We often forget about classroom management during read aloud. Why? Most kids are listen raptly. Read aloud time hypnotizes them.
But there are pesky little events that can break the spell. And break your concentration.
Kids whispering. Or talking. Moving around. Throwing away trash. Or my favorite — discreetly reading their own book.
And none of it is bad stuff, right? But depending on your tolerance for interruptions, your read aloud can go off the rails
So what do you do?
Classroom Management 101: Notice
Yep. Just notice at first.
Many teachers will argue that you should have the rules down pat from day one. I disagree.
First, each group of students we get is wildly different. And while safety rules should be in place, there’s an advantage to observing what your kids are like before creating classroom management rules. So often, we jump the gun and focus on problems that aren’t there.
And second, having the rules in place right away puts pressure on you to have everything perfect on day 1. An impossible task.
So take the pressure off yourself (and the kids) and just observe what happens.
How long should you do this? Depends.
Some years, you’ll be see it’s time to make rules on day 1. (We all have those years.) With other groups, it will be later because your kids are pretty chill.
Invite the kids to notice
Tell your little pumpkins that you’ve noticed that some things are going REALLY WELL with read aloud. (Stating the positives is ESSENTIAL.) Then add that you’ve noticed there are other things that are interrupting // slowing down // derailing read aloud.
One thing I’ve said in the past is, “This is your read aloud time. As you listen, notice what everyone is doing well. And if you spot anything that we can make better, offer your thoughts at the end of read aloud.”
Stop read aloud a few minutes early. Ask them what they did well. Write down the list so they can see it.
You’ll earn bankloads of credibility with this classroom management tip. Kids are used to hearing what they’re doing wrong. In fact, they hear it so much, they start tuning it out.
But ask them to list what they’re all doing great? Not only do you get their attention, but it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. They sit up a little straighter and aim to live up to their own expectations.
Then ask what they’d think would make it even better. They might surprise you. Perhaps they’ll ask you to open or close the windows. Or play light background music. Or read outside under a tree.
My kids asked me if they could draw while I read. I replied, “I like that, but I’m afraid that kids will start showing each other their drawings while I read and get distracted.” They assured me they wouldn’t. (And as you’ll see later, they didn’t.)
And if they ask for something that seems unreasonable? Give it a whirl. It might just work. (Imagine!) And if it falls flat, they’ll know you’re willing to try things and fail. Growth mindset! Building trust! Double-whammy!
Create Ground Rules for Classroom Management
Next, ask kids for basic rules about what they think should and shouldn’t be done. Make it fun and playful. This should be their document. Address the WHY of the rules. Why are we doing this? What’s the point of it all? (Ideally, to have an awesome read aloud with a teacher who doesn’t get crankypants.)
And don’t be afraid to list rules that’ll help you. You’re the one, after all, who’s doing the reading. This has to work for you too!
For example, I tell them pretty quickly in the year that I’m easily distracted. (Because it’s true!) It’s along these lines:
I know you’re going to think I’m a dingdong, but I can’t help it. If people get up to throw stuff into the trash while I’m reading, I lose my place because it distracts me. Isn’t that weird? I wish I could change that about myself because there’s nothing wrong with throwing things in the trash, right? You’re doing a good thing.
Can you think of anything we could do differently so that I don’t get distracted by that? I want to do a great job at reading this story to you.
A student suggested they hold on to their trash until the end of read aloud. They were happy to do that. It was a reasonable ask — they were helping me with one of my weak areas.
Revisit their rules
After you create your rules, let them know that you can all revisit them any time.
As wholesome as this all sounds, you’ll get kids who break the rules, both intentionally and unintentionally.
Sometimes a brief reminder of the rules they created (and why) will get them back into the swing.
If it’s just one or two kids who are having trouble, pull them aside and ask them if we need to make an amendment to the rules. Are the rules not working anymore? What needs to be changed?
I actually love changing the rules, as it’s an incredible teachable moment to talk about the Amendments to the Constitution. Rules often need to be revisited or added as circumstances change, right? Happens with governments and classrooms! Teach them that this is normal and expected!
A classroom management freebie for you!
And because you’re awesome, I’m giving you a classroom management freebie for read aloud.
Even better? It’s editable. Create your rules with your class. Or if you’re short on time, use my setup from last year until you figure out what works for you.
Want help picking a great book for read aloud or book groups?
We’ve got loads of resources ready for you! All the work’s been taken off your plate so you can enjoy the book, use your time efficiently and do a bang up job!
Now It’s Your Turn!
Tell us in the comments below:
- How do you make your read aloud time run smooth like buttah’?
- What drives you bonkers during read aloud?
- OR … What rules will you add to your editable download?
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