Undoubtedly, the most important thing for us to teach our students the first week of school are the rules and expectations in our classroom. Setting the stage for our school year early helps students know what to expect and helps our classroom flow more smoothly. What better way to teach rules and expectations than to use picture books? Below you will find 15 books that focus on different rules and expectations. These books are great for kids of all ages!
Check out These Books to Encourage Kindness & Empathy in the Classroom
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15 Books to Teach Rules and Expectations
1. My Mouth is a Volcano by: Julia Cook
This book follows Louis the interrupter whose thoughts take over his brain and erupt out of his mouth like a volcano. Tired of his talking, Louis’ classmates start interrupting him. Louis begins to see how frustrating it feels to be interrupted.
Ideas for Using This Book in the Classroom: During the first weeks of school, you’ll want to model what proper listening looks like. Your morning meeting is the perfect time to model listening without interrupting. Ask your students ‘How would you feel if Louis was here and tried to interrupt us every time we try to talk?’ How should we teach Louis to be a better listener? You can create an anchor chart with your students by listing ‘good listener’ traits.
2. The Recess Queen by: Alexis O’Neill
“Mean Jean was Recess Queen and nobody said any different.” That is until a new kid joins school and changes Mean Jean’s frosty heart. This book focuses on the issue of bullying and shows kids how they can resolve some issues on their own.
Ideas for Using This Book in the Classroom: After reading this book, take your students outside and play ‘Recess Etiquette Freeze Dance’. Read different recess scenarios out loud. Students must decide if this is proper recess behavior or not. If it is a positive behavior, they will continue to dance. If it is not proper recess behavior, students will freeze.
3. The Juice Box Bully by: Bob Sornson
Pete is a bully who constantly misbehaves. Instead of letting him get away with it, his classmates take matters into their own hands. They teach Pete about “the promise” in hopes of changing his ways. This book teaches students how to hold their peers accountable for their actions.
Ideas for Using This Book in the Classroom: Model appropriate and inappropriate behaviors. Have students share which behavior was correct and why. Work with students to develop a list of appropriate behaviors for school. Create a classroom contract on a sheet of chart paper containing a list of these rules. Have students sign the contract showing that they understand and will abide by them.
4. The Magical Yet by: Angela DiTerlizzi
There are things all of us haven’t learned to do yet. This book teaches all about yet by helping children see what they cannot do as something they can’t do yet. The Magical Yet will help teachers reframe their students’ mindset by helping them to see things positively.
Ideas for Using This Book in the Classroom: Talk with students about persevering and doing things even when they are difficult. List some of the things that they will be learning about this year that they may not know yet. Share some things that you have not learned how to do yet either. Have students draw and write about some things they can’t do yet, but hope to be able to do this school year. This is a great way to introduce goal-setting to your students. Once they are ready, they can create their first goal for the quarter using the free goal-setting sheet.
Free Student Goal-Setting Sheet
Do you want to start tracking quarterly goals with your students? Try out this free goal setting tracking printable PDF. Also includes SMART Goals breakdown that elaborates on how to set SMART goals with your students.
5. Chairs on Strike by Jennifer Jones
A funny read-aloud perfect for the first day of school! A group of chairs go on strike after being constantly mistreated. This fun rhyming book teaches students the importance of taking care of school property.
Ideas for Using This Book in the Classroom: Have students write a journal entry from another classroom item’s point of view! How does that item feel when it is misused or mistreated? How should it be used by students? Have students share and discuss the importance of taking care of materials in the classroom.
6. Do Unto Otters by: Laurie Keller
This book features cute otters alongside rabbits and owls to teach the lesson of being kind to others even if they’re different from you. Teaching kindness through a diversity lens is a must-have lesson in your classroom.
Ideas for Using This Book in the Classroom: Try doing kindness shoutouts in your classroom! They’re a fun way to build classroom community and spread love amongst your students. Grab the free printables below. Want more kindness ideas? Check out these kindness activities for your classroom.
Free Kindness Shoutout Printables
Set up a kindness shoutout box in your classroom where students can write a short note about a classmate that was ‘caught being kind’. A fun way to sprinkle kindness in your classroom! Download the free box label and nomination slips below.
7. We Don’t Eat our Classmates by: Ryan T. Higgins
Students will follow Penelope Rex as she attends class with human kids. Penelope has a difficult time making friends at school because she just wants to eat them. Penelope must learn how to be kind (and not eat) her fellow classmates. This book is bound to have your students laughing!
Ideas for Using This Book in the Classroom: Ask students how they should treat their classmates. As you read the book, stop to discuss Penelope’s actions and whether she is treating her classmates kindly or unkindly. Have students work with a partner to act out a kind and unkind example of how to treat a classmate. Remind students that they are a part of a classroom community who love and support one another.
