Whether a book is read in person, over the phone, or even on a virtual platform, reading aloud to students can be a very engaging experience. It is one of my favorite things to do when I visit a classroom. You can almost feel the students’ anticipation if it is a book they have read. And if it’s one they are not familiar with? Then you can see their eyes alight with excitement, eager to experience something new.
Reading books to students may seem like an easy task, but there are several things that you can do to prepare and practice. This will make it the best experience possible for both you and the students.
Things you can do to prepare:
- Make sure you are comfortable with the book. Go ahead and try a practice read before you are in front of a room full of students. This will help with fluency and will allow you to engage with students and not just be focused on the text.
- Time how long the book takes to read out loud. A child’s attention span can last approximately two to five minutes per year of their age. For example, a 5-year-old could be expected to listen 10 to 25 minutes at a time. Pick a book that is best suited for the age of the students. Of course every child is different, so while you are reading your book, you will need to be reading your audience. (More tips below on how to engage wandering listeners.)
- Books can be a great way to introduce students to agriculture and agricultural themes. While a trip to a farm could be overstimulating for some students, sitting in their classroom learning about farm animals could be a safe way to explore tractors, cattle, and crops. Need a few ideas? Check out the IALF lending library for books on beef, corn, dairy, the environment, farms, food, history, plants, pigs, poultry, soy, technology and so much more. Complete kits and teacher guides may also be available to check out.
- If you are looking for ways to increase your classroom library with accurate agriculture books, why not check out the Agriculture in the Classroom Teacher Supplement Grant Program?
Tips to improve the read-aloud experience:
Now that you have selected and practiced reading an age-appropriate agriculturally accurate book, it’s time to read to students.
- Always begin by reading the names of both the author and the illustrator. Children as young as three can begin to identify the author as “the one who wrote the story” and the illustrator as “the one who drew the pictures”. Students will become familiar with these words if you consistently use this method during read-alouds.
- Be sure to pause after each page, allowing the students to closely observe the illustrations. Taking in the pictures can help a student learn something new about the story each time it is read.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions, or even pause if you think some explanation is needed. Questions like, “have you ever seen a cow?” or “how do you think he feels about flying from farm to farm?” could be good questions to engage your audience. If you are looking to gauge involvement without a lot of discussion, you could always ask students to raise their hands. “By a show of hands, who would like to drive this tractor?”
- Get moving! Just because you are reading a book does not mean you need to be sitting. Stand up during exciting parts or even move around the room to draw students into the story. Are the characters in the book on a long dirt road? Maybe move to another end of the room. Does a part seem animated? Move the book “bump”, “zoom”, or “swish” depending on what the characters are doing or what action you are trying to portray.
- Add sound effects when appropriate and don’t forget to give different characters different voices. Don’t worry about sounding silly, that’s the point. Reading is FUN and young learners will enjoy seeing you enjoying reading.
- Sitting still can be an issue for active learners. Help them contain their wiggles by encouraging them. Have students act out parts with you. Even sitting down, they can use arms to climb up a grain bin or toss the hay with a pitchfork. You might even call on a student to be your book holder or page turner giving them a job, which focuses their attention.
This fall will bring many challenges as we return to school in person, online, or even a hybrid combination of the two. Reading out loud to your class can help to calm those first day of school jitters (theirs and yours). So check out an age appropriate agriculturally accurate book. I wish you good luck! And happy reading!