Ideas: Keeping kids' attention while reading aloud

God's Creation From A to Z: A Complete Kindergarten Curriculum
Post Reply
Posts: 473
Joined: Mon Jun 28, 2004 2:40 pm

Ideas: Keeping kids' attention while reading aloud

Unread post by kellybell »

Texas Gal wrote:My kids LOVE fiction books and will sit still and listen while I read. But if it's non-fiction, I have the hardest time keeping my kids' interest. Does anyone have any ideas about how to keep their attention during the "activity" portion of MFW-K when we are to gather information about the new topic? Thanks!
For me (perhaps I'm lazy), I skip the stuff that doesn't work. Just because the teacher's guide say to do it, doesn't mean I must do it. But, I try to emphasize the stuff that DOES work.

First off, don't worry about the three year old. A 3 yo often can't keep his or her attention focused for long at all. A preschoolers job is to make messes, explore, and eat crayons (not to sit through a non-fiction book on cows). And many 5 yo's aren't ready for that sort of learning either. You could simply put MFWK up for a while and try again later.

Or, if you want to press on, then skip the non-fiction and get great fiction books (using the MFW list and beyond!). Read a colorful and fun fiction book on butterflies (I like Charley the Caterpillar) and after you read, skip back to a picture of the butterfly and show the three body parts. Or, skip back to pictures of both the caterpillar and the butterfly and explain it's the same animal! So, before you read the book, decide what facts you can present using the fiction book.

At this age, don't expect to be able to cram in a lot of different facts. A few well-said sentences work better than a dissertation...

Also, use craft projects to teach the facts. Again, do the craft, then point out some cool facts about the subject. So, do the leaf rubbings and then explain how the veins in the leaves bring the water to the tips of the leaves. One sentence ought to do it.

Posted Wed Aug 13, 2008 10:57 pm by kellybell

You know, some kids (my son included) eat up non-fiction like chocolate. Others see it as the equivalent of brussel sprouts.

I read a book saying if you need to get kids to eat veggies you ought to puree them and put them in pasta sauce, meatloaf, or whatever. Disguise veggies and they will go down the tube!

Sometimes you need to do that with information too. If non-fiction books on turtles leave your child cold, find a nice fiction book with the information pureed and included. That way your kids won't even know that they are learning.

Holling C. Holling has some really nice books on US Geography. I'd much rather read Paddle to the Sea than read a dry book on the St. Lawrence and the Great Lakes. My dh even remembers seeing the movie Paddle to the Sea in school when he was a schoolboy in Michigan.

And, we just got done with a road trip (a very long one -- and, oh, did I mention I GOT TO MEET CRYSTAL FACE TO FACE) and we listened to several books on CD to pass the time in the van. One we enjoyed was Tree Castle Island by Jean Craighead George (she also wrote Julie of the Wolves and My Side of the Mountain, I believe). It was based in the Okefenokee Swamp which (before listening to the book) I remembered was "somewhere in Georgia." Well, after listening to the book I can (as can my kiddos) tell you of the current in the swamp, the rivers that flow out of the area, about peat bogs, bears, etc. The kids grabbed the road atlas and now know where in Georgia the Okefenokee is. Lots of science was mixed in that story. So, while we were entertained by a fun story, we also learned a lot (without really realizing it). Sort of the pureed vegetable approach.

If I had told the kids, "Okay, for the next 200 miles, we're going to listen to a CD listing facts about the Okefenokee Swamp," they would first think I'm crazy and then they'd ask if it were legal to hitchhike to grandma's.

So, don't fret it too much if a young student just doesn't "get into" non-fiction books. Find the best ones you can (I think there's a good "Crinkleroot" book on turtles but I might be wrong) and if they don't work, search for fiction on the same subjects. And, while I'll never advocate abandoning books altogether (gasp!), it's okay to substitute a cool video now and then too for imparting information. Reading has its place but its not the only way to get those veggies in. Hands-on projects also are a great way to learn things too. If you are making a paper mache (oh, that can't be how to spell that) turtle, you can brush up on turtle facts and then discuss them as you make the turtle, "and this bottom shell is the carapice. On some turtles, it's hinged so that the turtle can totally tuck in..."

If one approach doesn't work, try another...
Kelly, wife to Jim since 1988, mom to Jamie (a girl, 1994), Mary (1996), Brian (1998) and Stephanie (2001).

Unread post by cbollin »

For those day 1 books, I kept mine to simple text with lots of pictures.

Like Kelly said, don't worry about it with the 3 y.o. The 5 y.o --- just let them look at pictures. and then refer to those pictures through the week. You're adding a little bit of knowledge to their world not everything this year.

I used a simple collection from Usborne. It was a general science book. Each "topic" was only 2 pages long. Some days we were able to read the whole paragraph, other days it was point to this and move on.

I think the big key for me was having just 1 or 2 little things and have them ready to go.

It will get better as they get older. My 2nd child was 5 when she did the K program. She has various educational labels including an ability to tune it out with non-fiction. It gets better with time

Posts: 94
Joined: Wed Nov 16, 2005 11:26 am

Unread post by Ariasarias »

For us we had days like you shared also. Some days my children were more interested than others. I agree with has already been said. I would not sweat about what it looks like they are learning. This year you just want to introduce them to God's wonderful world. There will be some things that excite them more than others. You will see as you get excited about the learning, they may pick up on it sometimes (and other times they may have blank stares :). I've been amazed at what my then 2 dd learned last year just listening in. It seemed many days she wasn't even interested. This year she refers to lots of stuff we talked about or read about last year. Just a few other things I tried:

* If they were getting restless, I let them go play and then maybe tried later in the day or even another day.
* On non-fiction books I found that I had to summerize a lot and pick only few things for them to learn. That way they could be excited about at least something and have something to build upon later.
* I left the books out in a place that they could easily get to to look at when they wanted. I found this created some interest sometimes. My 5dd "thought" she wasn't interested until I suggested she just look at the book during her rest time. She almost always would find something that sparked her interest and would spark conversation. I found that later the she would sometimes show her sister or her sister would also look in effort to copy.