8. A Bad Case of Tattle Tongue by: Julia Cook
Josh loves to tattle…on everyone. Whether it’s his classmates, his brother, or the dog, he loves to run and tell what they did wrong. One morning, Josh wakes up with a long yellow tongue with purple spots, called a tattle tongue. Will Josh learn to stop tattling so that his tongue returns to normal?
Ideas for Using This Book in the Classroom: Give students a list of rules that help prevent them from being a tattle tongue! Some ideas are only tattling if someone is in danger, being a problem solver instead of tattling, deciding if the problem can wait to be solved later, and trying not to tattle at all. Give students practice scenarios and ask them if these are reasons to tattle.
9. That Rule Doesn’t Apply to Me by Julia Cook
Noodle is having a difficult time during the first days of school. The rules keep getting in the way of his fun! He believes that the rules shouldn’t apply to him. He soon learns the importance of rules and how they help keep everyone safe in the classroom.
Ideas for Using This Book in the Classroom: Have students work with a partner to create a list of rules they believe are important for keeping everyone in the classroom safe.
10. The Bad Seed by: Jory John
The Bad Seed features a seed who never listens, cuts in line, and does what he wants. His behavior is the complete opposite of what it should be. He meets another seed who helps him see that maybe bad behavior isn’t the best thing to have after all.
Ideas for Using This Book in the Classroom: After reading the book, create a T chart. Ask students to share some of the negative behaviors that the Bad Seed had in the book. On the left side of the anchor chart, list those behaviors. Then, ask them to help you brainstorm what the Bad Seed could’ve done instead. List those behaviors on the right side of the chart. This is a great way to review expectations with students for different rules in the school.
Classroom Management Resources:
11. Back-to-School Rules by: Laurie Friedman
Percy is the rule expert, and if you follow his list of ten rules, then you’ll have no trouble at all. Percy also knows what not to do. Percy’s list of back-to-School rules are silly at times! The list will help your students reflect on the rules and expectations that they should be following while at school.
Ideas for Using This Book in the Classroom: Ask students to work with a partner to create a poster with three more rules that should be added to Percy’s list. Have students justify why these rules would be important to add to his list. Embrace the humor as students may make funny rules as Percy did.
12. Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse by: Kevin Henkes
Lily has many things that she loves including her movie star sunglasses, her brother Julius, school, and her purple plastic purse. Lily can’t wait to show off her purse at school, but her teacher takes it away from her. This makes Lily angry. Once her teacher returns her purse with a sweet note, Lily realizes she should apologize being angry.
Ideas for Using This Book in the Classroom: After reading the book, have students list the rules Lily’s teacher had in the book. Then have students list the rules in your own classroom. Work with students to compare and contrast the rules that are the same. Are there any rules in Lily’s class that should be added to your class? Why or why not?
13. Mind Your Manners in School by: Arianna Candell
With mini-stories focusing on different parts of the school day, this book shows students how they should behave at school when sharing, cleaning up, listening to the teacher, and more.
Ideas for Using This Book in the Classroom: Ask students to share what following directions looks, sounds, and feels like in different situations such as packing up, walking down the hallway, going to lunch, etc. As students are completing these things over the first week, remind them what following directions looks, feels, and sounds like in each of these locations.
14. Be Kind by: Pat Zietlow Miller
This book shows examples of being kind to your classmates even when they aren’t kind to you. Featuring beautiful illustrations and material that isn’t too heavy, this book will help younger students to discuss ways to be nice to their peers.
Ideas for Using This Book in the Classroom: Ask students how they can be kind to their classmates. Tell students that they will start writing down ways that their classmates were kind and adding it to the kindness bulletin board.
15. Strictly No Elephants by: Lisa Mantchev
It’s Pet Club Day. Cats, dogs, and even fish are allowed to attend, but elephants aren’t. The main character in the book decides to show his peers why elephants should be allowed. This book helps show why everyone should be included despite their differences.
Ideas for Using This Book in the Classroom: Ask students if they have ever been excluded. Remind them that the elephant was excluded from Pet Club Day in the book. Ask students to write about a time that they were excluded from something or by someone. After students have written, discuss how students felt when they were excluded. Have a class discussion about the importance of including everyone and making everyone feel valued. This is an important topic to cover early on in the school year to set the expectation that all students in our class are a part of our classroom community and should be treated as such.
I hope this list of books to teach rules and expectations helps you get your school year off to a great start. I know that your students will love engaging with these texts and learning about how they can follow your rules and expectations to make it a wonderful school year.