4 Ways to Use Picture Books During Your First Week of School

September 21, 2017

Contributed by Katherine Coughlan-Hobson, Cantata Learning General Manager

As summer break comes to a close, I wanted to share with you some thoughts on the value picture books can have in helping your students, or your own children, with adjusting to the new routines, new environments, and new social expectations the new school year brings.


1. Use picture books to find common interests amongst students.

Before you read Making New Friends have students write on a post-it note or small piece of paper something that is special about them. It could be something they did over the summer, something that they enjoy doing, or maybe their favorite book. Nothing too personal. Then let them have a “snowball fight” outside or in the library, classroom, or gymnasium. Students can throw their interest across the room to another student and learn something new about that person. This a great way to get to know each other and build community.


2. Ask students what they are feeling during the first week of school.

Remind students that we often feel several emotions at the same time. For example, we can be excited and nervous, happy and scared, etc. If a student shares that he is worried about how to find his locker or classroom or someone to sit by, this is an opportunity for other students to empathize and help each other. Students will also discover they are most likely not the only one feeling that way so they can help each other! Use the Cantata Learning series Me, My Friends, My Community: Songs About Emotions to help students identify their emotions and think of experiences where they feel different emotions. What makes Moose and his friends happy? Hint: reading is one activity!


3. Picture books can be a useful way to help students identify what we should and should NOT do in our school environments.

Cantata Learning has two series that are helpful in supporting positive behavior and classroom management throughout the day. School Time Songs offers catchy tunes to help encourage and remind students to help keep our spaces tidy, be kind to each other, and work together as a team. These are perfect for those transition times, too.

Library Skills reminds students to stay safe online and to treat others and our materials with respect. What are the rhythms and expectations of your school, classroom, and community? Create a shared document, whether it’s through one of your favorite notetaking/sharing apps or on the board of your library or classroom, and have students suggest ideas for maintaining a respectful atmosphere at school. Have students share their voice and be represented by participating in the creation of your classroom rights.

If you’re like us and love having dance parties, and believe music and movement support students in their learning, then make sure you express guidelines around that the first week of school. We can definitely have fun and be safe and respectful while we’re learning!


4. Quick assessments of where students are in their abilities to follow directions, writing skills, reading skills, and mathematics.

Make observations and quick notes to help you identify where students are and the skills that need practice. This is a great time to get to know your students, so try to take this all in without attaching to what you see. The first week is full of new experiences which can make students (and teachers!) nervous. Help students feel welcomed and comfortable while also noting their interests and abilities. Alphabet Safari offers students a chance to demonstrate and practice letter formation, shape recognition, and following directions. Plus, the music is sure to get students excited to practice over and over!


Public Library, School Library, Classroom Library—all of these places are great resources for you and your students. And by entering to win our Cantata Learning contest this fall, you could win FREE books for your library space! Follow our social media for details on this opportunity.