I am a huge fan of using read alouds to teach skills and strategies. And I also love using specific read alouds at the beginning of the school year to build community and set expectations. In this post, I want to share six of my favorite back to school read alouds (with free printables and digital activities) for upper elementary grades.
This post includes affiliate links if you wish to purchase the read alouds mentioned in this post.
Each Kindness is the perfect book for building community from the very first week of school. The book tells the story of a young girl and her friends who are not nice to a new girl, who they view as different and weird. Throughout the book, the main character learns the importance of showing kindness, but it is too late to show kindness to the new girl who recently moved away.
This book is perfect for the upper grades because it is not too cutesy or youngish looking, which books with this theme sometimes are. I like to use this book to highlight the importance of being kind.
One activity that we do with this book is to look at an important quote from the book and discuss the meaning as it relates to our lives. You can write this quote on an anchor chart or marker board and have the students write their thoughts on a post-note. You could also use the printable/digital slide included in the free download at the end of the post.
I also like students to make a list of a few ways they can show kindness at home, at school, and in public places. I like to have them share their ideas and add other students’ ideas to their lists. Free printable and digital slide for this activity is included in the free download as well.
I have used More Than Anything Else for several years now. It is not a traditional back-to-school read aloud that most teachers use or gravitate toward. However, I love the powerful message it sends. The book is a fictionalized account of Booker T. Washington’s childhood where he struggled to overcome obstacles and learn to read.
Before we read the book, I ask students to write down what they want at this moment, more than anything else. You will have some students write thoughtful responses, but many will write video games or gaming systems.
Next, read the book and discover that the main character wanted to read more than anything else. It leads to a powerful discussion about how fortunate we are to have access to education. It also sets the tone for the year that learning and reading is important in life and should not be taken for granted.
I have included a free teacher guide printable and digital slide to help guide your discussion as you read the book in the free downloads included in this post.
The Important Book is perfect to get students talking and writing about themselves and what makes them special. The book is full of creative poems about ordinary objects and what makes them special.
These poems each follow a predictable pattern, making it easy for the students to replicate. I like to have my students brainstorm, draft, and then publish their poems with illustrations. These make a great hallway display. They are also great to have out for a Back-to-School Open House night to show parents.
My students are always fascinated by how people live their lives in other parts of the world. It’s Back To School We Go!: First Day Stories from Around The World shares one-page stories (with an accompanying list of facts) of children on their first day of school from areas all over the world.
I like to read a few of these stories and then discuss similarities and differences. I also like to use this book as a springboard for students to write about their own back to school day, including any family or community traditions. This is a common writing prompt to give after the first day of school, but I have found that using this book usually gets much more detailed (and interesting) writing from the students.
Decibella and Her 6-Inch Voice is a cute book about a girl with a very loud voice. I like reading this book at the beginning of the year because I always have some very loud fifth graders and some very quiet fifth graders. This book is perfect for setting the expectations for voice levels throughout the various school day activities.
You can use this book to make a voice level chart that you and your students can refer to as needed. Students can also complete a chart while you read the book to them. Free printable and digital chart included in the free download.
I Didn’t Do My Homework Because… is a silly book full of ridiculous excuses for not having homework. Students will enjoy the silliness, and this is a great “break” during the busy first week of school.
I also like to use this book to introduce my homework expectations. After going over the expectations, my students write the main points on a printable (included in the free printables on this post) to keep in their homework folder. I know I could give my students a typed copy of my expectations, but I find they remember and pay attention better when we discuss them and write them together.
Download the Free Printables for the Back to School Read Alouds Here
Want More Back to School Activities and Resources?
If you are interested in more back-to-school activities for grades 4-5, check out these resources from my TpT store.
Other Back to School Activities, Freebies, and Blog Posts
Click on the links below to check out more activities and resources that are perfect for back to school.