We start school this coming Wednesday and, as always, I’m spending a great deal of time thinking about what I will do to make my students feel at ease and ready to go those first few days. Some of my fellow 4th grade teachers do ice-breaker activities and last week I thought that perhaps this year I’d finally give one a try. But after looking them over, I think not; since I personally hate participating in ice-breaker activities myself, the idea of leading one isn’t feeling great for me. My inclination is to do what has always worked for me in the past — a read aloud ice-breaker: the just-right first-day-of-school book. Read-alouds for me are fun (I read aloud a picture book at the start of most days all year long), help kids relax (and me too). We talk about them, laugh about them, and they seem better ice-breakers for me than the sorts of activities that work so well for my colleagues. So that said, here are the ones I’ve got in mind for next week:
Adam Rex and Christian Robinson’s School’s First Day of School is brand-new and a charmer. Love the switch of the school being as worried as the kids. Bet my students will feel the same way.
I have Kenny Brechner to thank for drawing my attention to Jared Chapman’s Steve, Raised by Wolves, in his PW post of last year. This is a charming wry little book with a very awkward young protagonist who definitely struggles at first to figure out the rules of school.
I think I also have Kenny to thank for Edda: A Little Valkyrie’s First Day of School by Adam Auerbach. Here’s what I wrote about it last year:
This distinctly amusing twist on the “being at a new school” trope was a big hit last year so it is top on my list to use again this year. Edda lives on Asgard, one of the homes to the Viking gods and when her father decides she needs some experience with other kids her age (there being none on Asgard), he sends her to school on Earth. The result is a gently humorous look at Edda learning how to bring her own self into a new and very different place. This is a book that is definitely one that can be best appreciated by my students — some of them have already studied the Vikings and others know about them. And Edda’s fish-out-of-water feeling is one they probably are all feeling on that first day of school. Not to mention, it is quirky and different — I mean, are there any other first-day-of-school books inspired by Wagner’s Ring series (as this evidently was)? Though that it was doesn’t matter a wit; I don’t know Wagner’s operas firsthand, but do know that this little off-beat story is a great one to start my class out on their 4th grade year.
Kenny’s most recent suggestion is Sophie’s Squash Goes to School. Indeed last year’s class and I loved Sophie’s Squash so this is an attractive option. But, unlike the others, it feels just a bit young for my 4th graders. Maybe I’ll read both books to them on Friday when they are feeling relatively relaxed, more comfortable in the classroom, with me, and with all the newness they are dealing with.