9 Books, 3 Activities & 4 FREE Downloads for Back-to-School - MindWing Concepts, Inc.

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9 Books, 3 Activities & 4 FREE Downloads for Kicking-Off Back-to-School!

by Sheila Zagula August 15, 2017 7 min read

Using Story Grammar Marker & related tools, focus on your students' feelings about the "Kick-Off" of going Back To School. This blog lesson includes 9 book suggestions, 3 activities and 4 free downloads!

It’s amazing how quickly summer flies by! I have mentioned many times that throughout my 38 years of teaching, I always appreciated the fact that each school year brought about new opportunities to improve my teaching techniques. Not all occupations offer one a chance to reflect on what worked and what could be refined, both in materials and delivery, with the overall goal of building upon children’s strengths. From our group at MindWing, we wish you a successful school year and Kick-Off Iconhope you enjoy the following blog to help with ideas to “KICK-OFF” your school year!


  1. Choose a book appropriate for your group. There are many book ideas on the internet to choose from, and I’m sure you have your favorites! We have included some titles you may be interested in below.
  2. Feelings poster graphicHave ready: Individual white boards (or paper/clipboards); markers; a larger white board (or chart paper) of which the content may be saved until the end of the day; SGM Feeling Poster; the materials for one of the activities presented below, modified to meet your student’s needs and your time frame.


  1. Braidy Doll pictureSGM Teacher Marker pictureReview the feelings list of your choice. Discuss how we may have more than one feeling about something that happens. If children have used the SGM, hold up the Teacher Marker or Braidy and point to the icons:

    ShoeKick-Off: first day of school

    Heart IconFeelings: the focus of our lesson.

  2. Sample Heart Question pictureTell students to close their eyes and think about the following question: How were you feeling this morning when you were getting ready and on your way to school? Write the question on a heart cutout as shown.
  3. On the individual white boards or on paper, ask the students to write two feeling words that reflect how they felt. Children may reference the bookmark or poster.
  4. Sample White Board pictureAsk the children to hold up the white boards and quickly make a list on the chart paper under the posted question. Tell the children not to erase their choices as they will be doing a little activity. (For younger students, modify by Braidy Heart Icon picturepassing the heart icon from Braidy doll around the circle and ask them to state one feeling word as you make a list on chart paper.)
  5. Briefly discuss the responses with the children. (They will discover that others may have written the same feeling word(s) they did.) Discuss the variety of choices… adding feeling words, if needed. (Depending on the age of the students, possible choices will be: happy, sad, mad, worried, upset, excited, nervous, etc.)
  6. Depending on your students, focus on—and time permitted—elicit a brief Turn and Talk about one of the words; for example, Worried: Why would someone feel worried about the first day of school? Discuss responses.
  7. Show the book of your choice. Ask students to think about the main character and how he/she feels as you read the selection. Read the book to the group.


  1. Hold a brief discussion of the story with the students with the focus on feelings and how the character may have felt the same/different from some of the words choices on the class list. Expand on the discussion as you deem appropriate.
  2. Below are three activities. Choose one of them. Depending on your students and time frame, you may modify accordingly. The second activity involves bringing the students together again before the end of the day to discuss how they are feeling after the day. I like this approach as it will give you a chance to check in with individuals as to how they are feeling.


Heart Activity Sheet graphic

Give each child a heart (from page 13.14 of MindWing’s Making Connections manual [Autism Collection Book 2, available separately]). FREE Download at right. Ask them to cut out and then write the two feeling words, one on each side of the heart. They may be asked to add why they felt that way as modeled in ”During: Step 6” above. Collect the hearts and adhere to a long piece of yarn or ribbon and hang from the question, as shown.

Sample Teacher-Made Marker photo


This next activity is also found in our Making Connections manual, page 13.19. We are pleased to present this to you as a Free Download HERE.

