Monday, July 31, 2017

First Week of School: Back to School Book and Lessons

Do you ever get tired of starting the year in the same way with the same activities? I do and am always looking for new ideas. Well, I stumbled upon a GREAT new "back to school" read aloud that I have never used before. I'm super excited to try it out with my new crop of third graders this year. It is the perfect book to start the year out with, yet really has nothing to do with kids going to school. 
It has to do with Calvin and Calvin can't fly. 
So I guess it does have everything to do with kids going to school. I know so many of my kids may be walking into their new classroom door feeling worried and unsure of their abilities. They'll be thinking about all the things they CAN'T do. Reading this book will help ease their minds. 
This fun story is called, Calvin Can't Fly (The Story of a Bookworm Birdie) and is by Jennifer Berne.  Calvin is a starling and can't fly because all he wants to do is read. 

Calvin is not your typical starling he is different from the others. 
I love that this book will help me to initiate a conversation about respecting and appreciating individual differences. The first week of school is all about getting to know each other and the very beginnings of relationship building. We will be talking about how it is OK for Calvin to be different and for all of us to be different. 
We'll read how at first, the other starlings made fun of Calvin....
I love the language of this book...I will be sure to stop and talk about some of the vocabulary on this page. It is a quick read aloud but meaty, it's filled with great stopping and talking points. 
 Calvin heads to the library where he spends much of his time with his beak in a book. 
When it's time to migrate, Calvin is in trouble!
I like how we can talk here about how although we all have our favorite subjects and activities, we need also need to spend time learning other things too. 
Here is one of my favorite pages: 
The other starlings do not leave Calvin behind! They figure out a way to help him. 
Another great talking point for the classroom. I want my kids to know that although there will be times they are facing hard learning and they may not get it right away, we will work together to make sure everyone learns all that they need to. We will leave no one behind. 
Well, the birds, including Calvin, start on their journey but run into a problem and guess who has the know-how to save the day?  
Yes, Calvin learned all about hurricanes from reading books! He teaches them and they take cover. 
Calvin ends up learning how to fly and the story concludes with them flying off as one big happy family.  This is a fantastic book to use prior to launching your reader's workshop time. 
It hits home the idea that reading is enjoyable and also how we can learn so much from books. I want my students to feel as though they don't need to wait for me to teach them what they are interested in. They can teach themselves just by spending time with a book!
I started creating materials that I plan on using along with this book. I think I'm going to lead my kids through the writing of their very first book response using this book. I made this one page booklet for us to practice doing what good readers do...we will "Prepare for Reading", "Think Before Reading", "Ask and Answer Questions", "Identify Problem and Solution" and "Describe the Character". 

I plan on doing this all together with lots of discussion. It will serve as my training session. 
I also created a blank response booklet that my kids will attempt to fill out on their own later during the second week of school. I like my students to do some sort of book responding at least once a week on a book that they choose during independent reading time. 
After reading this book, I want my kids to spend time getting to know more about their new classroom family. I'm going to have them play this simple book inspired game. They will simply spin the spinner and move their "Calvin" to a question that they will answer. 
It will give me an opportunity to watch my new students working with a partner and taking turns speaking and listening to each other. Afterwards, they will fill out this "post play" form to tell what they learned about their new friend. 
During writing time, we will talk about how, like Calvin, we all have things we can do well and things that are still hard for us. Third grade gets tough fast. I want my kids to feel empowered and not ever give up on themselves. We will celebrate our talents and talk about goal setting as students write about themselves using this sheet: 
It fits inside this Calvin booklet. Sometimes kids need a break during that first week of school. Having them create a quick craft gives them that mental break while allowing me to check out their fine motor skills and their ability to start and finish a project. 
Plus it can be displayed with the title: We Are Going to Soar in Third Grade. Then kids can read about other kids and hopefully make more connections. 
Once I started creating using the themes of this book, I could not stop. 
I think I may do a whole day with Calvin in mind. 
Here is a math page that is also inspired by this book. It will give me a glimpse into what kind of math thinkers they are. The problems are ones that they should have been exposed to as second graders. I included a checklist for students to use after completing each problem. 
I teach my kids to take responsibility for their own learning. 
Part of that is knowing what is easy or hard for them and then focusing on it. 
Again, like Calvin, not everything is easy for us and that is OK. 
We may end week one with a quick and simple STEM activity to allow them an opportunity to work in a cooperative group. I want to see them in action. I can learn so much about my new students by observing them in situations like this one. They will work on designing and creating a contraption to get Calvin from a starting point to his migration destination. I will simply put out a sampling of recycled materials and see what they can come up with. Working alongside each other is the best way for them to bond and building relationships with their new classmates. 

I am including this set in my TPT store if you are interested in trying any of these activities out yourself. Check your school or public library for Calvin Can't Fly. It is an easy book to find!
Click the link below: 

Do you have a favorite Back to School Book? I'd love to hear. 
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  1. I've never heard of this book before, but it sounds fantastic for the beginning of the year! Love all your activities that accompany the story, too!

  2. Hi Joan,
    I think you will love using this book and your children have fun with the activities! Have a great first week back!