Relax and enjoy. Have fun discovering with your children. :)
Nicole, wife to Claudio since 1996, and mom to dd (2000), dd (2003), dd (2005), and ds (2009).
Posts: 350
Joined: Thu Aug 03, 2006 2:45 pm

Unread post by RachelT »

Hello Texas gal - we should pow wow because I am teaching MFWK to my 5.5 and 3.5 yr olds! I have had the same thing happen. Have you heard of the term "living books"? I have found that when I can find books from the library that are written more like a fiction book as they present information they are a lot more interesting for all of us to read and listen to. When I use our DK animal encyclopedia they do enjoy looking at the big pictures, but I have to summarize or pick which parts to read - and make it quick!

We have really enjoyed some great children's picture books from the library that teach the science, for example books written by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace like "Seeds, Seeds, Seeds", "Leaves, Leaves, Leaves", and "Apples, Apples, Apples". We also found informative picture books about turtles called "All About Turtles" and "Look Out Turtles!". What unit are you doing now? We are on Day 3 of Lesson 6. If you want suggestions for the other units, let me know. Like another post above, I also leave these books out on a coffee table like the book basket idea so the kids can look through them during the week. I also try to read about the topic with them a little bit each day instead of all on day 1 and day 6 if I have found several books related to the unit.

I feel like my children start getting restless when they need a snack, when they need a break to play outside, or when something is hard for them (the handwriting is a challenge for my 5.5 yr old son). But I absolutely love how much they are retaining by doing all the hands on activities and how much more observant and aware of God's creation they are becoming. MFWK is just awesome!

Every 3 yr old is different, but from my own experience I think that most 3 yr olds could easily participate in the read alouds and most of the hands on activities in the white pages. So far, my 3.5 yr old dd even does a lot of the other activities from the yellow pages with my ds because she wants to. She is almost 4 and I don't know if this will change as we begin to sound out words or if she is just going to be an early reader. On the flip side, my 5yr old also enjoys the preschool toys and I think they both learn from both things. Anyway, I think that if you follow your 3yr old's lead, you will know what they are ready to try and if he/she does more playing and listening, then he/she is still going to get something out of it and probably remember more than you would think.

Keep me posted!
Posts: 79
Joined: Tue Jan 03, 2006 7:36 pm

Unread post by Fly2Peace »

We have a lot of posters at the Wildlife and Parks office that fit many of the themes. I use them many times. Big pictures. Not so overwhelming with words. The turtle one was GREAT! I had no idea turtles could be so many colors, purple, blue, yellow, etc. I hang them up and leave them for a while. Then down they go and back to the library or parks office.
Fly2Peace (versus flying to pieces)
Posts: 109
Joined: Sat Sep 11, 2004 9:25 pm

Unread post by MJP »

Read a paragraph or two while they are eating. I love a captive audience!
Wife of 1 for 18 yrs. Mom of 7--ages 1-15--1st, 2nd, 5th, 8th and 9th grades & (one on the way)
Psalm 16:8
Currently using--1850 to Modern Times
Previously--MFW K , 1st, CtoG, RTR, Exp. to 1850
Posts: 9
Joined: Fri Apr 04, 2008 10:03 pm

Re: Ideas: Keeping kids' attention while reading aloud

Unread post by AudMama »

K - keeping child's attention

Post Posted Wed Aug 13, 2008 9:48 pm by Tennessee Mama

I read "information" with tons of excitement in my voice and stop often to see if everyone understands.

Sometimes I can be very silly with it. When it comes to a part that I really want them to remember I'll gasp and say, "Oh my gosh! Can you believe..."
dd11, ds9, ds8, ds4, ds2
Currently using Rome to the Reformation & Kindergarten.
Posts: 87
Joined: Mon Jul 03, 2006 9:05 pm

Re: Ideas: Keeping kids' attention while reading aloud

Unread post by Mom2MnS »

Posted Wed Aug 13, 2008 11:47 pm by Mom2MnS

We did the same with fiction books that were filled with good info, and my dd loved them.

For the nonfiction, we looked through them together and when something caught her eye we stopped to discuss it / look for an answer to her question. We both really enjoyed them this way.

There used to be some really great additional book suggestions on the K idea board - you might check there for some ideas :)
WLiC, Quinne

MFW since 2006
ECC (8th, 4th & 2nd) 2015-16
Jenn in NC
Posts: 144
Joined: Fri Jun 23, 2006 2:00 pm

Re: Ideas: Keeping kids' attention while reading aloud

Unread post by Jenn in NC »

Posted Thu Aug 14, 2008 6:31 am by Jenn in NC

When we did K, we used a computer-based encyclopedia instead of the book version for some of the science info, and my kids all loved that. I don't know if that is a good option for you or not, but the multi-media content available in the computer based encyclopedia was very attention-grabbing for my dc.

For example, for the sun unit, the encyclopedia we were using had an animation of the orbit of the planets around the sun, and some pic's of the surface of the sun etc, and an interactive shuttle orbit where the kids could choose the trajectory of the shuttle and then watch it get "grabbed" by the gravitational pull of the sun. Very cool. We had to do the shuttle thing over and over and over ... :)

Anyway, just a thought.
mommy to four boys & two girls... and another boy on the way :)
completed K, 1st, ADV, ECC, CTG and RTR
2009--2010 Enjoying Exploration to 1850
Post Reply