10 of the Best Back to School Picture Books

10 of the Best Back to School Picture Books

Picture books are a great way to connect with our students. A relatable character’s experiences can provide reassurance or help voice complex emotions. Events in books can generate excitement for what’s to come or be a tool for reflecting on what’s happened. The start of school is filled with emotions for kids; every year is a transition of some sort. When I was in the classroom, I loved selecting books that would resonate with my students as the school year began, to help ease them back into the classroom and welcome them into the learning environment you have so carefully crafted for them. If you’re looking for such picture books that will inspire your students, check out our 10 most favourite back to school picture books of all time!

Old Friends, New Friends by Andrew Daddo

In Old Friends, New Friends, a young child embarks on what I suspect is her second year of primary school. She’s excited about going back to school and seeing all her best friends from last year only to walk into her new classroom and discover that none of her friends are in the same class as her this year.

For a young child, this is one of the most troubling discoveries and one that has the potential to cloud their perception of school. In Old Friends, New Friends, Daddo and Bentley have weaved the perfect story to give children (and adults alike) a fantastic arsenal of tools and coping mechanisms to not only overcome these problematic realisations, but to embrace change and make new friends.

The Pigeon HAS to go to School by Mo Willems

Mo Willems has done it again with our old friend Pigeon. But now he is embarking on a new adventure… Going to School! Why does the Pigeon have to go to school? He already knows everything! And what if he doesn’t like it? What if the teacher doesn’t like him? What if he learns TOO MUCH!?! Ask not for whom the school bell rings; it rings for the Pigeon!

First Day by Andrew Daddo

With endearing illustrations drawn upon lined paper, and contemporary references to BFFs and a first day selfie, this book is perfect for children of Gen Z. But First Day is also an ideal book for parents to read as they help to prepare their child for their first day of school.  After all, first day anxieties are not limited to children.

The story sees a conversation take place between a mother and her daughter as they get ready on the first day of school. What seems like comforting affirmations from a parent to a child are actually reassurances from the child to her mother.

Our Class is a Family by Shannon Olsen

Our Class is a Family is a book that will help build and strengthen that class community. Kids learn that their classroom is a place where it’s safe to be themselves, it’s okay to make mistakes, and it’s important to be a friend to others. When hearing this story being read aloud, students are sure to feel a special sense of belonging.

When I Grow Up by Andrew Daddo

When I Grow Up is a delightful picture book celebrating endless dreams and possibilities. As the title suggests, When I Grow Up is an exploration of the endless possibilities that await children when they grow up and tackle the professional working world. It pays homage to the big dreams we all have as kids, while clearly demonstrating that anything is possible for everyone, no matter race, colour, gender. The only inhibitor to your future, is your imagination. Goal setting for the year would be a great activity to follow on from the reading of this book.

A Letter From Your Teacher: On the First Day of School by Shannon Olsen

This heartwarming picture book helps teachers in welcoming their new group of students on the first day of school. Through a letter written from the teacher’s point of view, students are given the message that their new teacher is someone they will get to form a special bond with. Their teacher is not only there to help them academically, but also to cheer them on, and to provide a caring, safe environment for them to learn and grow.

There is a blank space on the last page for teachers to sign their own name, so that students know that the letter in the book is coming straight from them. With its sincere message and inclusive illustrations, A Letter From Your Teacher is a valuable addition to any primary school teacher’s classroom library.

The Colour Monster Goes to School by Anna Llenas

This book follows The Colour Monster on a brand new adventure, as he navigates his way through his first day at school! But what exactly is school? A spooky castle filled wIth terrifying animals? A place in the sky, amongst the rainbows and clouds? From music lessons, to lunchtime, to making new friends, the Colour Monster’s first day of school is filled with exciting new adventures.

The Crayon Box that Talked by Shane DeRolf

The Crayon Box that Talked considers questions about discrimination, prejudice, cooperation and identity. A girl goes into a shop and overhears crayons arguing. Yellow and Green hate Red and no one likes Orange. So the girl buys the box of crayons and uses all colours to make a picture, showing all the colours how each of them contributed to create something beautiful. This book is a great one to introduce at the beginning of the year to introduce the idea of each of your students being unique but an equally important member of the whole class.

