Summer Picture Books for Upper Elementary

Summer Picture Books for Upper Elementary

Students love talking about all the things that they are going to do over summer break! They have big plans, even if it is just sleeping in!

If you teach through June like I do, getting knee-deep in all things summer is the best way to keep students engaged! And reading aloud amazing summer-themed picture books is the best way to keep them critically thinking, even as the school year winds down. (See the end of year read alouds HERE)

These fun-to-read summer-themed picture books are perfect for your upper elementary students! They are chock full of themes to explore, adventures to visualize, and information for them to devour. You will want to make these books a staple in your classroom library.

I am the Shark written by Joahn Holub

shark read aloud picture book

Sharks are instant engagement!
I love this book because it goes beyond just learning about the Great White Shark, and includes learning about all different sharks like the Hammerhead, Whale Shark, and Greenland Shark. Told from sharks perspectives, this book is perfect to compare and contrast different species of sharks and encourage note taking too. This book is the perfect read aloud to share before doing any animal research project, during a nonfiction reading unit, or just to learn all about the highly engaging sharks!

Come on Rain! written by Karen Hesse

come on rain picture book activity

This book was the first book I ever bought for my classroom library, so it holds a special place in my heart. Beyond that, this book is such a wonderful depiction of summer! The heat, the lazy days, and just hanging around the neighborhood with friends! This book follows the main character as she is waiting for a little rain to cool her off during a hot humid summer day. The word choice and figurative language in this book are wonderful models for any descriptive writing lessons.

Summertime Song written by Irene Haas

read alouds for summer

This story is a magical tale, written in stanzas about an adventure dreamed up by a little child. If you love reading fantasy books and want to offer your students something a little different in a read aloud, this is the book for you! Connections to the story Alice in Wonderland and Where the Wild Things Are will definitely be made!

Cece Loves Science and Adventure
written by Kimberly Derting and Shelli R Johannes

summer stem read aloud

I love the Cece series and this one is just perfect to get your students excited about summer!  Cece is a strong and curious female character who loves to explore and learn new things. Talk about an amazing role model for children, she is it!  This book follows Cece as she goes on a camping adventure, faces several problems, and overcomes them all with science and quick thinking. I especially love the STEM worksheet that Cece uses to solve her problem. The science facts included at the end show how science and STEM thinking is all around us! I love this one!

Jules VS the Ocean written by Jessie Sima

picture book about building sand castle

All of Jessi Sima books are so beautifully illustrated and tell such sweet stories, and this one is no different! This story follows Jules as she is determined to make the BEST sandcastle without the ocean getting in her way! This book is cleverly written, includes humor, and filled with onomatopoeia that your students will love to read and then try out in their own summer writing! The background story focuses on Jules' relationship with her sister, which makes this book perfect to discuss theme and life lessons, too!

The Raft written by Jim LaMarche

the raft read aloud picture book

Well, yes, this book makes almost every single one of book recommendation lists. I just love The Raft written by Jim LaMarche. If there is one book to buy for your classroom library and read over and over again with a different lens, this is it! This book follows the main character as he has to spend the summer with his outdoorsy grandmother who does not have a TV, the horror! He thinks he will have a terrible time but instead ends up having a summer filled with fun, learning, and discovery. This book will inspire your students to have summer adventures of their own!

Weslandia written by Paul Fleischman

read alouds for summertime for kids

Weslandia, written by Paul Fleischman, is another one of my highly recommended books and so perfect to read as the year winds down and summer fever is in full effect!  This book is about a boy who does not feel like he fits in with his peers. Since he feels alone in his community, he builds a community of his own that reflects his own interests and personality. He realizes that being himself is just what he needs to make friends. I love this book for a beginning of the year read aloud and then revisiting it all year long, especially at the end of the year!

Help harness your students' excitement for summer with these high-engagement summer-themed picture books that lend themselves to meaningful discussions, content-baed activities, and summer discussions. Happy summer, teacher friends!

