behavior management,  circle time,  early literacy,  reading

Dealing with difficult behaviors during read alouds

Preschoolers are smart! They know that when you are sitting in front of the group reading a story, you are less likely to stop what you’re doing to address their ridiculous behavior.  Every group usually has at least one who will take advantage of this, and that can make any teacher dread read alouds.

I’ve been there.  You desperately want to ignore the behavior, you try, but it gets worse and then the other children are beginning to notice, and all of a sudden no one is paying attention to the story anymore.  So I thought I’d share some behavior management ideas that have worked for me, hopefully these will save your story times.

Before you start reading:

  • Make sure each child has a designated place to sit; rugs, wiggle seats, a tape square on the floor, or even a colored sheet of paper.  These all serve as visual reminders of where each child’s body should stay. 
  • Give the children something to do with their hands.  Fidgets, stress balls, small stuffed animals, and bean bags are all things that children can play with quietly as they listen.  I make sure to review my two rules every time I pass these out;
    • They are for the children to squeeze, rub, or hold onto in their laps. 
    • If it leaves the child’s lap at any time, it goes back in the basket
While you’re reading:
  • Make eye contact with all of the children throughout the story.  This lets the children know that you can pay attention to them and the book at the same time. 
  • Make the story fun – check out my tips here
  • Use a nonverbal behavior management system that you can enforce without speaking.  For example, put each of the children’s photos on a magnet, if a child is being disruptive during the story you can reach over and place their photo on the magnet board.  This will let the child know that they get to see you after you are done reading, without interrupting the story.
After you’ve finished reading:
  • Thank the children who were cooperative and let them know that you really appreciate their behavior. 
  • Read the book again with the child who was disruptive.  If he or she complains about having to listen to it again, let them know that you didn’t think they were paying attention to the story and you wanted to make sure they got to hear it.  If they sit nicely while you read one-on-one have a conversation about it, ask them why they choose not to sit nicely when you read to the group. 
  • Be human.  Share with the children that it hurts your feelings when someone is disruptive.  Preschoolers can understand hurt feelings, but they might be shocked to learn that sometimes your feelings get hurt too.  Preschoolers can also be very protective, if they know that it hurts your feelings when someone interrupts your story, they may work together to help each other pay attention. 
I would love to hear what works for you! Share your strategies in the comments. 

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