TIP #2 - If you think story time is just for elementary, then think again! I've been using story time in my middle school classes for years, and it never gets old. If my lesson is feeling a little dry, and I'm even putting myself to sleep, I just call out "Story time!" Everyone breaks into a smile as they move from their seats to the floor. Sometimes they moan a bit about having to sit on the floor, but they secretly love it.
Excerpts from YA books are perfect for this. So are children's books, short stories, magazine articles, and anything else that goes along with what we're learning. I've found that students' attention spans can handle about 5-10 minutes of listening to me read. They can also handle a few minutes of discussion about the reading, but that's about it. Anything past that becomes a discipline challenge.
Today I chose two entries from Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl to go along with our study of WWII and the Holocaust. I projected a slide on the board behind me with pictures of Anne, the yellow star, and the secret annex in Amsterdam. The kids were hanging on every word, and we had longer, more in-depth discussions than usual because they really connected with this topic. I can guarantee they'll remember more from today's story time than from the notes we took yesterday.
Here's what works for me:
- Introduce the idea as a throw back to the good ol' days in elementary school. I even jokingly refer to it as kindergarten story time and myself as the library story lady. Kids buy into this much better if they know they;re not actually being treated like little kids. It's just something different...and chance to get out of their seats and avoid "real work" for a few minutes. It's just for fun, and they know it (even though an AMAZING amount of learning takes place anyway).
- Pull up a chair, any chair, and have the kids sit on the floor in front. Some try to stay in their seats...I cajole them into cooperating if there isn't a good reason why they need to sit in a chair.
- Once everyone is seated, the regular classroom rules for attentive listening apply. I don't let them get away with lying down, braiding hair, whispering to neighbors, etc.
- Keep the reading material as high-interest as possible. There are so many good books that have lessons to teach about the cultures and historical events we discuss in geography. I'm working on a list for a future post...but there are just SO MANY!
- GeoMysteries are perfect for story time. They are short stories about a real person, place, or event, and they end with a question. The kids have to guess the answer. I usually have them play 20 questions, and they get pretty good at deductive reasoning.