When I was a classroom teacher, I could tell when story time was going to be rambunctious. Some kids would have the “super-wiggles” and even lots movement and play leading up to it just wasn’t going to be enough. That’s when I would turn our reading time into an active story time with a game like Hear Do!
Hear Do is exactly as it sounds, when you HEAR the word, you DO the action. For example, if I read the book Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown, the kids would do a tiger pose whenever they heard the word “tiger.” Simple, right?
An alternate version is to play using a book that has lots of poses or actions in it, like They All Saw A Cat by Brendan Wenzel. Every time a new animal showed up and they heard the animal name, they would become that animal. Sometimes I (or the kids!) would just make up a story and act it out. A part like “then they flew across the sky” would have the kids flapping their wings and soaring around the reading rug while listening for the next action in the story.
So, what’s the point of active story time? Besides just being good fun-and all the fine and gross motor gains-they are considered adaptive learning. Not all children are able (or should be asked to) sit still and listen, but that doesn’t mean that they should miss out on the magic of books. Sure, offering flexible seating and sensory toys can help, but it isn’t always enough. This is a great way for those active kiddos to be able to participate in a group reading activity without struggling to keep themselves from moving and grooving. It’s also amazing to see how kids who may have a harder time paying attention can often focus on this game and really listen for that magic word, which is strengthening their concentration and listening skills while they play.
Active story times can be beneficial in other ways too, for all kinds of children. Reading in this way gets them more involved in the story, they basically become a part of it. This can open up their imagination and flexible thinking skills, which are crucial for cognition and come in handy in so many areas of life. Flexible thinkers are problem solvers, inventors, and often better in social situations. Changing the way you listen to a story or imagining yourself as an animal are great ways to practice flexibility.
But what about children that don’t move in these same ways, how can we make these active story times adaptable for them as well? However they can or want to move their body, with or without assistance, is the first part. Adaptive movement devices or wheelchairs can still fly around with the flock of birds on the reading rug. But if moving is really prohibitive, then they can join in with animal sounds or “breathing poses.” Every animal has some kind of breath work that corresponds with it so children can still get in that flexible thinking space without too much physicality.
Personally, I also love games like Hear Do because anything that can incorporate movement, stories, and play is fantastic, and this one is just so easy! Literally any book with animal characters or repeating phrases or words will work and you can turn any story time into an active story at a moment’s notice. As a teacher, I always incorporated a lot of yoga into our days and this game was another fun way to teach or practice poses too.
However you play Hear Do, active story time is a valuable way to bring stories to your home or classroom. Building cognition, flexible thinking, focus, and listening skills while strengthening motor skills and planning are always a win, but mixing it with books and stories is the amazing icing on that delicious learning cake.
How do you do active story times?