You might be interested in reading:

Check out my favorite summer activities HERE

Like this procedural writing project!

how to build a sand castle writing activity

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list of must read summer books for kids

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End of the Year Last Week of School Picture Book Read Aloud


Last Week of School Read Alouds

The end of the year is always so bittersweet! You are ready for the summer, but saying goodbye to your students after a year of being together is never easy! 

I love to countdown the last few days of school with fun and memorable picture books to wish students well as they leave my classroom and begin new adventures. Make the last week of school memorable and wish your students well with these read alouds perfect for the last week of school. 

All of these books follow the same theme and message, dream big, do good in the world, and be yourself! What a wonderful way to send off the kids for summer! (The summer read alouds can be found HERE.)

Play up the idea of having a countdown the last week or two of the year with picture books by trying one of these ideas:

  • Wrap each of the books that you plan to read aloud to countdown the year with wrapping paper or plain brown paper bags and clearly label them with a large number. Unwrap the books right before reading for a little extra suspense!
  • Create a paper chain with each link including the title and author of the book you plan on reading. Each day have a different student rip off a link and read the title and author.

Be sure to grab some fun and FREE activities at the end of this post, perfect to accompany these end-of-year read alouds!

Memory Jars written by Vera Brosgol

end of year picture book activities

Memory Jars is a story that truly illustrates just how sweet good memories really are! This story follows the main character Freda as she bottles up everything she loves in jars so that she does not ever lose them, including her best friend who was moving. After almost everything in her life is in a jar, she begins to feel lonely. Freda learns that enjoying the moment and loved ones is the best way to make memories. This book is perfect to kick off a walk down memory lane with your students and remember all of the memories of the school year!

Scribble Stones written by Diane Alber

end of year projects and read alouds

Painting rocks for others is one act of kindness I love doing at home with my children and in the classroom with students. This book is the perfect way to kick off a kindness-themed rock painting end-of-year activity! Have students paint rocks for their friends and write meaningful class letters about why each student rocks! This book sends the message that all art is beautiful and that one simple act can bring happiness to others. 

What Would You Do In a Book About You? written by Jean Reidy

end of year read alouds upper elementary

Don't you just love those picture books that come full circle that you can read on the first day AND the last day of school? What Would You Do in a Book About You? is one of those books. This book encourages kids to dream big! I love the message it sends to kids that they can really do anything they dream and put their mind too, and of course reminds them to spread a little kindness along the way!

This book is perfect to read on the first day of school, when the whole school year is ahead of them, and then again on the last day of school, as you say goodbye and remind them that the whole world is ahead of them!

What Will You Be? written by Yamile Saied Mendez

End of year picture books and activities

Listen to heart and dream big! What Will You Be? follows a young girl as she thinks and dreams about what her future holds. I love the message of following your inner voice and heart to help you make choices in your life. The young girl dreams of changing the future, impacting others in positive ways, and laughing along the way. Her dreams will inspire your students to change the world, one dream at a time, all while staying true to themselves. Bonus, the illustrations by Kate Alizadeh are so colorful and eye-catching you will want to stare at each and every page!

 Happy Dreamer written by Peter H Reynolds

Happy Dreamer Picture Book Activities

Carve your own path...and just be you! These words from the Happy Dreamer are just about the best message I could send my students before they leave our classroom community. All of Peter H. Reynolds' books are filled with encouragement and wisdom, and this is no different. Each and every one of your students will be encouraged to dream big dreams and go out into the world and reach them, in their own way! I love that!

Songbird written by Jenn Larson

Songbird, written by Jenn Larson is a sweet story of big dreams and determination. This book follows the main character, Sydney Sparrow as she takes her dreams into her own hands (or wings). After telling her family and teacher that she wants to be a conductor, she is told time and time again, no bird can be a conductor. She refused to take no for an answer and day after day puts a plan into place to one day lead a symphony herself. Your students will love to cheer Sydney on and then share their own big dreams, too! Have students share what their BIG dreams are in a class conversation circle or by having them write their own DREAM BIG poems!

