child unique, part of building relationships is giving time for students to talk about themselves....their ideas, opinions, and what makes our classroom a family that works together.

So, we spent a lot of time with literature.

I brought some of my favorite picture books into our read-aloud time to start out each day with a piece of literature and a discussion.

It was just part of my effort in establishing the type of  atmosphere in our classroom: one with kindness, trust, creativity, and positive attitudes toward ourselves and others.

Here are some of the books we used:

Spoon by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Spoon thinks all his other utensil friends
have it so much better than him. But he discovers
he has unique qualities too!
Chopsticks by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
By the same author as Spoon! Chopsticks are
together all the time, but after an unfortunate incident,
they have to learn how to do life on their own.

Bluebird by Bob Staake
This beautiful, wordless book is great for a discussion
 on friendship, bullies, and loss.

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson
What happens when you have the opportunity
to be kind, and choose not to? Very
intriguing thoughts arise from this story.

Sky Color by Peter H. Reynolds
We enjoyed this story (by the same author as
The Dot, Ish, and many other great books).
Super story about creativity and what happens when
Marisol can't find the right color to paint the sky.

Pete & Pickles by Berkeley Breathed
This book about unexpected friendship
has everything - moments that will make
you laugh, cry, and be intrigued.

The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig
No one seems to notice or care about
a student named Brian.  A great story for
discussing kindness, friendship, and making
sure all students are considered important.

The Most Magnificent Thing
by Ashley Spires
This story was a favorite of our class
and a great way to showcase that creative
ideas come with frustration and
multiple attempts.

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt
This is a fun, creative story about when Duncan's
crayons wrote letters to him expressing why
they were quitting. We used it as a way to talk
about how we are all unique and shouldn't
prejudge others based on their outsides but can
work together like a wonderful rainbow.

Zero by Kathryn Otoshi
Zero felt exactly how she looked ~ a big,
empty nothing. Great story about finding
how everyone has value.

Weird! by Erin Frankel
What do you do when a bully makes fun of you
for who you are? This book tells the story and also
includes great bully prevention notes in the back.

Not a Box by Antoinette Portis
Who hasn't ever played with a plain, old
cardboard box? Great book about using
creativity and imagination.

Louise Loves Art by Kelly Light
Louise loves to draw and create
imaginative masterpieces. What will
happen when her brother, Art, gets a hold
of one of them?
The Sandwich Shop by Queen Rania Al Abdullah,
with Kelly DiPucchio
This story about best friends takes a turn when two
inseparable girls discover they can't get over
the differences in what they eat for lunch.
Great lesson about acceptance.

I Wish I Were A Butterfly by James Howe
Most of us have felt at one time or another that we
weren't good enough, or wished at one point to be someone
else. This book is about recognizing the 
unique qualities in ourselves.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio
This is a chapter book, unlike the others.
However, it was an amazing read-aloud to start out
our year. The message about choosing to be kind
is one we referred to all year.

Special thanks to all the educators who write and share about their favorite books -- I've been inspired to pick up so many new titles in the last year!

Wishing everyone a great start to the school year. Use picture books with any age level -- and see where the conversations lead you! :)



  1. Thanks for all the book recommendations! It is almost time. Welcome to Altoona, I hope you love it there as much as I do. I am excited to work with you :)

    1. You're welcome. Yes I'm excited too - looking forward to hearing the new ideas/tools you're learning in grad class!

  2. I love all the book recommendations! The Sandwich Swap is one of my favorites. Another good one is The Crayon Box That Talked-great for teaching acceptance and that we are all unique. I use it to help my students understand that their differences make them special, and that if we are all the same color crayon, what a boring picture we would create. My kiddos LOVE when I read aloud to them. A lot of them never got that experience as a child. Some of my 'rough around the edges' kids just melt in my hand when I read aloud to them children's books. We are never too old for these. Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to working with you this year at Willowbrook!

    1. Thanks for your idea, Amy, I'll have to check out that one too! It was nice to meet you this summer and I look forward to working with you as well. I love sharing my passion for reading and books!

  3. Good luck in your new position Jennifer... we will certainly miss you at Delaware but the teachers you work with will be inspired by your thoughts and great ideas!

    1. Thank you so much! I will definitely miss my Delaware Elementary family. :)