All Are Welcome Here by Alexandra Penfold

Every child deserves to attend a school as beautiful in spirit as the one in this book. Families of every color and composition cross a city street together to greet diverse, smiling teachers. Children move through each aspect of the first school day to an echoed refrain, “All are welcome here.” While there are obvious opportunities for sharing this book as a classroom read aloud, enjoying it one-on-one is worthwhile as well, as kids will want to pore over details in the illustrations.

Starting School by Jane Godwin

Starting School gives children a very realistic picture of what to expect of school.  Five diverse children approach their first day of school differently, each with unique thoughts, worries and experiences.
Although the story is a whole, it can be read separately, with each page representing a different aspect of school from ‘Getting Ready’to ‘Doing Work’.

Anna Walker has created beautiful pages combining her watercolour illustrations with intricate collage details using photo imagery, patterned paper and stationery.

What book will you share with your students as they head back to school this year?

Back to School Student Gift Ideas

Back to School Student Gift Ideas

Back to school time is almost here! Get ready for the first day of school or your parent/teacher night with these creative {and sometimes yummy} treats for students.

  1. Get Ready to Shine! A multi-pack of Glowsticks from Kmart make the perfect little gift for your new little shining stars!

2. This Year is Going to be Sweet! Admittedly these are a little on the more expensive side but if your school allows you to hand out lollies as gifts to your students then you may like to consider this fun little gift for your students.

3. A Colourful School Year! You could replace these pencils with crayons or textas, depending on your style but they are a great little gift that your students an put to use in the classroom straight away.

4. Dough-lited! These particular labels are designed to fit the cheap Kmart brand mini playdough tubs but there is room to cut the circle a smidge bigger to allow for different sized tubs from other brands as well.

5. Make No Mistake! Any eraser could be used to accompany these labels. The erasers pictured here were purchased from Kmart.

6. We are going to have a ball! Children love bouncy balls! These ones were again purchased from Kmart’s party section in a bag of 6 from memory.

7. Let’s stick together! Instead of this sticky hand (purchased from Kmart’s party section) you could use a glue stick if you preferred.

8. You’re Just Write! These pencils could be replaced for a biro perhaps for the upper primary students.

9. Bubbling to Meet You! Kmart’s party section has the goods again in the form of these mini bubble wands. A very inexpensive purchase as they come in a mini pack of 8.

10. Highlight of My Day! This may be a better one to give to your students at the end of the first day or at the end of your parent/teacher night.

There you have it – so many back to school gift ideas that are easy and inexpensive to pull together. Which one will you be gifting to your students this year? Don’t forget, all the templates for these gifts can be found in our Free Resource Library.

Tips and Tricks for Managing your Parent Information Night

Tips and Tricks for Managing your Parent Information Night

So, you’ve been given the date for your Parent Information Night but what do you do now? What information do you need to share with your parents? What do they want to hear?

It can seem a little overwhelming. After putting so much energy into organising your classroom and usually only just having met your students, that you then need to now front up to their parents and act like you’ve got it all together (when in fact you feel like you are just keeping your head above water with everything else that has been thrown at you for the start of the school year).

Well never fear! Let me walk you through it with some tips and advice from a teacher that has been through the process a few too many times now :)

Before the Night:
Send home an invitation inviting parents to come along. This may seem like an obvious step but it is a beautiful personal touch that goes beyond what the school provides in terms of communication. It immediately communicates to parents that you are willing to go that extra mile for them and their students. You may like to use the invitation template in our Free Resource Library.

Prepare a PowerPoint outlining the the main points you want to cover. Again I have prepared a template for you in our Free Resource Library if you would like to use it.

Have some work on display for parents to see. It probably sounds a bit obvious but it is nice for parents to have something to actually come and see when they come to your classroom (apart from you of course). It will also give them something to do while you are welcoming other parents into the classroom.

