Well summer is winding down and here in Wisconsin most students go back to school tomorrow, Sept 1st. I tend to do LOTS of read alouds the first few weeks because it is one way that I can get my kinders to sit still for more than 2.3 seconds, and it is a great way to practice expectations in group settings. Although I have a basket of about 50+ back to school books, I thought I'd share 5 of my favorites that you may not have heard of before. 

#1.What if Everybody Did That? By Colleen M. Madden 

I first read this book when someone suggested it for Earth Day, which it is great for, but it is also PERFECT for back to school because of this page right here: 
See all of those kids blurting out every adorably crazy little thought running through their brain? Yeah that's pretty much what the first kindergarten read aloud looks like every year. Sometimes it doesn't make sense to a five year old why they can't share something that is just SOOO important to them, but this book really shows students what it would be like if everyone didn't follow the rules.

#2. The Name Jar By Yangsook Choi 

Although it can be quite sad, I love the message in this story. 
The main character in this book just moved to the country and has a traditional Korean name that she is bullied for and feels very ashamed. She even decides to change her name, but luckily one of her classmates discovers how special her name is and she feels encouraged enough to be proud of her name, its meaning, and where she is from. 

#3. My Mouth is a Volcano By Julia Cook

Okay back to those kiddos that just HAVE to tell you every SUPER important thing and can't bear to wait...yes this is one of the things that makes me crazy.  (Not because I don't want to listen, but because it can suck soooo much time out of your day!) Here is another super great book for addressing this problem.
I love how it really describes the feelings that Louis, and many young children get when they are so excited to share something. But then the tables turn and the sweet boy that loves to talk constantly learns that it is no fun to be interrupted when you are sharing, so he learns to respect others through listening.

#4. Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun By Maria Dismondy

This book is great for introducing the topic of bullying. Lucy is being bullied by Ralph and it is just so sad to watch her be so hurt.
She is just so sweet and always wants to do the right thing, so when her bully is in trouble instead of joining the other kids in laughing, she decides to help him.  Such a great book for discussing the importance of making good decisions even when they may be very challenging.

#5. Don't Squeal Unless It's a BIG Deal By Jeanie Franz Ransom

Tattling...UGH! This might be one of the hardest things to explain to 5 year olds.  When everything IS  a big deal in their little kindergarten mind, how do you teach them when it is and isn't okay to tell an adult.
This book puts a funny twist on tattling so the kids really enjoy it and seem to get it at least a little bit.

I love that throughout the year I can always refer back to these characters as an anchor to situations.  When my lovelies aren't being so nice I remind them how Ralph treated Lucy. When that one special friend can't seem to control his blurting out, I remind him how Louis felt when he was interrupted.  Having these shared stories to look back on really cuts down on the need for lengthy discussion to address behaviors that make me crazy, so I hope that you will find them helpful too!
Guess what?!?! It's Tot School Tuesday! That's right, tot school is back in session.

If you've been following along with my adventures with tot school, I need to apologize for going MIA on you.  I had every intention of tot schooling right through the birth of our second baby girl. But then this happened...
Yeah we decided to sell our house and move because you know, adding a new baby wasn't enough craziness for us. So our life has been a hot mess since March and I decided it was best to just get ourselves unpacked, settled and into a good routine before trying any real planned out activities. And these sweet girls have been keeping me on my toes!
Somehow summer flew by and its already almost September so what better time to start back up with tot school than now, when everyone is in back to school mode. I revised our plans, following more of a school year calendar with weeks off for the holidays when I know our schedule will be crazy anyways. Here is a look at our plans:
We will be getting started on Monday 9/5 with "Apples" and I'm so excited for all of the fun activities we have planned! Here is a look at what we will be doing:
I will be back to share all of our fun the following week, until then you can get caught up on our past activities here:

Books Teachers Love is back! We took a break for the summer but, my awesome teacher blogger friends and I have all teamed up to bring you 12 perfect read alouds each month. We will be sharing books for the upcoming month on the 15th so that you have at least 2 weeks after reading to get all your books and ideas together to try out in your room. So here we go with our top picks for September!

Everyone has their favorite back to school read alouds, and so many people use the same books. I didn't want to pick a book that you likely already have a thousand ideas and activities planned for, so picking a book this month was really tough! I finally decided on Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell.

