Back to School Read Alouds for Upper Elementary

There are so many things to cram into the first days of
school. Introductions, rules, procedures… I get exhausted just thinking about
it! The first days can also be challenging because teaching rules and
procedures can quickly become boring and redundant. To keep things fun, I use
back to school read alouds with my upper elementary students.

Some may think that read alouds are for primary grades, but
upper elementary students enjoy listening to stories just as much as the
younger kids. There are many reasons to use read alouds for back to school. In
addition to being able to quickly assess students’ reading comprehension
skills, back to school books provide an opportunity to start conversations

  • problem-solving
  • what to do when things are hard
  • bullying and treating others with kindness
  • the importance of creativity
  • goal setting

Instead of just reading off a list of rules, read alouds
provide a fun way to introduce the rules and encourage students to use critical
thinking during the first days of school. If you are looking for a new way to
review rules and procedures in your classroom, you should definitely check out
these books for back to school!

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The Best Read Aloud Books for the First Week of School

Here are a few of my favorite back to school read alouds for upper elementary and how I use each book to start conversations with my students. If you are looking for a complete list of read alouds for the first week of school, check out my FREE Back to School Read Alouds Checklist and Worksheets.

Thank You, Mr. Falker

Conversation Starters: don’t give up, encourage others

Patricia Polacco is one of my favorite picture book authors for upper elementary, and Thank You, Mr. Falker works great as a first week of school book. In the story, a dyslexic student struggles and becomes frustrated with school. The student’s teacher, Mr. Falker, refuses to let her fail. Use this story to discuss the importance of not giving up and what students should do when they feel like they want to give up.

In addition to talking about how the girl overcomes
challenges, encourage students to observe the teacher. Have them discuss how
the teacher’s words and actions impact the student. As the students describe
the ways the teacher helps the student, remind them that it does not always
have to be an adult that encourages students. They are also capable of
encouraging each other.


The Dot

Conversation Starters: the importance of trying even when uncertain, what can you do that is unique

Have you ever had a student that refuses to work because they do not have confidence? In The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds, the main character does not work in art class because she does not see herself as an artist. With a little encouragement, the character realizes that she is an artist and what she can create is special. Use this back to school read aloud to remind students that they will never know whether they are good at something unless they try.


What Do You Do With a Problem?

Conversation Starter: how to confront problems and conflicts

Have you ever tried to run away from a problem? Usually, running away makes things worse. This principle applies to people of all ages, including students. In What Do You Do With a Problem? by Kobi Yamada, the main character tries to avoid a problem. The more he avoids the problem, the worse it gets. This a great book to use when discussing the types of challenges students might face throughout the school year and how to address each of those challenges.

What Do You Do With an Idea?

Conversation Starters: how to develop ideas, fear of what others think

I love the “What Do You Do…” books for upper elementary! Like What Do You Do With a Problem?, What Do You Do With an Idea? (also by Kobi Yamada) uses beautiful imagery to teach an important principle. In the story, the main character refuses to develop his idea because he is afraid of what others will think. Eventually, he gives in and moves forward with his idea, creating something amazing. This is a great read aloud for discussing how to overcome fears about judgment, especially when having a good idea. Also, be sure to encourage students to share their ideas throughout the school year!


Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

Conversation Starter: goal setting

It is so important to have students set goals at the
beginning of the school year. I always have students complete an activity where
they record their goals for the year. Then, I post the goals on a back to
school bulletin board. Throughout the year, I have students take their goals
down, assess how they are doing, and revise their goals if needed. Having
students create goals and posting them for the students to see each day, has helped
them visualize what they want to accomplish on a regular basis.

When I introduce my goal-setting lesson, I always read Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss. During the goal-setting activity, it is important for students to not only think about what they want to accomplish today. It is also important for them to think about what they want to accomplish in the future. Oh, the Places You’ll Go! is perfect to get students thinking about what they want to accomplish for today, tomorrow, and in the years to come.



Conversation Starters: bullying, using words for good

Chrysanthemum is the name of the main character in the book by Kevin Henkes. Chrysanthemum loves her name until the other students start making fun of it. Use this read aloud to help students reflect on the ways their words impact others. Remind students that their words can harm or encourage others.



Back to School Read Alouds are a great way to introduce
rules, routines, and expectations to upper elementary students. I like to use
at least one read aloud per day throughout the first one to two weeks of
school. With read alouds, I introduce themes such as problem-solving, goal
setting, bullying, and creativity.

Also, as I read the books, students complete worksheets that introduce reading skills. So, with one read aloud, I am able to start a conversation about expectations and introduce a reading skill. If you are uncertain what do with your students during the first week to school, check out some of the back to school read alouds listed above!

And, if you are looking for an even longer list of back to school read alouds and worksheets to use while you read, check out my FREE resource. Back to School Read Alouds Checklist and Worksheets includes a complete list of books for the beginning of the school year, links to where you can find those books, and worksheets to introduce reading skills while you read to students.

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