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Classroom Activities: Learning with Audio Books

Janelle Cox

If you are looking for an effective way to improve your students’ reading comprehension and fluency, then using audio books as classroom activities is the way to go. They are great for struggling and reluctant readers because they allow students to listen as well as read along with the text. Students can connect the words and sounds that they are listening to, with the words that they see in print.

Here is a quick overview of where you can find and obtain audio books, as well as a few tips on how to use them as classroom activities and how to get kids to learn with them.

Classroom Activities: Where to Find Audio Books

The easiest place to find audio books in right in your school library. If they don’t have the ones that you need or enough copies, then the next best place to look is on Amazon.com. If you are lucky enough to have a tablet or iPad, then you can also order them for as little as $1.95 on iTunes. Scholastic book clubs are another great place to buy audio books at a really great price. If none of these ideas work for you, then you can try borrowing them from another teacher or looking at a yard sale.

How to Obtain Audio Books

Unfortunately, audio books can be very expensive because you will need a set of books with a CD. There are two options that you can try to obtain funding for a set of classroom audio books. The first is to list your request on Donorschoose.org where people, companies, and/or foundations will donate money for your items. The second is to send a note home to parents and ask for donations. Here is a sample statement that you can write to parents:

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We need your help! Our class is in need of audio materials and unfortunately, these materials are quite expensive and our school does not have the funding. When students read and listen they are improving their vocabulary, reading comprehension, and fluency. With your help students who are struggling can experience the joy of reading. With your donation our class can improve their reading skills! Thank you for your support.

Tips for Teaching and Learning with Audio Books

Here are a few effective teaching strategies and tips for integrating audio books into your classroom.

1. Use Audio Books Across the Curriculum

The best thing about audio books is that you can use them across the curriculum. They work well in all subject areas and grade levels. You can use them during read-alouds, to reinforce key concepts, to make more complex or difficult subjects like math and science easier to understand, to help build background knowledge, or to even develop and strengthen academic independence. When students are able to listen while they read along, you are providing them with a multisensory experience. This can help lessen the frustration for students who have a hard time understanding text materials.

2. Use Audio Books to Develop Skills

Audio books are help develop important skills such as fluency, comprehension, critical thinking, and listening. Here are a few tips for each skill.

Fluency – When students listening to books read aloud multiple times, it can increase their reading fluency. Provide students with the opportunity to read and re-read the same audio book to increase fluency and build their vocabulary.

Comprehension – Audio books help students who struggle with understanding what they are reading. To help build comprehension, have students retell the story after they have listened to it. You can also give students specific questions to listen for so they are reading and listening for a purpose.

Critical Thinking/Listening – Audio books can build students’ critical thinking and listening skills. Here’s what you can do. Give students a graphic organizer to fill out and record their thoughts. Have students summarize what they have listened to and retell it to a friend. Give students a specific task before listening to a book, then have them write down the answer after they have finished.

3. Make Audio Books a Part of Your Classroom

Audio books can be used in a variety of settings: Whole class instruction, small group instruction, individual instruction, or learning centers. Here are a few tips on how to use them in each setting.

Learning centers - Create an area in the classroom where students have access to the audio books so they can use them as a reward or during leisure time.

Whole Group – Allow time for students who struggle with print to preview the audio book before whole group instruction.

Small Group – Play and then replay audio books during small group instruction to reinforce key concepts.

Individual Use – Use audio books for students who struggle with print, and allow these students to have access to these books at the same time as their peers are reading plain print.

Audio books can be a very powerful tool to use in your classroom. If you haven’t tried them already, give them a chance. You will see your struggling and reluctant readers transform as they discover a whole new world with the magic of books.

Do you use audio books in your classroom? What are some ways that you use them? Please share with us in the comment section below, we would love to hear your ideas.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a master's of science in education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the elementary education expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators, or visit her website at Empoweringk6educators.