Wrapping up the school year with picture books that welcome new adventures is the perfect way to say goodbye to your students. These read alouds are filled with love and good wishes. You will surely want to add these books to your end of year routine and celebrations.

Happy summer, teacher friends!

Connect with me on Instagram for more picture book recommendations!

You might be interested in reading:

Check out my favorite end of year activities
right HERE

Like this no-prep one!

Last Week of School Read Alouds

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Last Week of School Read Alouds

*affiliate links: “Think Grow Giggle is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.” (source: Section 5)


7 Ways to Celebrate the End of the Year

7 Ways to Celebrate the End of the Year

There is nothing like the excitement found in classrooms at the end of the school year! 

It even begins to build weeks before the year actually ends! I love celebrating the end of the school year with a mix of projects and reading activities to keep the students learning, but also creative activities that help them to share all of their memories of the year and excitement for what's to come!

It is all about balance during the last few weeks of school! Not sure where to begin when it comes to planning for the end of the school year? I can help! Here are my tried and true ways to celebrate the end of the school year!

Project Time! 

end of school year celebration and project

The end of the year means project time in my classroom! From research projects to real-world math performance tasks I love ending the year with independent projects that allow choice and give students a chance to shine! When it comes to bringing projects into your classroom, organization is key to truly allow for students to be independent as they work. 

Project working time includes two main parts: students working independently to complete the project and project presentations. Be sure to plan for both when deciding which project you do with your students. You want to make sure you have enough time left in the year to do both! Want to get started planning projects in your classroom? Read this blog post with all of my best tips to make project time a success!

High Interest Project Topics Kids Love:

Grab this FREE set with a writing and a math project to keep your students learning as the year winds down.

End of Year Read Alouds

end of school year read alouds picture books

If you have followed me for any amount of time, you know that I love reading aloud to students. No matter how old students are, they love to get cozy and listen to a good book! From picture books to chapter books, and even poetry read alouds, my third and fifth-grade students always loved to be read to.

Try ending the year with a read-aloud countdown! Select how many days you want to have in your end-of-year reading countdown, set aside the same time every day, and then get reading.

For end-of-year reading countdowns, I usually pick ten days to countdown with books. That means for the last ten days I pick ten picture books and then read them the last twenty minutes of the day on each of the last ten days. If you pick a chapter book to read a chapter or two a day, you may have to use more than ten days! Be sure to plan it out.

Looking for some good end-of-year books to add to your countdown? Try these!

Community Building

end of school year celebration and community building

Community building is such an important part of the year for me and something that we continue to build all year long, right up to the last day of school! I use a wide range of activities and read alouds to strengthen student relationships throughout the year. At the end of the year, we have one last project to celebrate each other that the kids love!

The last community-building project of the year involves rock painting, friendship letters, and a whole bunch of smiles. Students randomly draw names from a bowl and write letters, poems, and create illustrations about one of their classmates, celebrating all the amazing things about them! They also fill in the You Rock page with all the things that they love about their classmate. The end of the year community building is all about how friendships rock! It is a powerful way to end the year celebrating each other.

Reflecting on the Memories

end of school year projects

I love having students brainstorm their favorite memories of the year! They all have different memories that make their top ten list and it is so much fun to remember each and every one! There are so many ways for you to help students celebrate the good times of the year. Here a few of my favorite ways to celebrate the end of the school year:

