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Your search for Back to School Books for the Upper Elementary Classroom is over. This list of 9 Back to School Books are a great way to start your year.

I  laughed so hard when I first came across the photo of the school bus with tractor tires! Why? I live in Iowa, home of John Deer and Sweet Corn. Our school district has buses for the nice weather and a fleet of Ford Expeditions that are 4x4 and loaded for off roading. Farm kids still have to go to school even when the roads are bad.
Enough about the photo, you are here for my latest list of 9 books. I strongly believe that picture books can provide vital information regardless of your age. There are just some that are better suited for grades 3-5 than others. Here are my favorites for starting off your year on the right foot.
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9 Books for Back to School

Below is a list of 9 books that I have personally used in my 3rd, 4th, 5th, or 6th grade classroom and the activities I have do with each book. These books are a great way to break the ice and convey important information that needs to be discussed. Pair it with my Back to School Passport and you are set for the first week of school.



Rules for School

This is a long book and it depends upon the grade level if I read it or not. Rules for School was perfect for my 3rd graders and we spent an entire week reading it. We also practice proper behavior during read alouds. I would not read this to 5th or 6th grade.

Activity: Each day my students would write a note to their “secret buddy” sharing with them advice for following the rule we covered. It was a “secret” as they had not met their buddy yet (or we haven’t assigned them yet. oops.)


Each Kindness

Each Kindness is the book that I like to start the year off with. If we can be kind to one another we can accomplish a lot! This is perfect for upper elementary as it isn’t overly cute so my “big kids” buy in early on to my love of picture books.

Being kind is one of  the rules in my classroom. You will see this theme repeated continually in my Good Morning Messages.

Activity: Give each student a sticky note and ask them to define kind using all 5 senses. We will then come up with a class definition for kindness. We will use this definition throughout the year to remind us to make the world a little better.


Decibella and her 6-inch Voice

I like to get the discussion of expectations on volume control done right away along with learning our quiet signal. I already have my voice level chart posted and this is the time I show it off and explain how we will use it in class. Reading Decibella helps show why volume control is important.

Activity: Complete a volume level chart. This will go into their student binder (Page 3) once I give them to my students.



Do Unto Otters

Following up on my first read aloud, we start reading Do Unto Otters, a book about RESPECT. Core Inspiration has an amazing post on how she created an acronym for RESPECT in her classroom.

Activity: I use her printable as a coloring sheet for my students. We also use this book as a launching point for building our classroom contract. I print this over lunch and have parent and student sign it. The RESPECT page becomes their student binder cover (page 1) and the contract is on the back (page 2). These are both stored in a page protector as they are important!


Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes


I fell in love with Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes back when I taught Kinder. I have read it every year even to my 6th graders. They have grudgingly allowed me to have my way but then I came up with a way to make it work for them!

Activity: Pair up with a teacher from your buddy class prior to the first day of school. Hide shoes all over the school. Pair up your student and have them go on a rockin’ tour. The big buddy should be telling the little buddy the expectations of each area and modeling them. Each location they will have to find the hidden shoe.



What if Everybody Did That?

What if Everybody Did That? is one of my favorite stories to read during the first week of school! I start day 2 off with this book as it is a great way to remind everyone of the expectations set yesterday.

It doesn’t seem like a problem if only 1 person didn’t hang-up their jacket but what if everyone did it? It doesn’t seem like a problem if only 1 person talked while the teacher was talking but what if everyone did?

Activity: After we read it, I have my table groups work on 5 examples of things that if 1 person did it, it doesn’t seem so bad but if the entire class did it, we wouldn’t be able to function. We compile these and use it as a reminder of why our rules and procedures are important.


Too Much Glue

Too Much Glue serves as a great reminder on how to be neat and why it is important. We take this a step further and discuss how all of our supplies should be treated. This includes not breaking pencils, how to put away materials, etc…

Activity: Use this as a launch for interactive student notebooks. Talk about how to glue in pieces, cut out pieces, write, care for it, etc…


Pig the Winner

My middle son is obsessed with pugs and so when I saw this book, Pig the Winner, I had to read it. It is a story of someone who wants to win even if it means cheating and hurting others. This is a great follow-up to the stories we have already read.

Activity: Discuss expectations for recess. Also discuss how Ms. Judd once had a pug named Pig (aka Miss Piggy).

Have You Filled a Bucket Today?

Have You Filled a Bucket Today? is a book about being kind to others and filling up their “bucket” with kind words and gestures. I cycle back over being kind a lot as I want this to be the key thing that my students do.


Activity: Pass out a class list. By the end of the week, each student needs to write 1 compliant or kind thing about each classmate including themselves. These are turned into me for approval/review. They are then cut apart and placed in each students kindness envelope.


Why Purchase Books

Reading is essential to academic and personal success. It is the number one thing we can do as teachers and parents to help the children in our care reach their full potential. Research has shown that the more access one has to a book, the more likely the are to read it.

For this reason, I have a set of 9 books on any given topic in my room. Why 9? It seems to be the right number for me. Not too few that you have a line of students waiting to read on that topic and not so many that they never get read. You need this many to ensure your students  have a choice in what they are reading and that they have access to materials at their unique reading abilities.

Click on the links above to purchase your new books. I have done the research, Amazon is the cheapest place to buy these books.

Why is reading important?

Reading is the number 1 thing you can do as a parent to help your child become a successful adult. As teachers, we know the importance of reading but struggle conveying this importance to parents.

The post below shares the latest research from 2016 about who is reading, how often they are reading, and discusses the decline of reading within our society. In addition, you will discover a freebie about 9 ways to help support reading in the home.