Read-Alouds - Ideas for reading to fidgety kids

Copywork, Cursive, Dictation, Grammar, Handwriting, Letter Writing, Memory Work, Narration, Read-Alouds, Spelling, Vocabulary, & Writing (many of these topics apply to other subjects such as Bible, History, and Science)
Julie in MN
Posts: 2909
Joined: Mon Jun 28, 2004 3:44 pm
Location: Minnesota

Read-Alouds - Ideas for reading to fidgety kids

Unread post by Julie in MN »

tkkmommy wrote:This is our 1st year hs and with adventures. My son has a hard time staying focused when I read to him especially when we are reading "Exploring American History." I think that the reading is very well laid out, but maybe some of the readings are too lengthy for him.

My question is ~ should i just read ahead of time and write up a summary to read to him, or is there a different way to approach this so that he doesn't get lost in the reading? I do let him know ahead of time that there will be ?'s afterward, but this doesn't seem to matter most days.

If we could overcome this hurdle, I think that our whole hs experience would be much nicer! Thanks,
I asked my 11-year-old, who is also prone to "daydreaming" as he calls it. Of course, I expect more of a 5th grader than a 2nd grader...

Reid suggests:

1. Ask him questions about every 5 minutes. If he can't tell you what you just read, then you have to read it over.

2. Tossing a ball helps me -- some kind of squishy thing or something you can toss up. Instead of just sitting there dreaming.

3. If he can move around a little bit (not running, jumping, or making noises), like lying on the floor, then he can listen.

4. Sometimes make him sit on the couch right next to you (if he doesn't have a ball). Look at the book together.

5. Coloring while you read. [Ds does not like coloring per se, but he did work on several mosaics as we read about ancient Rome.]

6. Take breaks & do some phy ed.

7. Making pages helps to remember it later.
Last edited by Julie in MN on Thu Feb 01, 2007 9:36 am, edited 1 time in total.
Julie, married 29 yrs, finding our way without Shane
Reid (21) college student; used MFW 3rd-12th grades (2004-2014)
Alexandra (29) mother; hs from 10th grade (2002)
Travis (32) engineer; never hs

Unread post by cbollin »


I sometimes have to do a quick outline on the dry erase board before starting to read. My 2nd grader can't process too much at once b/c of language delays. Seeing the major points helps her sometimes.


Posted: Mon Dec 31, 2007 6:05 pm

About fidgety readers... let her stand up, or get something to fidget with in one hand --- like a swishy ball or something like that. Maybe even something under her feet?? I have to stand up a lot when I'm reading out loud.
Posts: 114
Joined: Tue Aug 30, 2005 6:00 pm

Unread post by Tina »

Hi: We have that "zoning out" here too. My son is third grade, eight years old. He also cannot process too much at once and more than one person talking can be hard for him. Suggestions Julie made are good. Here are some others that might help:

--My son likes to build with legos during reading. I do allow it.
--He sometimes concentrates better while following along with me in the book. We do this too for bible reading and he is much better at "staying with me" when we take turns reading.
--We will ask questions after reading for a few minutes. Getting him involved with it as much as possible.
--Drawing or coloring during reading.

Something else that we do at our home on a daily basis to encourage the "listening" and not zoning out, is read a Proverb everyday (this is good because they can correlate to the day of the month i.e. on the 1st read Proverbs 1, 2nd read 2, etc) I read the Proverb and when I am done, each of us (parents included, nana too when she's home) must recite a verse they heard. This is just a technique I use to help encourage good "listening". It has also strengthened our knowledge of the Proverbs. You can probably try to strengthen his listening skills thru many activities like this.
Tina, homeschooling mother of Laura (1996), Jacob (1998) and Tucker (2003) In MO
"One of the greatest blessings of heaven is the appreciation of heaven on earth. He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."--JIM ELLIOT

Unread post by TurnOurHearts »

Hi Crissy,

At the beginning of our school year, we were really struggling with listening during the history lessons - especially from Exploring American History. I copied the following segment from a post I wrote back in September:
I picked up this little $8 book called, "Into Their Hearts," by Janice Southerland. One of the ideas in this book (that she used with her preschoolers-elementary) has to do with teaching listening skills, or teaching kids to listen for key words, etc.