On the Night:
Try to be fully organised while your parents are arriving. You don’t want to be fiddling with PowerPoints and throwing out student work while your parents are arriving. You can imagine the disorganised tone this may send.

Welcome parents as they arrive at your classroom door. You don’t have to do this but I think it is a nice personal touch that cements your desire to get to know your parents and is just generally a respectful way of welcoming people to your classroom. It also allows you to give them some brief instructions on what they can be doing while you are continuing to welcome other parents into the room, ie, viewing student work, filling in the getting to know you form, having a look around the classroom, etc.

Have a sign in sheet and hand out a get to know you form. The sign in sheet doesn’t need to be complicated. It can be as simple as a classroom list that your parents tick off as they walk through the door. This just helps you know who has attended so you can follow up with those that haven’t. The getting to know you form also assists in helping you understand your parents and students and their needs.

Greet your parents with a welcome treat. I have always left a little gift for my parents to enjoy as they’ve either walked through the door, exited at the end or left on the table in front of them. This may be as simple as bottles of water or Minties in a bowl or a packet of Parent Vitamins.

During the Night:
BE BRIEF!!! You don’t want your presentation to drag on. These parents have potentially attended other parent information nights throughout the week or on the same night, keep things brief. They don’t need to know everything about every detail of the curriculum. They just need a brief outline.

BE YOURSELF!!! If you are anything like me, speaking in front of 30 children is a breeze in comparison to speaking in front of even 3 adults, let alone a whole classroom full. Remember, you are the expert in your field, regardless of how many years you have been teaching. Just be yourself. They will appreciate getting to know your honest self.

Don’t feel you have to take questions at the end or even during your presentation. Although if you don’t want to take public questions make sure you have explained this from the start. They need to know you are willing to take questions but for them to either see you one on one or direct their questions in writing via email.

OR you may like to have a question box ready for those who have a burning question on their mind. This is also good for those parents who can’t hang around after the night has finished or for when you are caught chatting to other parents. Parents can leave their questions and contact details for you get back to them as soon as possible.

I hope this has truly helped ease your stress about your upcoming Parent Information Night. Remember to grab all the printables mentioned above in our Free Resource Library.

How to Pack a Healthy Lunchbox

How to Pack a Healthy Lunchbox

Are you ready for a year of packing lunchboxes… every… single… weekday? Did you know that’s equal to about 200 lunchboxes?!! This fact will send many into a spin but packing the lunchbox doesn’t need to be stressful or time consuming. In fact it can actually be an enjoyable task!

You just need a simple method to follow, one that will make your life easy and most importantly provide your child with the nutrients and energy they need for a full day of activity and learning.

Let’s firstly start with the lunchbox itself. When choosing a lunchbox for your child it is important to consider:

  • How many lunchboxes your child will need each day – Some schools have a fruit and vegetable break early morning and ask that the food for this snack to be packed separate from the food for the rest of the day.
  • The type of food you will be packing – Does your child like small portions of different food or whole sandwiches and whole pieces of fruit? Make sure the lunchbox compartments are suitable for the type of food your child likes to eat and the lunchbox holds the right amount of food for your child’s appetite.
  • Where the lunchbox will be stored for the school day – Is there a fridge available? If not, do you have a good quality ice pack and insulated lunch bag?
  • Can your child open the lunchbox on their own – Are the latches tight or tricky for little fingers?

Once you have your suitable lunchbox, you then need to fill it with food from the 5 food groups. The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating is made up of 5 food groups. Each food group is made up of a variety of food, each group differing in the essential nutrients they provide.

  • Fruit – A good source of vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre and phytonutrients. Aim for a rainbow of different colours to increase the variety of nutrients consumed. Frozen fruit and fruit canned in natural juice are also good fruit options. Limit dried fruit and 100% fruit juice due to their risk of dental decay and ease of over consumption.

Our Lunchbox favourites –

apple, berries, rockmelon, kiwifruit, grapes, prunes

  • Vegetables – Also a good source of vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre and phytonutrients. Just like fruit, colourful vegetables are recommended. Included in this group are fresh and frozen vegetables and legumes and beans. Aim to include raw salad vegetables and add extra vegetables where possible to baked goods or prepared dishes to bump up the quantity.

