Kids like to move. A lot. They aren’t good at sitting still for long periods of time and they certainly can’t focus while trying not to squirm out of their seats. But sometimes, focus is required. Holding still and really soaking up the information being shared with them is a lot easier when they can keep their hands busy. By releasing some energy, they can focus on the task at hand.
For us, the problem was read alouds. My kids would squirm and wiggle during the ENTIRE chapter. I would scold them and they would again try really hard to hold still. But it just wasn’t as easy as you would think. So I set out to find read aloud activities for middle schoolers that would help them concentrate quietly.
I was super happy to find that I didn’t need a fancy chair or gadget to help my kiddos. In fact, I already had most several items that could help them. I just hadn’t been using them efficiently.
I’ve partnered with Oriental Trading to bring you some fresh ideas to keep hands busy.
Read Aloud Activities for Middle School Kids who JUST Can’t Hold Still
The craze has swept the nation by now and fidget spinners are changing classrooms everywhere. The quiet gadget allows students to release some of their pent-up energy by spinning the small toy using their hands. There are several designs and styles and any one will work.
When kids struggle to sit still and listen, my go-to method is to give them food. When there’s food in front of them, they can focus on what’s being read while they eat. I often choose to read from our history books during lunch. Not only does it keep the lunch-time bickering at bay, but it kills two birds with one stone, as well.
Adult Coloring Books:
My kids LOVE to color. The problem was, by the age of 10, they think they are “too cool” for coloring books. And I’ll admit, being in 5th grade and coloring out of a Mickey Mouse coloring book may seem babyish. But when I introduced adult coloring books, they went wild! The detailed pages require focus, unlike normal coloring books. Paired with their own set of Sharpie’s, my kids love their “grown-up” coloring books.
My kids love slime. They love watching YouTube videos about it, they love making it and they love playing with it. During read-alouds, they can squish it between their fingers, stretch it, squeeze it or do whatever they wish. My kids love adding beads, pompoms and glitter to their slime, so this gives them a few extra items to indulge their senses into.
Washi Tape Art:
I had never even heard of washi tape until a few years ago when I started bullet journaling. As soon as I had a few rolls, my kids tried claiming them as their own. Instead, I bought a few rolls for them to use during read alouds. They love decorating their notebooks or making fun designs on their papers. For about a dollar per roll, washi tape is the perfect read aloud activities for middle schoolers and beyond.
My kids had recently been asking about calligraphy so I was super excited to try it out during our read-aloud. The first day that I busted out our new set, we were studying the Declaration of Independence. This was perfect as my kids spent the entire time working on their “John Hancock.” By the end of our lesson, my kids will have handwriting as gorgeous as Mr. Hancock himself!
As a writer, I’ve always felt the need to doodle when listening intently. If I don’t have a pencil in my hand during church sermons, I tend to get lost in my own thoughts, chasing each squirrel that crosses my mind. Doodling has a way of keeping me alert and grounded. Back in my school days, I simply doodled whatever I could think of but today there are amazing resources to help you create gorgeous doodles.
Legos, Blocks, Zoob, etc:
Building with your hands helps to navigate your energy into something productive. With several different options, there’s a building toy that’ll fit every family. We love Zoob, Legos and Bristle Blocks. I’ve found that building blocks are one of the most perfect read aloud activities for middle schoolers because they can create something new each and every time. They’re also great for when you have a LOT of reading to get done. Sometimes, I can get through 5 chapters in our storybook while the kids play happily with their blocks.
There’s something so relaxing about squeezing a stress ball. All ages enjoy them and there are hundreds of designs on the market, so even middle schoolers won’t argue about using one. I’ve found stress balls to be a great tool for studying, concentrating on read alouds and keeping your hands to yourself on car rides.
Kids love to get messy and paint is the perfect way to make that happen. Set out a few paint colors, brushes, canvas or paper and have them dress in old clothes. You can instruct them to paint a scene about what you’re reading to them or allow them to choose what they want. My kids love art lessons using Masterpiece Society Studio. Either way, it’s a great idea to knock out art while you’re focusing on another subject.
Air Dry Clay:
Clay isn’t just for little kids. Older kids will enjoy working with Air Dry Clay and they will even have a masterpiece to keep after they’ve completed it. Try giving your kids a challenge like “Create George Washington” to go along with your stories. Clay is also a great tool to simply be molded mindlessly, while they keep their attention on the teacher.
Getting kids to listen and concentrate doesn’t have to be hard. Simply give them instructions to do a specific stretch until you say to switch. Then they can start on the next stretch. Stretching is a great way to allow kids to move around a bit while exercising both their body and mind.
With so many simple read aloud activities for middle schoolers, it shouldn’t be too hard to keep them focused while letting their hands stay busy.
What’s YOUR favorite way to keep jittery kids still enough to soak up your reading?