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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Handwork Ideas for Read Aloud Time

Read Aloud Time.  

It has the potential for being some of the best moments of the school day.  But, on the other hand, the promise of disaster if too many children are made to sit sedately for too long.

Handwork Ideas for Read Aloud Times-The Unlikely Homeschool

Although we have amassed a large assortment of fiction books, we typically save this time for reading library books.  My usual pattern is to read two board books for The Newbie, two picture books mostly for the middle boys (Pre-K and Kindergarten), and one chapter from a chapter book for everyone to enjoy.  After a morning of going in many different directions doing mostly independent, core studies, our read aloud time is our way of regrouping together.  

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I'm sure right about now you have Norman Rockwell-esque visions of my family gathered around a warm fire, snuggled under a blanket together, wearing wistful grins as "Ma" reads from a hard-back classic.  NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH!

Let's be honest...I have five children under the age of eight...three of whom are rambunctious boys...with a little baby brother soon to follow in their footsteps.  Most of the time, my living room feels more like the chaos of a Rembrandt than the serenity of a Rockwell.

But, over the years, I have learned that most of the mayhem can be controlled by keeping little hands busy with some CONSTRUCTIVE activity.  By providing some simple hand-work projects for the kids to do during our read-aloud time, I am creating an outlet for all their pent-up energy.  Their minds are free to concentrate on the story when their bodies have been "paused"...if only for a little while.

ENTER THE HANDWORK BASKET

Ideas for Handwork to keep little hands busy during Read Aloud Time-The Unlikely Homeschool

I have gathered a variety of inexpensive "hand-work" projects for the children to grab just before we sit down together.  This is not something we do everyday, but rather, pull out whenever I sense it is needed.  

Since picture books are naturally compelling, we save our projects for our chapter book.  The children know to spread out and find a sitting place large enough for their chosen "hand-work". Sometimes I allow the middle boys to work together on an activity as long as they remain quiet.  

Ideas for Handwork to keep little hands busy during Read Aloud Time-The Unlikely Homeschool

I limit these activities to skill-oriented projects...no toys.  I want the "fun" to be found in the reading of the book, not in playing with a flashy toy.  

In addition, I typically reserve this time to be for activities that my children are already well-familiar with.  Nothing spoils a good story more than having to pause a million times to give directions for a sewing or building project.  My children must be fully comfortable and confident with a particular hand-work item before they may work on it during read-aloud time. 

One might wonder whether the children can even listen and comprehend the story while working on something else.  Amazingly enough, it usually helps them engage in the story even more.  They often ask questions about the plot, laugh at humorous dialogue, and share thoughtful discussion afterward. 

Ideas for Handwork to keep little hands busy during Read Aloud Time-The Unlikely Homeschool

It is helpful to have projects that can be easily "set up" and "torn down".  Hand work is designed to ASSIST during read-aloud time, not create more work for the mom.  I have had to "outlaw" certain activities at times because they tend to explode all over the room.  My rule of thumb is...if you can't set it up, complete it, and put it away ALL BY YOURSELF, then it is not suitable "hand-work."

Ideas for Handwork to keep little hands busy during Read Aloud Time-The Unlikely Homeschool


As I mentioned, some activities have been more successful than others.  Here is a list of some of the items that have made it into our basket.

Sweetie Pea is an auditory learner and has never needed to be "occupied".  But, I insert items in the basket for her as well, so that she doesn't feel left out.  Sometimes she opts to just lounge and listen.  

With so many little ones, NOTHING is ever a silver bullet, but hand-work has certainly helped to control most of the commotion while I am reading.  

Does your family do "hand-work?"  What have been your most successful activities?

19 comments:

  1. My daughters like to finger-knit... there is a really easy tutorial on youtube, and my then-6 yr old picked it up with some initial help and practice. My 4 yr old, who has a strength in fine motor skills, picked it up just as easily. All that's needed is yarn!

    Thanks for the handwork ideas... I especially like the peel and stick mosaics. It can be hard to think of handwork for littler ones!

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    1. I use to finger knit in girl scouts. That would be a great activity for my daughter. Thanks for sharing!

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  2. Fantastic idea. My boys like to race cars while I read...but that doesn't always keep them in the room. ;)

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    1. I hear you. On days that we don't do handwork, the cars sometimes try to appear.

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  3. Love those ideas. Mine are still little, 5 and 4 but I have been experimenting with this as well. Puzzles and coloring/activity (like mazes) books work for them. Some days blocks but some days they get a bit over dramatic with them. =) I will give some of those a try.

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    1. All of those are great ideas, too. I think as long as it is not another book, most quiet activities would work.

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  4. Awesome idea -- I love this and I'm sharing it!

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  5. Play dough works really well and is fabulous for all ages (I have five 10 and under). These are really great ideas! Have a good week!

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  6. I love these ideas. My oldest LOVES to just sit and get lost in the book I am reading. She enjoys listening intently, and she always has. Her sister is different. She listens, but she has to be doing something else, too. Right now she looks through other books, but I think I might try out some of your ideas as she grows into them.

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    1. It's amazing how different kids are. It sounds like your first is a lot like my first.

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  7. This is an excellent idea. I am going to try it.

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  8. This is an excellent idea and i will be trying this. I was wondering how many chapters do you read during reading time? thanks in advance.

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    1. Just one. And if the chapters are really long, only a half a chapter.

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  9. I have genuinely been enjoying your blog and I so appreciate the honesty you bring when sharing your homeschooling experiences. I really like this idea. I'm guilty for asking the girls to sit still and listen. Ugh! What was I thinking!

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    1. I think there are definitely times for "sit still and listen." As a I mentioned in the post, we don't do handwork everyday. Somedays are "sit still and listen" days. I think it builds personal self-control. But, I think there should be a balance- especially for really long, extended periods of reading.

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  10. it took me a while to understand that my son needed to move to be able to listen. Since then I've allowed him quite activities. In the beginning he played with cars or small toys. However, he often got into it and began to make sound effects. Recently a friend recommended printing out color sheets on the topic I am reading about and allow them to use water color paints. That has been AMAZING. my son loves it. He has even asked me not to stop reading because he wasn't finished with his picture. At night I read from a historical fiction picture book and they climb in my bed or lay on the floor. At this time they are usually tired enough to be quiet without an activity. I love your idea of the basket. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Yes...boys definitely need movement. I love the printables idea!

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