Our Lunchbox favourites –

carrot, corn, capsicum, cucumber, tomato, avocado

  • Grains – A good source of slow release energy and fibre and contains a wide range of vitamins and minerals. Grain foods are made from wheat, oats, rice, rye, barley, millet, quinoa and corn. Aim for wholegrain varieties over highly processed refined white options. Wholegrain varieties are higher in fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Our Lunchbox favourites –

wholegrain: bread, wraps, rice, pasta, crackers

  • Dairy/Calcium – Dairy food like milk, cheese and yoghurt provide calcium in a readily absorbable and convenient form. They are also a good source of many nutrients, including protein and a range of vitamins and minerals. If need to avoid dairy foods make suitable alternative choices to ensure they are still providing the important nutrients this food groups contains.

Our Lunchbox favourites –

sugar free yoghurt, cheese, cream cheese

  • Protein – A good source of protein, plus a wide variety of other nutrients such as iodine, iron, zinc, vitamins, especially B12, and essential fatty acids. Protein foods include all kinds of lean meat and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds and legumes/beans. If not eating a vegetarian diet, aim to include a variety of animal and plant based protein.

Our Lunchbox favourites –

roast meat, eggs, tuna, seed crackers, chickpeas

As a busy mum, I’m all about doing things simply and fast! I put my experience as a mum and nutritionist to the test and over the last 12 months I trialed, tested, redeveloped and tweaked a super simple method to make packing the lunchbox an effortless task. All is outlined in my ebook – 4 simple steps to packing a nutritionally balanced lunchbox… fast.

My all inclusive ebook covers everything you need to be able to pack a simple, healthy and safe lunchbox in no time at all!

What’s included:

  • “Nut Free” – What you can and can’t pack
  • The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating
  • The 5 food groups
  • 4 steps to packing a nutritionally balanced lunchbox
  • Food Safety – High risk lunchbox foods and how to keep them safe
  • Food group recommendations and how much is required at school
  • Serve sizes
  • Water
  • Lunchbox inspiration
  • Lunchbox cheat sheet to personalise for each child
  • Meal Planner​

Imagine feeling confident and relaxed each day packing the lunchbox. Relaxed – knowing you have a simple method to follow that makes packing the lunchbox easy; and confident – knowing that the food you are providing is in line with the Australian Dietary Guidelines and meeting your child’s nutritional requirements for a day at school.

Abbey – The Lunchbox Nutritionist

Establishing Positive Parent Teacher Relationships

Establishing Positive Parent Teacher Relationships

While schooling plays a critically important part, all of the learning that a child does in life contributes to their overall education. Parents as children’s first teachers, have enormous impact on their learning and insight into areas of interest, learning styles, cultural influence that may effect how children learn and their ways of viewing and understanding the learning taking place.

The relationship between parents and teachers, effects children’s attitudes and performance. A child who can see that their parent and teacher are working together, will be more successful than a child who concludes that their parent does not like or respect their teacher. Research suggests, when parents and teachers have similar expectations student’s attitudes and performance in school will improve.

Active involvement of parents in their school’s instructional program encourages better work ethic, and development of improved attitudes towards school and school work for both parents and students alike. Schools that encourage parent participation are more effective, than those in which parents are not actively involved.

The most successful school programs provide a variety of ways for parents to participate in their children’s education. In both high and low resource communities, research suggests that the quality of schools greatly improves with active parent participation.

Therefore it is vitally important for teachers to foster relationships with parents based on mutual respect, understanding and a shared commitment to the well being of the child; which will encourage parent participation both at home and within the school and provide students with the best education possible.