  • Memory Jars: Have students fill a jar page with all of their favorite memories of the year! They can just jot down the topic of their memory and share more details aloud with the clas. You can also get a large jar for this activity. Have students write one favorite memory on a strip of paper and put it in the jar. When you have collected everyone's strip of paper, pull them out one at a time to take a stroll down memory lane!
  • Top Ten Lists: I love top ten lists! They are simple and yet such a powerful way to have students share all of their favorites from the year! Try these: Top 10 List of Books We Read, Top 10 Moments of the Year, Top 10 Games, Top 10 Recess Moments, and also allow students to create their own top ten list ideas!
  • Snapshots of the Year: Bustout the colored pencils and have students create colorful pictures of their favorite two memories. Once they have completed their illustrations have them write a paragraph to describe each. These make an adorable end-of-the-year bulletin board.
  • Memory Posters: Let students be the artists and get creative by creating their own end-of-year memory poster. Leave it open-ended for students to come up with what they want to include in their poster.

You've Come A Long Way

end of school year celebrations

The end of the year is the perfect time for a little self-love! Let students celebrate themselves and all that learned during the school year! Kids need reminders to see how far they have come and remember all of their accomplishments throughout the year!

To help students celebrate themselves and their own accomplishments, have students create their own top ten list about what they learned this year! We celebrate the end of the year by celebrating our "Amazing Feets" of the year, filling in different rulers with the different accomplishments of the year. Students love this play on words and get excited to fill in each ruler! Be sure to discuss that students can celebrate any accomplishment of the year, big or small!

Another way to celebrate student accomplishments is to have them create an acrostic poem for the word ACHIEVEMENTS or MEMORIES. Students then complete the acrostic poem focusing solely on everything they succeeded at during the year.

Do you want to help share the love of student accomplishments? Try these:

Shoutouts and Thank Yous

end of school year ideas upper elementary

Have your students celebrate the staff during the end of the school year season! These are always a huge hit each year.

The year that I started teaching fifth grade, which is the last grade level in the school, I started to have my students send Staff Shoutouts to celebrate all the teachers that they worked with over the years before they headed off to middle school.

Here is how I organized this activity.  During the last week of school, students send at least five shoutouts to former teachers and staff members who they want to thank and recognize as an important part of their lives and experience at the school. Students complete the shoutout form and then secretly tape it to the door of the staff member to surprise them. They are so much fun to send and to receive and truly makes the last week of school something to look forward to!

You can use these with any age students, they all love completing them and sending them!

These FREE shoutout forms are both print and digital, so you can have your students send them remotely, too!

Summer Reading

summer reading ideas for upper elementary

Before the school year ends I love helping students get excited about summer reading! While many districts use state-run programs to track summer reading, or the reading programs at the local library, getting them excited to read over the summer is still my job!

Here are few different ways that we share books and talk about all things reading and summer reading in my classroom as the year begins to wind down.

  • Summer Reading Kick-Off Program: Welcome visitors into the classroom to share a few chapters of their favorite chapter book to get kids excited to read the rest over the summer. Find out how I organize this right HERE.
  • Student Book Talks: I love, love, love using book talks in the classroom all year long! But we turn up the notch to get excited about summer reading. Have one or two students complete a book talk leading up to the last day of school and keep track of all the books shared by creating your own list of class recommendations for the summer. Find out how I use book talks right HERE
  • Reading Bulletin Board and Notecards: Create an eye-catching end-of-year reading bulletin board to show kids the reading is truly an adventure! Bonus, print the posters four to a page and you have instant reading notecards to send home with your students to motivate them all summer long!
  • Reader Reflections: My students love creating these reader self-portraits and filling in all of their reading stats! This is a fun one to complete the last week of school as you celebrate all your readers!

Help students shine at the end of the school year! There is no better feeling than having students leave for the summer knowing that they had a successful year academically and socially. No matter which way you choose to end the school year, your students will love to celebrate all the big and small moments of the year. Happy summer break teacher friends!

You might be interested in reading:

Check out my favorite end of year activities
right HERE

Like this end of year writing project!

end of year projects upper elementary

LOVE these ideas? Pin to save!

7 Ways to Celebrate the End of the Year

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