Overview: Read alouds are my all time favorite activity in our home. Here are few activities for before, during, and after read alouds.
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One of my most favorite activities to do in our home preschool is read alouds. We read about 10 books a day. Sometimes we just pick up a book and read. Other times we do activities before, during, and after a story to help us strengthen our literacy skills.
Related: Literacy Development in Toddlers and Preschoolers
Before Read Alouds
I love taking a few minutes before jumping into a story to build an interest in the book or topic. When a child is interested in a topic, they are more willing to learn and participate.
Related: 3 Ways to Encourage Natural Curiosity in Children
Take a few minutes to do a picture walk through the book, especially if it’s a book you will be using as a springboard for more learning. A picture walk is exactly what the title says, a walk through the book to look at the pictures. Talk about what you see, what you might hear or smell if you were standing in the picture, and make predictions about what the book might be about.
Mystery boxes are one of my favorite things to do with preschoolers. I take an old shoe box, and cut a hole big enough for their hand in the top. Then I cover the box with paper and decorate it. I like to add question marks since it’s a mystery!
When I introduce a new theme or book, I will put an object in the box that represents the topic. For example, if I were introducing the book, Beach Day, I would add a seashell to the box.
Before the read aloud, I would have the child feel it, smell it, and shake the box to guess what it might be. After a few guesses, I would read the book.
I don’t tell them what’s in the box until after I read. Sometimes reading the book will jog some prior knowledge and they’ll be able to guess the object. It also gives them something to look for and pay attention to in the book.
During Read Alouds
I want to stress that activities during reading should be used sparingly and quickly. Stopping too many times or for too long can decrease attention and interfere with comprehension.
Before the read aloud starts, I give the child a few felt board pieces. When that piece is mentioned in the story, the child adds it to the felt board. Having these pieces gives the child something to look forward to and pay attention to in the story.
I want to pause and share a quick story with you about a little girl I had when I taught preschool. When reading Goldilocks and the Three Bears one day I noticed this little one was not paying attention…or so I thought.
I kept reading because I was almost finished, but I kept an eye on the little girl to make sure she wasn’t distracting anyone. I’m glad I didn’t interfere because as I watcher her, I realized that she was using pieces of dirt from the floor to act out the story. I watched her at every story time from then on out and realized that she does this quiet often. It was her way of comprehending the story.
The point is that giving a child feltboard pieces or even loose parts during a story gives them something concrete and hands-on to help them comprehend what they are listening to.
Act it Out
Some books (like From Head to Toe or We’re Going on a Bear Hunt) are great to read when you want to get kids up and moving.
Have them act out the actions in the story to help them comprehend. This is the same concept as the feltboard pieces, except now we are hitting the kinesthetic (movement) learner.
During natural pauses in a story, stop and ask your child “What do you think will happen now?”
Give them time to start making connections and forming predictions. Only do this once or twice in a book, so you don’t loose the child. Making too many predictions can confuse the child with what is really going on in the story. Not to mention, stopping too many times to make a prediction can cause a child to loose interest.
After Read Alouds
After reading is where the best learning activities come into play. I love using books to create themes and base our learning off of the topics in the books.
When we use the book as a basis for learning, children have more opportunities to hear vocabulary and use it in a variety of different contexts. They are given more chances to practice skills and learn information about the topic as well.
Related: Choosing Preschool Themes Around Books
Make sequencing cards and lay them out on the table for your child. You could do this as a structured activity or present it as an invitation for your child to play with on their own.
If you choose to have this as an independent activity, I would recommend making it self correcting. On the back of the cards, number them in the order they go, so the child can use the numbers to check their sequencing.
Feltboards are great for after read alouds as well. I use pieces from the story to help children retell the events. Having the feltboard pieces help a child remember certain details that may have been overlooked while reading.
These are similar to feltboards. You place all the main pieces of the story into a basket. Lay it out with the book and see what they do with it. Sometimes the child will retell the story, and other times they will create their own story.
Hands on Projects
Planning art, science, and music projects after a book helps extend the excitement and learning. When we read a book, a child is introduced to new information and new vocabulary, but rarely get a chance to practice using that information.
Plan activities related to the book to expose your child to the information more often. The more we expose them to information and vocabulary, the higher the chances are for them to remember the information.
Download the book theme planner to help you plan a whole theme around a book and meet each learning domain.
Read alouds are a wonderful foundation for many learning activities and themes. Use books as the basis of your homeschool program, no matter the age of your child.