Summer Stock Up: Collecting Resources for Back to School

Like most teachers, I used part of my summer to prepare activities for Back to School. I spent weeks scouring Pinterest, revamping old resources, and creating new ones to fill those first few weeks back. I tried to have a good mix of new activities and beloved old faithfuls.

To help save you the hassle of searching high and low for resources, I'm participating in a Summer Stock Up with several other teacher bloggers who are doing the work for you.  Each blogger is featuring at least one resource that will ensure your Back to School goes smoothly. Plus, we're giving away a portion of each resource for free. There are fifteen categories guaranteeing something for everyone!

I'm featured in two categories - "Reading" and "Getting to Know You Activities." First up is my newly revised "Superhero Literature Circles: Training Wheels for Starting Book Clubs in the Classroom." 

Do you use book clubs? I absolutely love them and start incorporating them into my weekly schedule as soon as possible. 

My view of Literature Circles and Book Clubs has changed over the years. When I first started using reading groups in the classroom, I followed more of a “Literature Circles” approach. Students were divided equally into groups, each group assigned a title to read, and each student assigned a specific job to complete. I thought this design was the perfect way for students to read and share literature with their peers. 

However, as I learned more about the workshop approach to teaching reading and writing and my understanding of the importance of choice and self-selection grew, my opinion changed. I no longer see structured “Literature Circles” as the best way for students to interact together while reading. It’s easy for students to become locked into thinking solely about their assigned roles rather than being reflective and thinking independently. So rather than using traditional “Literature Circles,” I now use “Book Clubs” in my classroom. 

In this model, students meet together several times a week to discuss a common book. They work together to determine a reading schedule, make commits to completing the work, and are responsible for their own discussions. I feel this is a better model of encouraging deep thinking and asking students to take control of and be responsible for their own learning. 

While this model is ideal, it can be difficult to incorporate with some classes. Students accustomed solely to direct instruction often struggle to break away from being told what to think and do.  They are not used to inquiry in any sense and flounder when placed on their own. 

In these cases, I like to start reading groups with traditional Literature Circles as a model. We work together as a whole group reading one common text and learning different roles within small sharing groups. The roles serve as models for conversation starters and the traditional process gives students a sense of the work involved in participating  in student led reading groups. Once I see that students are capable of leading their own conversations, I break away from the assigned roles, allow students to select their own texts, and move into Book Clubs. 

The resources contained in this product enable you to start Book Clubs with a traditional Literature Circles approach. My recommendation is to use these tools like training wheels - there to support your students just long enough for them to learn the process and then remove. 

Some years, I would pilot Book Clubs with a select group of students who were either of a higher reading level than the rest of the class or had prior experience with clubs. In addition to helping me differentiate instruction at the beginning of the year, this also created a group of fabulous peer models later in the year when I started book clubs with the rest of the class.

There are a few ways of managing the sheets. Typically, I would run double sided copies with the “Daily Superhero Log” sheet on the front and a different role sheet on the back and run enough to give each student sheets to last the entire book. After hole punching, I would put a stack of sheets into the prongs of each student’s folder so that no pages were lost. This worked especially well with younger students.

With older students, or groups who liked to write and draw more than others, I copied the pages differently. I would run doubled sided copies of the “Daily Superhero Log” and give each student enough copies to last for the entire book. Then, I would run separate copies with the Role sheets on the front and extra writing sheets on the back (these are titled “My Role Today”). This gave students extra space to complete their work, if needed. I placed a piece of colored cardstock between the two sets of sheets, hole punched the stack, and placed inside the folder’s prongs. The cardstock served as a simple, inexpensive divider so that students could flip easily between the different kinds of sheets. 


As the freebie for this resource, I'm offering my Close Reading and Stop and Write Thinkmarks

I copy these on cardstock front to back, laminate, and give one to each student at the beginning of the year. Students keep the thinkmarks in their book boxes and use while reading independently. They serve as reminders of ways to annotate texts while reading and great places to stop, think, and write about their texts.

To download, head to my Facebook page and click on the pink "Summer Stock Up" tab (on the left side of the page). 


For the second category, I'm featuring my "Back to School: Getting to Know You and Read Aloud Pack." To be honest, this is one of my favorite resources from my shop. The 50+ page packet contains enough "Getting to Know You" activities to get you through the first two weeks of school. It's perfect for building classroom community and gathering initial writing samples, while learning more about each student. It's a great way to have students busily working on meaningful activities while you complete those beginning of the year assessments.

As much as I love the resource, it's one of my oldest and in need of an update. It's next on my list to revise, which makes it the perfect time to buy! Nearly every time I update a resource, I expand the product and increase the price. Those who have already purchased it can download the new version for free!


Here's a quick list of what's included:

Notes and directions for use (pages 1 - 6)
Name plates and name tags (pages 7 - 9)

Getting to Know You Activities (Week One)

1. Finding a Buddy (pages 10 - 12). Students pair with someone they don't know and interview him/her. They use the information learned to complete a compare and contrast activity and then introduce their new friend to the class. 

2. Time Capsule / Writing Sample (pages 13 - 19). Students write about how they see themselves now. I use this not only to learn about my new students, but also to use as a first writing sample. I give these back to students at the end of the year to show how much they've grown. 

3. Meet and Greet (page 20). Students walk around the room and find a person who fits each box on their sheets. Once they find someone to sign a box, students must ask a related question and remember the answer. 

4. Snowballs (pages 21 - 22). Students write story starters on their pages, crumple, and throw across the room! Then they scramble to find a "snowball" around them, read the starter, and add to it. When their pages are completed, students share their stories with the class. 

5. Goal Books (pages 23 - 31). Students write goals for the year in five areas: reading, writing, math, community (their role in the class), and personal (outside of school: sports, family, etc.). There are several covers to choose from. 

Activities to Accompany Read Alouds (Week Two)

1. "Ish," by Peter Reynolds (page 32). Students draw an "-ish" picture of themselves.

2. "Have you Filled a Bucket Today?" by Carol McCloud (pages 33 - 35). Students identify positive behaviors that would make them "bucket fillers" and negative behaviors that would make others think they were "bucket dippers."

3. "Those Shoes" by Maribeth Boelts (pages 36 - 48). Students write about how having a friend is better than having things. There are several formats to choose from. 

4. "Hooray for Diffendoofer Day!" by Dr. Seuss and Jack Prelutsky (pages 49 - 52). Students write and illustrate what they think an ideal teacher and school would be like. 

5. "The Incredible Book Eating Boy" by Oliver Jeffers. Students create a photo collage showing what they love so much they could eat. 


I'm giving away the "Time Capsule" portion of this resource as a freebie for you. In my classroom, I had students work on a small portion of the booklet each day, spreading the work out over the first week. It allowed me to test students individually while the rest of the class worked quietly. I loved seeing student responses and comparing them to how they viewed themselves at the end of the year. 

To download, head to my Facebook page and click on the blue "Summer Stock Up" tab (on the left side of the page). 


Like the freebie, but want the complete resource? Both are on sale right now in my TPT store.

You can also enter to win them for free!