My greatest pleasure, when substituting for the younger grades, is reading to the class. I was lucky enough to enjoy this privilege when my own children were in grade school. My children would choose their favorite stories for me to read to the class, usually Dr. Seuss or Bill Peet books. Other times, they wanted me to read one of my works-in-progress, a new children’s adventure short story. For those, I’d bring in visuals, magazine photos of bats or caves, or family camping photos of locations we’d visited. Sometimes my son or daughter would draw pictures to go along with my children’s stories.
Whenever we have extra time in class or if the teacher says that the substitute can either read a story to the class or allow free play time, I choose to read to the students. And I don’t just read. I sing, as in the poetry of the words of the story. In the youngest stories there is usually a cadence, a flow that a reader can capture for the children. Dr Seuss and Bill Peet (and many other authors) excel at having a rhythm to their story words.
Then there are the possibilities in the stories. What happens next? Always give the children a chance to think about what could happen next and what it would mean to the protagonist [main character] of the story. This works on students’ critical thinking skills.
Reading a good story to students can relieve tension in the classroom, both the teacher’s and the students’. After a session of structured teaching, reading can allow teachers and students the chance to relax and ready themselves for the next subject.
If you’re ever lost for something to do when substituting, or if the students are becoming rambunctious while you struggle with lesson plans, pluck a book from the classroom bookshelves and bring the students to the carpet. Reading gives both children and adults a chance to imagine the possibilities.