Meet the Teacher


Picture Books That Help You Start the Year Right

It’s almost that time of year again.  The stores are filled with notebooks, binders, pens, markers, backpacks, rulers, glue, crayons, lunch boxes, folders - everything you need for school.  I love the excitement of a new beginning with so many possibilities.  I adore checking out all of the new merchandise.  They did not make chevron binders, glitter notebooks, smelly markers, etc. when I was young. I get giddy looking at it.  It never gets old.

 I find it 


that this year will be my 20th year of teaching. 

In some ways my first Back to School seems like yesterday.  

 I still overwork preparing for the first day.   
I cry when I cannot arrange my classroom to look like CTP.
 I still worry if the students and parents will like me.  
 I stress about being able to orchestrate a perfect start to the new year.

In other ways my first Back to School feels like a lifetime ago.  Every year so much changes.  Last year was our first year implementing Common Core.  I had so much to learn {and still do}.  I spent many hours {hours I should have been sleeping} analyzing student work and the standards trying to determine if I was doing CCSS correctly. This year we have a new teacher evaluation system.  We had a trial run last year and, to be honest, I did not pay too much attention to it since it didn’t count.  I felt like I had enough on my plate without worrying about my evaluation.

The biggest change every year is the students.  I love how each year we get a new group of kiddos to get to know and love.  The struggle is engaging them {without really knowing them} at the year’s start.  I don’t know about you, but I have noticed a decline in student’s attitudes about reading.  I don’t know if it is the technological age, or parents, including myself, being so busy making ends meet, that the urgency to want to read and the love of books is not the same in my first graders as it was when I began teaching.  I know it is not just my school, city, or even state.  When I talk to teachers around the country, they feel the same.

So, it is my job, as a first grade teacher, to instill that love of learning. 

From the very first day, I read.


I read all kinds of books. I read serious books with deep messages.  I read musical books that students can sing along to. I read nonfiction books to demonstrate curiosity, wondering and new learning.  I read books that have rhyme and repetition so my students can chant along with the story. I read books that teach a lesson. I read books for many different purposes.  When school starts, I read books that foster kindness, acceptance and community.

first grade, I love 1st Grade, beginning of year, community, kindness

Here are a few I read those first few weeks:

First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg

This story is about Sarah Jane, who is worried about going to a new school. She won't get out of bed because she keeps thinking about all of the bad things that can happen. Many students can relate to Sarah's feelings, The best part is the surprise ending! This book reassures children that they are not alone in their anxieties about new situations.


David Goes to School by David Shannon

I love David because I relate to him. I read No, David and  David Goes to School because he makes mistakes but is forgiven and loved.  I always remind kids that everyone makes mistakes and it is o.k.  That is how we learn.  We talk about what David does wrong and how he could have made better choices. We discuss which behaviors are good choices and poor choices and come up with our class rules.

Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes  by Eric Litwin

Pete the Cat goes for a walk in his brand new white shoes. He steps in things that change his shoes color. But no matter what, Pete stays positive and keeps going and singing his song...because it's all good.
I use this book to engage students into a conversation about what to do when things don't go your way. I tell students they have two choices - to get upset and ruin your day or to be positive, shake it off, and keep on going with your day.  I remind them {all year} that the choice is theirs to make.

Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes  by Eric Litwin

I like to read this book before we take our school tour.
Pete the Cat goes to school wearing his red school shoes. Pete explores the school and sings as he finds different room. All the while, Pete stays positive because it’s all good.

First graders love to guess which room Pete is in and are so proud when they are right.  Students will beg you to read this book over and over again.  There is also a link to the book where Eric Litwin reads and sings the story.

The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen

The Pout-Pout Fish believes he was meant to be depressed and there is no other choice.  He swims around spreading the  “dreary wearies” all over the place. Then, he meets characters who show him differently.  This is a fabulous choice with a message we all need to be reminded of.  If we think we are a certain way, we will be.  But, we control our behavior and mood and need to consciously make choices to ensure our happiness.  I ask students if they like to hang our with happy or glum people.  Then, a few share out why they prefer to be around happy people and why they do not like to be around people who are sad, negative, and mopey.  Again, I remind kids the choice is up to them.  We refer back to this book and Pete the Cat all year long as situations arise.

Walk on by Marla Frazee  

This book explains that trying something new is never easy but if you do not try, you will never do it. I say to the class, "Imagine you gave up on trying to walk? You tried it once, fell and gave up?" They laugh.  I ask if they made a lot of mistakes while learning.  If they gave up, they'd be crawling into first grade.  We discuss how walking is the same as talking, potty training, riding a bike, swimming, reading, doing math --everything. We must try, knowing we will make mistakes, and persist until we can do it.  Then, I announce my classroom rule: "Don't say you can't, try your best".  I tell kids they are not allowed to say the words, "I can't" in our room.  They must try everything.  If they don't they won't be the great student I know they are.  What a great way to set the tone for the year.

This book explains to children that we all carry an invisible bucket in which we keep our feelings about ourselves. When our buckets are full, we are happy. When it is empty, we are sad. When people's buckets are filled, the world is a happy place. We want to live in a happy world.  How do we make that happen?  Filling other people's buckets.  We do that by doing nice things and using kind words to the people around us.  The book explains bucket dippers - those who are mean and unhappy.  Bucket dippers can empty our bucket and make us feel sad.  It tells us that bucket dippers usually act that way to make themselves feel good but it never works.  I use this terminology all year and the first graders really get it.  It is not uncommon to hear a child come in from recess telling me someone was a bucket dipper and they tried to fill their bucket to make them happier.  That is the kind of world I want to live in.

 These books are my favorites for the first weeks of school because they set a tone for the year.  I refer to them all year long and young children really respond to it.  
Students will try to read these books but many are above the first grade reading level.  So, I need to read books that children listen to and love them so much that they want to read them.  These are my fun books.

 I love books that "grab" students attention and hold it.  I read these with LOTS of expression and sometimes even act out the story.  These are the books that seem to hook my readers.  These are the books the students read over and over and over again.  I love to hear them read with such expression and fluency, mimicking me.  And they will do this till the very last day of school.
One of my favorite authors for this type of book is Mo Willems. 

 I love Mo Willems. 

 I own


Yes, every single one. 
Many I have in duplicate because they are so desirable.  
You may be saying they are not quality literature like Patricia Polacco or Eve Bunting.  They are silly books that are quite simple.
I disagree.  In many of his books you have to infer.  Most have surprise endings. They are based on simple ideas but use word play, include interesting words, and teach children about dialogue, paying attention to punctuation, expression, making connections, and allow students to feel like successful readers.  Simply put, children enjoy reading these books.  They make them want to read. Be assured students will not read these books forever.  They will get into a variety of different books as they grow up and they will love reading.

This is my favorite:

I think this book is ingenious.  Mo makes the characters realize they are in a book being read.  Elephant and Piggie then have us say, "Banana".  My first graders ask me to reread this book over and over again.

Here are two more of my favorites:

I know these by heart, and if I must say so myself, I am VERY good at acting them out.  Even my struggling readers can fluently read these by the middle of the year.  Talk about a confidence booster.  And, yes, they read other books, too, because they want to read.

What books do you like to read the first few weeks?  How do you "hook" your students into reading?  I would love to hear your ideas!!

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