You create a landscape grid (in Excel, Quattro or some other spreadsheet program) in which the children draw a picture of each word they recognize (my grid has 6-box rows & columns). For example, if I were to read, "There was a tree by the house, " the child would draw a tree in the first box and a house in the next. By the time you have finished the story, they have a word-story & they can narrate back from that!

This morning as I was gathering a few last minute materials, the Lord brought this to mind. When we read the intro about Jamestown in Pioneers & Patriots, I had Max listen for words he knew (nouns work best with this type of reading). We went rather slowly, but when we finished that little intro, he had a full story he could recite back to me!!! He was so excited, he ran to get his sister so he could tell her what happened at Jamestown!

I could not believe the difference in his attitude toward reading history. I hope this might be a help to someone else who needs a visual/hands-on approach. I hope this makes sense!!
The grid approach really seemed to get us over the hump. Of course, my kids would draw all day if I let them. :) Just to give you an idea of how it works, here's that picture from the Jamestown narration:


There are so many good ideas out there, in here - this was just one thing that helped us. :)

Paige in NC

PS - I have the grid saved (we also use it for listening on Sunday mornings). If you're interested & have excel, I'd be happy to email it to you.
Posts: 473
Joined: Mon Jun 28, 2004 2:40 pm

Unread post by kellybell »

Great ideas! Must be a lot of zoning out going on around in the MFW world (or the entire world!).

My 8 yo (2nd grader) is similar. We're doing RTR because he's not the oldest and he's got a little sister in K. Here are some things that we do. Some are repeats of above suggestions, some are new...

1. We have big blue Bally balls from Walgreens. They are 22" in diameter and designed for exercise. The kids can sit on these and sort of roll around and bounce as I read.

2. Kids are allowed to color, doodle, do Geomags, etc. while I read. We also have a few squishy balls (or stress balls) but we've managed to kill a few of these so I probably won't replace them too quickly. My kids like to color on plain printer paper but also like some of the more geometric Dover coloring books out there.

3. Sometimes I say, "we're going to act this out so listen." This works good for some Bible stories. We don't do this too often because it DOES take time.

4. I ask a lot of questions such as "what just happened?" or "what do you think will happen next?" or "what would you do?" Sometimes, if someone is zoning, I will add a totally ridiculous sentence to the text: "The first emperor of the Byzantine Empire, Barney the Dinosaur, married a fine young lady named Theodora..." The listening kids catch it and the zoner wants to know what everyone is laughing about. Again, I rarely use this, but it works when I do.

5. Despite breaking all sorts of copyright rules, we sometimes do our own Jeopardy! games. The catagories usually are school related so sometimes I tell the kids, "Oh, pay attention, we'll be playing Jeopardy! soon." That helps a little.

6. Sometimes I tell the kids to draw a picture from the story I am reading and we'll share our pictures later.

Posted: Mon Dec 31, 2007 5:30 pm

As for reading, I have the same daughter as you (she turns 7 in Feb., so a little younger).

We just have to plan on reading tiny books several times a day. Bribery with M&Ms works for us.

