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9 Back to School Read-Alouds to Encourage Classroom Rules and Expectations

In the elementary classroom, the beginning of a new school year ushers in an opportunity to set classroom rules and expectations. And, while creating your rules, modeling procedures, and enforcing expectations are absolutely necessary, the lessons to help instill some of these behaviors don’t have to be dull and boring.

Here are nine books that encourage the teaching of rules and expectations and build a strong classroom community.

1. All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold

This book focuses on building classroom culture. Above all else, the best thing you can do for your students is to create a safe and welcoming place where all are welcome to learn and grow together. This charming, rhyming tale does just that by telling the story of a school where diversity and inclusion are celebrated.

2. The Magical Yet by Angela DiTerlizzi

The beginning of a new school can come with a lot of butterflies due to so much newness and uncharted territory ahead. In the face of not knowing, this book focuses on developing a growth mindset by welcoming the “yet.” This encouraging and uplifting book reminds us that there are things we all haven’t learned, yet we can set a positive tone for teaching new expectations that may be require practice to get right.

3. The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson

This heartwarming story covers the power of individuality and anxiety associated with feeling like you’re the only one. As students explore all the things that make them different than their new classroom peers, this book reminds us that connecting to others takes courage, even when you feel scared and alone.

4. You Get What You Get by Julie Gassman

In this story, Melvin the squirrel grows very frustrated when things don’t go his way, but with the help of others, he realizes that his fits aren’t really helping anybody and that, sometimes, you just have to let things go.

5. My Mouth Is a Volcano! by Julia Cook

The main character in this book, Louis, a self-pronounced “erupter,” who explains his constant interruptions as rumbles and grumbles in his tummy that he just can’t control. But, when he feels the pain and frustration of being interrupted himself, he starts to realize it’s not so fun. This relatable tale might just help your class keep their volcanos in check.

6. David Goes to School by David Shannon

This story, as well as the others in the familiar No, David! book series, is sure to elicit a few laughs and start a nice discussion about rule-breaking. While David frequently struggles to follow the rules in these classroom favorites, he does find that breaking the rules is met with consequences and, ultimately, forgiveness. A popular activity for this one is to map out activities that make your students rulebreakers versus peacemakers with the help of David’s mistakes as your guide.

7. The Recess Queen by Alexis O’Neill

As much as recess can be a welcome break in your day (for both you and your students), it may create an opportunity for hurt feelings. Setting expectations on the playground can go a long way. Meet Mean Jean the Recess Queen, the bossiest child on the playground. When a new student moves in and isn’t intimidated by Mean Jean but instead asks her to play, she’s shocked beyond belief. This lesson about the power of kindness and friendship leaves an impression.

8. The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Mark Pett and Gary Rubinstein

The fear of failing can create a lot of anxiety and sometimes tears for your students in the absence of a classroom community that allows for mistakes. While Beatrice has no problem encouraging others when they stumble, she has never made a mistake herself, and the idea of doing so puts her on edge. With a little laughter and humility, however, she learns that mistakes happen and that moving past them quickly can avoid a lot of unnecessary worry. Teach your students how to show compassion and encouragement toward others with this story.

9. Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud

This book is used in classrooms far and wide to encourage daily happiness. The concept portrayed in this book is that everyone carries around an invisible bucket to hold good thoughts and feelings that add up to happy thoughts and actions. With simple instructions on how to be a bucket filler, this story emphasizes the power of kindness and respect. Take this idea a step further by creating a bulletin board dedicated to bucket filling in your classroom, and recognize those who demonstrate the traits of being excellent bucket fillers.

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