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.

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 🙂

Back to School Salt Name Art

Back to School Salt Name Art

At the beginning of the year, within the first week of school, I like to get something up in the classroom that personalises the classroom for the new cohort of students I am teaching. This usually takes the form of some sort of art, whether it be a self-portrait, name art or some sort of personal goal pop art exercise, these little touches from the students themselves really bring the classroom to life!

So today I thought I would share with you a fun name art exercise which as always can be modified to suit any age level. The way I have designed this particular exercise to share with you today, will allow your students to explore mixing primary colours to make new colours. And for the lower primary grades, it also gives your students a fun way to practise writing their name.

So to get started you will need:
– table salt
– Edicol dyes (blue, red, yellow)
– paintbrushes/pipettes (I prefer paintbrushes for this as the amount of paint added can be better controlled for littlies with a paintbrush but up to you)
– craft glue (in squeezy bottles)
– A3/A4 cartridge paper (this paper is thicker than normal printer A3 paper, therefore withstanding higher volumes of liquid without tearing)
– lead pencils
– plastic or baking tray

Here’s how to make your very own salt name art:
1. Give each student an A3/A4 piece of paper. Have them write their name on the piece of paper using their lead pencil and then go over the pencil lines with craft glue – demonstrate squeezing the glue to follow the lines before letting your students loose with the glue!

I used Aquadhere because that is all I had but any child friendly craft glue will work fine.

2. After their name has been fully written with glue, give students some salt to shake over their paper (students will need a lot of salt to ensure it is all covered). Demonstrate to students how to gently lift the paper and tip any excess into a tray at their table (alternatively a teacher or teacher aide may like to assist younger students).

Shake on salt – ensuring coverage of the whole name.
Have a tray on hand for students to shake off excess into.

3. Once the excess salt has been removed, introduce your students to the Edicol dyes. Demonstrate the following to the students: dip just the tip of your paintbrush into the dye (they won’t need a lot of paint to make this work). Wipe off any excess on the sides of the dye container. Touch the salt gently with the paintbrush tip. The dye will transfer to the salt and the salt will spread the colour along the letter.

Encourage students to touch the salt gently – they don’t need to wipe the brush along, the salt will carry the colour along the letter.

4. Using the same technique as described above, encourage your students to use more of the colours to cover the letters of their name. What do they observe? The colours will mix with the other colours, creating new colours. This should prompt a great discussion about mixing primary colours.

Finished product!

Annd you are done! Well done!! I hope you and your students enjoy decorating your classroom with these masterpieces this year. Don’t forget you can send me photos to share on social media either by tagging me in your Instagram posts @ridgydidgeresources or by sending them to my email: ridgydidgeresources@gmail.com

For more free Back to School resources, don’t forget to head to our Free Resource Library!!

Wishing you all the best at the start of this new school year!