Whatever works.
Kelly, wife to Jim since 1988, mom to Jamie (a girl, 1994), Mary (1996), Brian (1998) and Stephanie (2001).
Posts: 122
Joined: Wed Jul 06, 2005 4:28 pm

Unread post by Toni@homezcool4us »

I posted this very topic back in early October or so. Several moms did encourage me to read first and just summarize or paraphrase. That has been very helpful.
A proud adoptive mom of 4 children,
I invite you to join me THE WISE WOMAN BUILDS HER HOUSE
Posts: 1
Joined: Wed Jan 03, 2007 7:33 am

thank you

Unread post by tkkmommy »

thank you for all of your replies! There are so many great ideas. I am hopeful that something has got to work. We have struggled with this since the beginning, and I have often become very frustrated because I don't want to reread everything all of the time.
It sounds like this is very common for boys. His ps teacher used to call him her "fidgit widgit" he just cannot sit still too long.
thanks again

Posts: 67
Joined: Fri Jul 16, 2004 10:23 pm


Unread post by Heidi »

My son had the same problem two years ago - he was going on 9 then.

Our solution turned out to be to let him do the reading.
FL Mommy of 3 "sensational" kids
Homeschooling since Fall 2004
Child 1: Blue LLATL/MFW 1, Adventures, ECC
Chld 2: MFW-K, MFW-1+ joined Adv, ECC
Child 3: MFW-PK, MFW-K + joined ECC
Posts: 442
Joined: Mon Nov 08, 2004 9:37 am

Unread post by Lucy »

I think all of these are great ideas and I wished I had known about some of them when my kids were younger. I really like the grid idea a lot. I may try that with my kids even though they are older. I think it may work!
Paige I think I remember you suggesting this before but I forgot about it.

I think letting a child who can, read the material on his own is great, but I would still recommend reading the material yourself as well so that you can ask questions and discuss the content (Heidi you probably do this already :) ). Anyway just adding on to Heidi's suggestion.

Have a great day!
Last edited by Lucy on Thu Feb 01, 2007 5:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
wife to Lee and mom to Twila 18 (girl) and Noel 16(boy). Happy MFW user since 2002.
Posts: 32
Joined: Sun Jul 24, 2005 10:25 pm

Unread post by Omma »

Just as an aside, I have this very problem. When my dh takes a turn at reading whatever story around the supper table, I (the MOM!!) have a hard time concentrating (and somehow, I made it through school with an MA degree!!). I had to take copious notes in school. I have such a strong memory for what I actually see in print, but a lousy one for what I 'hear' read. I literally have to close my eyes at times and practice my focusing skills, in order not to miss anything when dh is doing the reading!

So I will take this thread to heart, and watch to see how my dc do when I am reading. I have one ds who has extremely strong audio skills, but my dd is fidgety and hands-on, so I guess I really should be encouraging her to 'do' something while I am reading, if she wants to.


ds almost 7
dd 5
Posts: 350
Joined: Thu Aug 03, 2006 2:45 pm

Ideas for read-aloud time

Unread post by RachelT »

Posted: Mon Dec 31, 2007 9:54 pm

I've tried to do some of our Bible reader reading time in the evening so we don't have to do it all in the morning and sometimes that helps.
Posts: 159
Joined: Mon Oct 23, 2006 5:59 pm

Unread post by HSmommi2mine »

Posted: Tue Jan 01, 2008 4:38 pm

I tell people that my dd learned to read while rolling around on the floor!

What worked for us was laying on our tummies. She did roll around some but I tried to get her to kick her legs instead. I kept a finger under the word we were on. I didn't expect her to keep track really.

Some kids have to move to learn or retrieve info so if you can find a way, let her do it.
Cyndi (AZ)
Posts: 543
Joined: Mon Jun 18, 2007 4:22 pm

Unread post by Cyndi (AZ) »

Posted: Wed Jan 02, 2008 5:29 pm

You mean they aren't supposed to fidget????!!!!!!

We fidget at our house. Squishy balls are good. Cooshy seats are good. Lacing toys work sometimes. Rolling around on the floor happens, especially during oral drills. Coloring during a story works really well. Life is much easier when you embrace fidgeting.

