Circle time and read-alouds make my heart happy! These special activities are my favorite parts of the day because the whole classroom family is together to read and share. It is a magical time of the day, when students imagine, make connections, share experiences, collaborate, develop various literacy skills, and develop a love of reading. It’s a time that can be loud with students sharing, noticing, and making connections. It can also be super quiet where the entire class is silently listening to a story that is captivating them. Students NEED to be read to every single day. As teachers, we must consider that school might be the only place that is happening.
As teachers, we understand the importance of read-alouds and sharing quality children’s literature with our students. However, I think we often forget the importance of rereading a book with our class, sometimes even three or four times! I struggle with this myself because there are so many amazing books to choose from! I know there is no way I can possibly read all my favorites with a class in just one year. I certainly don’t reread every book with my students, but like everything else with teaching, there should be a balance. Sometimes we also just read for pure enjoyment!
Reading, rereading, and retelling a book helps students develop:
- reading comprehension and sense of story (setting, characters, how characters feel, problem, sequence of events, beginning/middle/end, making connections, making predictions)
- concepts of print (ex: left to right, top to bottom)
- phonemic awareness (ex: rhyming, letter sounds)
- text structure (ex: repeated text)
- other objectives you might have for a content-specific book like counting, the life cycle of a butterfly, or a social skill like sharing
These can seem like big skills but our students can begin to explore these concepts. Introducing these ideas at circle time is the perfect environment as long as it is age-appropriate and engaging. Yep, make it fun and interactive–like I’m sure you already do! Make voices, use props, show photos, or act it out. Excitement is contagious; if you are excited, your students will be too!
Each time you pick a book to read, pick an objective or learning target as well to focus on. Be intentional with the book you choose. What objective you want to focus on? What questions can you ask before, during, and after you read the book? What you are encouraging students to notice in the illustrations? When is a good time to have students “turn and talk” with someone next to them? That’s a lot to think about, I know. But it just shows you how powerful read-alouds can be when you plan and make them intentional!
Choose a book and read it alone during planning time. Think about what objectives would best fit this book. Perhaps consider what skills or topics your students need to work on. For example, put small sticky notes on pages with simple kid-friendly descriptions of new vocabulary words you would like to focus on.
Every time you read or reread a book to your students, they will pick up and notice something new. They will develop a deeper understanding, make new connections, and make more sense of what they have listened to. The whole purpose of a read-aloud is to help students develop the ability to better understand what they hear and see.
Here is an example of a quick plan to read the same book three days in a row: Day 1 – students make predictions and introduce 3 new vocabulary words when reading the book. Day 2 – use character retelling cards to focus on the characters. Day 3 – use event cards and focus on the sequence of events in the story
Now, I’m going to share some of my favorite ways to read or reread a book with little learners at circle time! Once we do the read-aloud at circle together, I put the retelling cards, prop basket, or stuffed animals in the library center for students to reread again and again.
Act It Out! A guaranteed way to get students engaged is to get them moving! Have students act out the book using their arms, faces, and bodies. My favorite books to act out are Head to Toe by Eric Carle, Going on a Bear Hunt, and The Wheels on the Bus. Most song books are easy for students to act out. Books about feeling and emotions are great to act out too. Social-emotional learning is crucial for our little learners. Students need to be able to recognize how they feel with their whole bodies and not just their faces.
DIY Story Cards! Make character, event, setting, or vocabulary cards using clip art, Goggle images, or by copying the book on the copier (for classroom use only). Story cards can be expensive to purchase so I recommend that you make your own. I made these Brown Bear, Brown Bear character cards by copying the pages of the book on the color copier.
You can give the cards out to students before you begin the book. Then as you read and the characters come up in the story, the students put the story cards on the board.
Printable Story Cards! Purchase on TpT or find printable story cards on Pinterest. Just download, print, and laminate to use again and again. Tape a popsicle stick to the back to create puppets.
Some of my math and literacy centers have story cards in them: Fairy Tales Centers (Three Bears, Three Little Pigs, and Three Billy Goats Gruff story cards), Hibernation Centers (Bear Snores On story cards), Insect Centers (The Hungry Caterpillar story cards), Gingerbread Book Comparison (various gingerbread book story cards), and Sweets Centers (The Little Red Hen story cards). You can grab FREE Snowman at Night story cards HERE.
Story Prop Baskets! If you want to make your read-aloud even more hands-on, use props instead of story cards. Make a list of what you need, collect the items ahead of time, and create a story retelling basket or bin.
Read and Retell with Stuffed Animals! The dollar store often has cheap stuffed animals that are perfect to use at circle time. Kohl’s sells books with matching character stuffed animals each quarter. You can also just grab a generic stuffed animal or beanie baby from your house. Just make sure it looks similar to the character in the book.
I love using stuffed animals or foam cut outs with counting books. You can put them out or take them away as you read to teach informal addition and subtraction. Plus the stuffed animals are easy for everyone to see and count together.
Reading and Retelling using Cut-Outs! The dollar store and craft stores always have seasonal foam or paper cut outs for crafts. Another fantastic use of them is to use them to retell counting books. Put numbers on the front of them to sneak in even more math into circle time.
You now have so many fun ideas for read-alouds during circle time! Let me also share my recommendations for amazing books for various themes, holidays, and seasons. You are in luck because I have about *one billion* book lists for most preschool themes! You are sure to find something perfect for circle time that fits your theme! Check out my Book List Blog Series that features themed book lists to accompany your lessons! If there is a book list for a theme you need, just let us know so we can create it for you!
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