Have you ever had to stop in the middle of a read-aloud to address behavior? Struggled to maintain order during storytime? Worried about overall engagement during read-alouds? Choosing hilarious stories and using tools like Novel Effect can certainly help. Sometimes we have to reach for other tools in our toolbox to help keep our wiggliest little learners on track. Our team of experienced educators and librarians are happy to share their tips and tricks. Adapt their read-aloud strategies to suit your audience and you’ll soon see a distraction-free read aloud in no time!
Read-Aloud Strategies for Calm Storytimes
Here are four tried-and-true strategies Novel Effect Librarian and Curator, Danielle Fritz, has used to keep little learners attentive during storytime.
Set Expectations Early
I always gave a brief overview of expectations at the start of my storytimes as a public librarian. They included waiting to be called on to speak, keeping your hands to yourself, and staying seated on your carpet square. I always made a point of letting parents know that the door was unlocked and they could come and go as needed. It’s important for families to have the flexibility to slip out for a few minutes to calm a fussy baby. Your classroom, or school library might have different ground rules. The key is how you share them. Keep expectations brief, to the point, and share them at the start.
The most important part of implementing read-aloud strategies is reinforcement. I learned early on that if you’re not willing to reinforce rules immediately, the rules might as well not exist. Consistency will be appreciated by children in particular. Be consistent, brief, and matter-of-fact in your corrections and you’ll see results.
Put a Bubble In Your Mouth
“Put a Bubble In Your Mouth” is a great storytime management strategy where your little learners puff out their cheeks to create a “bubble” that should not “pop” unless they are given permission to speak. These “bubbles” are cute, funny, and effective. I introduce the idea of putting a bubble in your mouth at the beginning of the read-aloud and remind my audience as needed that their bubbles should stay in place until they’re asked to answer a question. I usually get a giggle from the child when I point out a “popped” bubble.
Rhymes to Remind
Using songs, rhymes, or clapping can also help outline behavior expectations. Many educators use clapping patterns to draw attention—to set guidelines for younger groups, I used the opening song “If You’re Ready for a Story” for my storytimes.
My favorite strategy was to add lines about turning on our listening ears, putting a bubble in our mouth, and sitting still. The first few verses were about stomping our feet, and clapping our hands to let off some steam.
The rhyme Tickle the Clouds is another fun and interactive way to begin and end storytimes with young readers. There are a ton of rhymes, songs, and clapping patterns out there. With a bit of searching you’ll find one that suits you.
Sharing is Caring
The best way to motivate some children is to explain why a certain behavior is expected. I would remind little learners that if they don’t stay seated, they might block the pictures for others. I would also explain that interrupting can ruin the story for their fellow learners. Give your audience buy-in and they’ll respond. Most wiggly, distracting actions aren’t done maliciously, and most kids don’t want to take away from others’ experiences.