If you haven't heard of this book, it is absolutely adorable and has a GREAT message so I guarantee you will not be disappointed.  Molly is a quirky little first grader who is full of spunk. Thanks to her grandmother, she is proud to be unique and confident enough to handle any challenges thrown at her.  It's a perfect intro to talking about a wide range of topics such as getting to know your classmates, bullying, and building confidence.

One way I like to use this book as a get to know you activity is to have students work on a Venn Diagram comparing themselves to Molly Lou and then sharing the ways they are the same and different from her. This is my sneaky way to get students to work on compare/contrast while at the same time fitting in a getting to know you activity. There's never enough time in the day, so anytime I can combine activities is a bonus.
Another great concept to work on with this book is character traits. Molly Lou is such an interesting little girl so there are definitely LOTS of unique character traits to discuss. Young students don't often have great vocabulary for the traits they notice in characters yet, so I have them draw and/or write what they are thinking about the character first. For example a student might notice that Molly Lou is not afraid of bullies. We talk about words that we could use to describe that quality such as "confident," "courageous," or "brave." Then we make a character trait anchor chart that we can add to throughout the year. This is great for building vocabulary and comprehension skills at the same time.
Finally, I always like to find a way to incorporate a written response. After reading this book and discussing Molly Lou's character traits, students write about ways that they can "stand tall" like her, which is a great lead in to bucket fillers and anti-bullying programs as well.

Want to try out these activities? You can grab the printables for FREE here!
And to receive even more reading response FREEBIES sign up here!

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But wait, that's not all! Each month, the Books Teachers Love Crew is giving away 4 of the books that we blogged about, and YOU get to choose the books you want! So scope out all 12 blog posts below, pick your favorites, and enter to win!

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Spice up your small group activities with these super versatile chalk blocks! If you've been to the Target dollar spot lately you may have seen these lovely little teaching tools.
As soon as I saw them I was brainstorming all kinds of fun ways to use them. I thought I'd share a few of my ideas here although the possibilities are endless!

I am always working on CVC words in small groups with my students in one way or another.  Sometimes we are working on just saying the sounds of the letters, other times we are working on blending the sounds, and when we get even more advanced we work on changing a sound. No matter which skill we are working on, I love that I can easily erase and write letters that I want to target with different groups of students.

Roll it, Say it -  
When students are still working on letters/sounds, write the letters you want to target on the blocks. Then have each student roll and say the letter and/or sound for their letter.  You could begin to model blending the sounds together to read the word as students are ready.

Real/Nonsense Words
As students are beginning to read and sound out words, use the blocks to practice blending sounds. Have students each roll 3 blocks (2 consonants and a vowel). Then each child should blend the sounds, read the word and decide if it is a real or nonsense word. Keep tallies as a group to see which type of word comes up most, and ask students to guess which one will "win."

Change a Word
This game is definitely for your more advanced students that are proficient at blending sounds to form words.  Start with 3 dice for each student again. Students roll the dice and read their word.  They then choose one letter to erase and change to make a different real word. (ex. 1st roll student gets "JEK", they change the "K" to "T" to make "JET")

Working with word families is so important for building fluent readers. I teach my students that once they can read one word  they can read the whole family. Again these blocks are great for differentiating the word family endings and beginning sounds for different levels of students.

Roll it, Read it -  
Roll both the beginning sound and phonogram (word family ending) blocks. All students read the word together. Leave the phonogram block in place and pass the beginning sound block from student to student to roll. As each child takes a turn rolling, they say the  new word they've made. Repeat with a new word family each time.

Word Family Race -  
Using just a phonogram (word family) block, one student rolls and then everyone tries to think of and write as many words as they can think of that fit in that word family. 

This last idea is a real $$$ saver. Have you ever had a great game that needed dice with shapes, money,  2 digit numbers, etc. and wondered where on earth to buy and store all of these crazy variations? Well don't worry anymore...chalkboard dice to the rescue!! You can just erase and write whatever you need for that game on each of the sides.  Now of course this may not be ideal if you are sending students off to practice independently in centers...you know they won't be able to resist erasing each side...but you could use chalk marker pens which are much more difficult to erase! I envision using them more for small group games however where I can quickly change the options on each side of the dice as needed.

Hopefully you can find these fabulous blocks in your Target Dollar spot, but if not I found this awesome DIY Chalkboard Block tutorial from Ada Lou Vintage that you can use to make them yourself!
I'd love to hear more creative ideas for using these blocks in the classroom. Please share your ideas in the comments!

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