Expand the Feeling graphic


  1. Have children use the stamps (from Icon STAMPede™ Stamp Activity Set) in Stamped Activity Sheet photosmall groups to add the Character, Setting, Kick-Off and Feeling icons (or pre-stamp one yourself and make a copy for distribution).
  2. Ask students to write two sentences, on the left side of the inside, stating how they felt before school began. Have students cut and fold the project as described on the activity sheet and collect the papers. (Students may write a list of feelings words or draw an illustration, modify as you wish.)
  3. Ask the same students to join you at the end of the day and share the list created at the beginning of the day. Ask students to think about how the day went and how they are feeling now.
  4. Give the heart papers back to the students and invite them to write how they feel now that the day is ending other side of the opened heart. This would be a great time for you to circulate among students to check in as to how individuals are feeling about the day.
    Sample Feelings Foldable photo
    Folded Sample photoFolded Sample2 photo

    Folded Sample2 photoOne more sample from a particularly artistic student:


Feelings Drawing Page graphic

Use the heart picture frame from our Braidy the StoryBraid manual, page 137. Invite students to choose one way they were feeling at the beginning (or end) of the day and draw an illustration and write a corresponding sentence(s) to go with the picture. These could be put in a class book, collected and discussed with individual students, or taken home.

Book Suggestions

Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney

Llama Llama Misses Mama book coverIt’s always good to begin a school year reading a story that has familiar characters… the Llama series and Clifford were frequently two that I chose with pre-school/kindergarten students. This particular selection brings us through some of the emotions that Llama goes through during his first day of school. Students will identify with some aspects of his day. Pointing out how the teacher and other students help Llama adjust to his day would give students some ideas for helping others!

First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg

First Day Jitters book coverThe ending of this book so surprised me as instead of being about a student with “jitters” it ended up being the teacher! I think students would enjoy this perspective and as a teacher, you would have a wonderful opportunity to share your feelings about the first day of school.

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi

The Name Jar book cover(From the first page): “It was her first day, and she was both nervous and excited.” This would be an ideal book for older elementary students and would lend itself nicely to the above activity. The discussion could also be expanded in future days to talk about cultural diversity, the acceptance of others, and how to make others feel comfortable in a new situation.

Other selections with a different twist:

Cornelius P. Mud, Are You Ready For School? by Barney Saltzberg

Are You Ready for School book coverThis would be a good selection to use Braidy to retell what Cornelius did to get ready for school (Action Sequence/List). It would make a great selection for preschool children who then could be asked what they did to get ready for school.

Minerva Louise at School by Janet Morgan Stoeke

Minerva Louise at School book coverThis book could be paired with a tour of the building (the setting show icon)! Younger students will get a chuckle out of seeing the school from Minerva Louise’s perspective! The ending will surely have your students smiling!

Follow The Line To School by Laura Ljungkvist

Follow the Line to School book coverIf you are looking for a book to go over the various locations (settings) in school with older elementary students, this book is engaging and interactive. It would be a good choice for a small group of students or a one on one situation as there is so much to see! Students could take turns following the line through the settings.

Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes

Wemberly Worried book coverMany children worry about the first day of school and this book certainly addresses the feeling of worrying. It also speaks of the value of others to help us through. This is a good selection to keep in mind if you know of a student who is apprehensive about school.

Mommy in My Pocket by Carol Hun Senderak

Mommy in My Pocket book coverI was reminded of The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn when I read this book. Presented in rhyme, it is about a girl that wishes her mother could go in her pocket to school with her. She brings us through a day at school with her Mommy “tucked just right” into her pocket. It ends knowing that a hug and kiss will do! This would be a good selection for pre-school/kindergarten children who are anxious about going to school.

Kindergarten Kids, Riddles, Rebuses, Wiggles, Giggles and More! by Stephanie Calmenson

Kindergarten Kids book coverThe presented poems and rhymes correspond to all aspects of a day in school. Although kindergarten appears in the title, early elementary students would enjoy hearing the selections! I especially liked “See You Later, Alligator! There are lots of ways to say good-bye.” This would be a fun way to end a day!

Check out these previous related blogs on our MindWing website and feel free to modify them to meet the needs of your students!

In addition, below are two blogs to help you organize during the upcoming school year:


Bookmark graphic


Enjoy this Feelings Bookmark download (Making Connections manual, p13.13).

Sheila Zagula
Sheila Zagula

Sheila Zagula works with MindWing Concepts in product development, drawing on her expertise and talents as well as many years of implementing the Story Grammar Marker® and related materials. Her teaching career spans thirty-eight years, most recently as literacy coach in the Westfield Massachusetts Public School System. Sheila has experience as an early childhood educator, a teacher of children with special needs, and a collaborative instructor within an inclusion framework serving children in grades K-5.

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