The beginning of the school year is an exciting time. Students and staff are back, recharged, and ready for another year. A new school year means brand new supplies (the thrill of getting a new pack of colorful pens still gets me! ) new books, new friends, and most importantly new things to learn! As you are gearing up for back to school, I would strongly encourage you to take a look at my Story Sidekicks to help your students’ language and literacy skills grow as well as guide you through every season and holiday of the school year.
Today I’m sharing some activity ideas for, We Don’t Eat Our Classmates and How I Spent My Summer, two of my favorite back-to-school-themed books. I’ve got some activities and games to help you start the school year off right!
We Don’t Eat Our Classmates
Penelope Rex is nervous about her first day of school. Armed with her new pony backpack and her three hundred tuna sandwiches (and one apple juice!), she was surprised to find out that all her classmates were children..human children. As you may guess, Penelope has difficulty making friends because she can’t stop eating them. She soon learns that if she wants to make friends, she is going to have to curb her classmate cravings.
Penelope’s dad packed her a delicious lunch of 300 tuna fish sandwiches…and one apple juice. Using a paper bag, a little box, or a cutout of a lunch box, have your students pack their own lunch! For my articulation students, I put pictures or mini objects inside a box or bag that they can’t see into. My students love the comical and random things they have to pack in their lunch and we can target their goals simultaneously. For my language students, I use pretend food to target answering/asking -wh questions (“where do you keep the milk?” ” why can’t you pack only hot sauce in your lunch?”), inferring, problem-solving, naming categories (e.g. dessert, fruit, vegetables, breakfast, etc), and comparing and contrasting.
If you are looking for a versatile game with a dinosaur theme, I recommend Game-A-Saurus Rex for groups of 2-4 students for our preschool and early elementary crowd. It is a plush dinosaur that you can stash the game pieces and fabric playmat inside for easy storage. The games are simple, engaging, and do not take too much time (perfect for a quick 30-minute session!). With so many hands throughout the day, I also appreciate the durability. I pair this game with my story sidekick to help challenge my students, build rapport, and build upon their developing language skills.
How I Spent My Summer
This is a cute story about how one boy embellishes his summertime activities. Wallace Bleff was off to his aunt’s house but he insists that he was carried off by cowboys on the way. The cowboys taught him how to ride broncos and rope cattle! Wallace finds himself stopping a stampede just in time before they run through his Aunt Fern’s party in the backyard. This is a funny, wild, and adventurous story that your students will enjoy and is perfect for back-to-school reading!
Engage your students with a Pictionary-inspired activity using what you have whether it be a doodle board, white board, or plain old paper! We know what Wallace did on vacation and now it’s time to figure out what your students did during summer break. For about five minutes, have your students draw (and only draw!) what they did over the summer break. Pictures should not include any letters or numbers and students should be quietly creating their pictures in order to not give anything away. After students are done making their art, allow one student at a time to display their art and have your other students individually guess what each student did during summer break while you facilitate. This activity is ideal to target categories, asking/answering -wh questions, inferencing, comparing/contrasting, vocabulary, and social skills. It can also be modified to accommodate all age groups.
Wallace’s story tends to snowball and get more extravagant as he goes on. Have your students work together to build their own story. Allow them to create a character and then, one by one, tell a piece of that character’s summer vacation. As each student shares that piece of the story have them try and make it more silly than the one before. Use the Story Element icons from the ‘How I Spent My Summer Story Sidekick’ to make sure the story building stays on track. Kids can illustrate their story when they are done.