Here are some practical ideas to help you establish and maintain positive parent teacher relationships in your classroom:

Beginning of the School Year:
– Greet parents warmly, but focus attention to the students
– Have windows opened
– Ensure that the room looks organised and bright (this doesn’t necessarily mean adding a heap of colour, simply adding a plant or flowers and ensuring the lights are on gives the feeling of calm and organisation)
– Photograph each child during the first week and display on the door or in the room.
– Distribute a letter of introduction (make sure this is approved by your Principal first). The letter may include: an introduction, welcoming statement, positive statement about the school and the year ahead, anticipation of working with the class, the current main unit topic (the what and the why), mention of upcoming events such as parents nights, invitation to arrange a time to meet with you if parents have issues they wish to address, conclude with a positive.
– Distribute a ‘Getting to Know You’ form (template available in my Free Resources Library)

Parent Teacher Evening
(Keep discussion on general issues. Invite parents who wish to discuss specifics pertaining to their child to make an appointment to speak with you)
– Display some of the student’s work eg wall displays, books
– Set up chairs in a semi circle
– Set up OHP for visual focus to main points
– Have coffee/tea/juice available
– Start and finish on time
– Welcome parents
– Stress the importance of the parent teacher relationship to enhance learning for the student (feel free to use what I have written above to support your explanation)
– Very briefly overview curriculum, eg the strand of English and the main genres which will be covered. Do similar for the other Learning Areas but keep it brief!
– Discuss ways parents can assist in their child’s learning
– Involve parents in decision making eg homework issues
– Ask for helpers
– Negotiate/state procedures for interviews, letters, birthdays, etc.

Ongoing Communication of Information
Beginning and on completion of term’s work or units of work.
– Letters giving general information
– Class term newsletter
– Work samples that the students share at home
– Consider open days, open nights which provide opportunity for students to share their learning.

Parent/Teacher Interview
– Allow sufficient time for each interview
– Space allocated times for ‘breathing space’
– Consider doing a few each day (interviews can be mentally tiring)
– Keep to the scheduled times
– Avoid having parents wait in the dark or in the cold
– Use the student’s folio to support the report
– Keep a focus on ‘has achieved’ and ‘working toward’
– Offer suggestions on how the student’s learning can be supported

Formal Written Report
– Focus on positive statements
– Check accuracy of spelling, grammar

End of Year
– Card/letter of thanks and Christmas greetings from you to the parents
– Coffee afternoon/party organised by the students to say thank you to the class helpers.

Have you got any other suggestions for maintaining positive relationships with parents? Please share them below in the comments! I would love to hear from you! Happy teaching :)

9 Tips for Caring for Your Teacher Voice

9 Tips for Caring for Your Teacher Voice

As a teacher your voice is your most precious resource. I can’t even number the days that I couldn’t go to work simply because my throat was too sore. I didn’t necessarily feel unwell (at least not enough to stay home from school) but without a voice I was useless, so resting my voice was wise.

Do you know how to care for your voice? Here are a few tips and tricks I have learnt over the years (as well as some that I have researched), to keep that voice box working for years to come!

The Technical Stuff

Your voice is produced when your brain is stimulated. The flow of breath from your lungs causes the vocal folds in your larynx to vibrate. The vibrations resonate in the space of the the throat, mouth and nose and become your voice. Voice training is an excellent way to prolong the life of your voice.

Voice Care Tips

  1. Your throat cannot stay too dry – keep your voice moist with plenty of water. NOT ALCOHOL ;P
  2. When you are talking breathe through your nose – this helps to filter and humidify the air. NOT THROUGH YOUR MOUTH!
  3. Try not to talk for too long at any one time – enjoy your breaks and rest the voice as often as possible.
  4. Raising your voice causes damage to the tissues of the larynx so quiet voices are good.
  5. Don’t cough and clear our throat habitually, drink water and clear the throat gently.
  6. If you have a cold or flu avoid talking as much as you can.
  7. Tip for the ladies (boys can block their ears!). During the premenstrual period your voice can be prone to sensitivity. Take extra care within this period by drinking lots of water, limited alcohol and lots of downtime.
  8. Beware of the following irritants: caffeine, chocolate, alcohol, antihistamines, diuretics, cocaine and marijuana, vitamin C, cigarette smoke.
  9. The only way to use any of the above is in moderation, with lots of water.

I truly hope this helps you and your voice function for many years to come!

If you have any other tips or tricks, add them in the comments below.

Happy teaching!