Note: I'm talking about fidgeting in order to pay attention, not fidgeting to avoid paying attention.
Posts: 7
Joined: Sun Aug 08, 2010 4:50 pm
Location: The Pacific Northwest

What to do during read-alouds

Unread post by Marcee »

rtlmom wrote:We're using Adventures this year & loving it! My question is: does anyone have suggestions for something for the boys to "do" while I'm reading aloud? I'm really talking about American Pioneers & Patriots and the longer passages in Story of the U. S. It seems they would listen more if there hands were busy, because if I'm just reading aloud they tend to start zoning out after a few minutes. Any suggestions?
I let my kids do something quiet: Draw, Legos, etc. It may seem like they aren't listening, but you may find out they hear more than you think. I started reading The Secret School yesterday while the kids played and multiple times they stopped to come over and stand by me. I think DS was hoping for some pictures:)
“A sense of curiosity is nature’s original school of education.” ~Smiley Blanton

Marcee married to Chris (12 years)
DD Keelin (10)
DS Raice (8)
Posts: 6
Joined: Sun Aug 10, 2008 6:47 pm

Re: What to do during read-alouds

Unread post by rtlmom »

Thanks! I know they definitely listen more when they're doing something - a couple of times it's worked out that I needed them to work on another part of a project while I was reading, and when I asked my oldest to narrate back to me I could tell he'd "gotten" more than the times he's just sitting there while I read.
Julie in MN
Posts: 2909
Joined: Mon Jun 28, 2004 3:44 pm
Location: Minnesota

Re: What to do during read-alouds

Unread post by Julie in MN »

- My son spent a LOT of time draped over an exercise ball while I was reading. It was one of those cheap-o's on sale at Target during the after-the-new-year-diet sales.

- This year he got into juggling while I was reading.

- Sometimes he has stacked Duplo blocks. I found Legos were too putzy and took his attention away, but just stacking up the big Duplos into a pyramid or something was more mindless.

- He played with the cat a lot.

- He did chin-ups on a bar that's in the doorway to the living room.

- He doesn't like to color, but there were times over the years when he got into perfecting a specific doodle, like a 3D star.

- He made simple things a few times over the years -- a couple of leather kits, "friendship bracelets" out of that embroidery floss. (This wasn't the time for new or complicated projects, but continuing on the tedious parts of things already begun.)

- He waxed his snowboard once or twice.

- He made himself into a mummy with blankets a lot of times in winter.

Okay, now you know all our secrets :~ A couple of times over the years, I made him take notes and act like a student :)
Julie, married 29 yrs, finding our way without Shane
Reid (21) college student; used MFW 3rd-12th grades (2004-2014)
Alexandra (29) mother; hs from 10th grade (2002)
Travis (32) engineer; never hs
Posts: 469
Joined: Sun Apr 26, 2009 6:10 pm

Re: What to do during read-alouds

Unread post by jasntas »

Julie in MN wrote:- He played with the cat a lot.

-- He doesn't like to color, but there were times over the years when he got into perfecting a specific doodle, like a 3D star.

- He made himself into a mummy with blankets a lot of times in winter.

Okay, now you know all our secrets :~
8[] 8[] 8[]

Are you peeking in our window, Julie. Too funny. :-)

Actually, I got a lot of ideas like this from you last year. What a difference. ;) :)
Tammie - Wife to James for 27 years
Mom to Justin (15) and Carissa (12)
ADV & K 2009-2010 . . . RTR (again) & WHL 2016-2017
The days of a mother are long but the years are short.
Posts: 675
Joined: Mon May 10, 2010 11:50 am

Re: What to do during read-alouds

Unread post by gratitude »

We love read - aloud time! So although we are not to ADV yet, I thought I would share what we do.

Read - aloud time:

*sometimes they are content to sit and cuddle
*Play with Legos
*playtime with toys quietly while I sit and read
*swing outside, while I read sitting nearby
*sitting outside under trees while they look at outdoor things and I read.
*eating at the table (rare)

I do find that most days they comprehend more if they are doing something while I read. :-)
Posts: 91
Joined: Mon Dec 21, 2009 2:22 pm

Re: What to do during read-alouds

Unread post by Kelly1730 »

My boys love to draw while I read aloud. Sometimes it coincides with school work and sometimes it's just for fun. They will ask me questions sometimes so I know they really ARE listening:)
Mom to 6
Mimi to 8
MFW K, MFW 1st, Adventures, ECC, CTG, RTR ,EXP-1850, 1850-MOD, Ancient History and Lit 2016-17
Posts: 78
Joined: Tue Aug 03, 2010 11:09 am

Re: What to do during read-alouds

Unread post by 1974girl »

I don't have boys but in the last issue of the Old Schoolhouse suggested that they be allowed to pick corn off the cob with tweezers. I loved that idea.
LeAnn-married to dh 17 yrs
Mama to Leah (14) and Annalise (11)
Used from Adventures on and finishing final year (1850-modern) this year
"When you teach your teach your children's children."
Posts: 6
Joined: Sun Aug 10, 2008 6:47 pm

Re: What to do during read-alouds

Unread post by rtlmom »

Thanks for all of the great suggestions! We are on week 3 (day 1) and there was a good bit of reading today. He drew with chalk and then started a coloring a page in a Indian Tribes of North America coloring book. He did very well with his narration, so he was definitely listening. I'll be using these ideas lots, I'm sure! ;)
Posts: 41
Joined: Fri Mar 20, 2009 4:45 pm
Location: Virginia

Re: What to do during read-alouds

Unread post by Pylegang »

My boys love to lay on the floor and just wiggle around while I read.

My wiggliest (is that a word?!!) boy has certainly been known to lay over the exercise ball or bounce on the bouncey ball while I read.

I often serve a snack and sit between them (if there are pictures to look at) while I read.

Coloring pages are always a hit here.

Sometimes I'll tell them the topic of our reading material and then let them make a picture by arranging toothpicks.

One of my boys likes to work clay & make it soft & mushey.

Sometimes when I want to pull them into the moment, I ask them to read a paragraph or two out loud.
Homeschooling classically since 2000--DS grade 6 and DS grade 4.

Posts: 266
Joined: Mon Jan 31, 2005 11:32 pm

Work during reading?

Unread post by DS4home »

sewgirlie wrote:Do you let your children work on their worksheets, journal pages, color pages, etc. while you read during History? Mine keep bagging to and sometimes I'm tempted ;) .

Yes, mine have often done a coloring page or colored the time line piece while I do the reading out loud. I usually leave the notebook page to be done after the reading, because I help them with that. But just coloring, where their mind can still be focused on the reading, is OK to do.

Celebrating our 30th Anniversary <3
Amber(HS Grad, Married), Carmen(HS+Col Grad, Married), Nathan(HS+College Grad), & Bethany(11th)
2020: high school US Hist.1
Completed the MFW cycle: Pre K-yr.5, AHL(pilot), WHL, US Hist.1
Posts: 34
Joined: Sun Feb 25, 2007 2:29 pm

Re: Work during reading?

Unread post by tabby »

I have let my kids color history pages before, too. Building with legos and lincoln logs is good for longer reads, too. I do make it a habit to stop during the reading to ask questions. That way I know if they are continuing to listen and I am not just reading to myself. ;)
Tabatha :)
2011-2012: RTR - dd 10, ds 7
Enjoying our 6th year with MFW
Posts: 70
Joined: Wed Mar 14, 2012 8:26 pm
Location: ohio

Re: Work during reading?

Unread post by Ohmomjacquie »

Mine has a hard time focusing so having her do something else didn't work very often. I say as long a they can tell what you read then doing something like coloring is fine. I've tried it only to reread it because she couldn't tell me anything.
2012-13 Adventures
2013-2014 ECC & K
Mom to:
Chelsea (9) Hunter (5) Natalie (4) & Alison July 2013
See MFW in action @
Post Reply