Read-Along Story Time for Beginning Readers, 1/31/13
Yes, yes, yes! Finally, a beginning reader story time that worked for both me and the kids! After reflecting on last week's session, I made a few changes. First, I decided to stop using the bulletin board for my welcome message and other items. This meant that I could set myself up on the wooden steps at the back of the room, and the kids therefore could not come up and climb on them. It also opened up a lot more room for the kids to have their space and not be in each other's faces as much. I introduced name tags this time as well and also put out the stools in a semi-circle formation so kids would understand where they were meant to sit. Not everyone got a stool, but no one complained about that at all. Mostly the seats just gave the room some structure.
To get everyone's attention, and get things started, I broke out one of my go-to rhymes, This is Big, Big, Big, which comes from Mel's Desk. Normally, I would not consider this an appropriate school-age rhyme, but as we were going through it, I kept pausing to let the kids fill in the words - big, small, short, tall, etc. I realized that they seemed to enjoy being able to predict what I would say, and doing the motions got everyone into a rhythm of listening and paying attention. I'm definitely going to start with an action rhyme from now on.
I used my best teacher writing to write today's message. It was a little long, but I wanted it to sort of map out what we would be doing during the story time so that transitions from one activity to the next wouldn't be surprises. I can't say for sure that this is why things ran so smoothly, but I suspect it was one of a few details that did make a difference. Since the text is a little small in the photo, I'll reproduce the text of the message here.
Here is what we will do at story time today. First, we will all read a story called At the Pet Store. Second, I will read you a book called Pet Show. Finally, we will play a pet show game. Let's get started!
One of the girls who has been coming every week piped up at the end of the message to say - "Miss Katie, that's you!" (And I have to say that the way the kids say my name in a chorus at the end of my messages reminds me so much of the way the models on America's Next Top Model say, "Love, Tyra." It cracks me up.)
During the past few weeks, I found that the books we were reading were too long for choral reading. The less experienced readers got lost, and the more experienced readers zipped ahead of us. So this week, I looked for a printable easy reader that would go with the theme of pets. (I wasn't necessarily married to the idea of using the same theme at this story time as at the others this week, but the picture book I wanted to read was pet-themed, and it just kind of grew from there.) When I didn't find anything I really liked, I went ahead and wrote my own! The end result looks liked this:
here as a .pdf file.
The kids loved this book, and I did allow them to keep their own personal copies to take home, which was a really big deal for most of them. At the end of the story, the most vocal girl in the group (the one who recognizes my name) called out, "That was crazy!" and I could tell from the look on her face that this was a compliment.
Briefly, between books, we talked about our pets. Hardly anyone in the group wanted to share, but I see potential for this portion of the story time in the future. I also love Katie's idea of creating a word cloud with the kids, and I think that would also fit in well at this point in the story time.
Picture Book Read-Aloud
This was the key component missing from my previous sessions. It's not really a story time if we don't share a picture book! We read Pet Show by Ezra Jack Keats. I tried to get them to talk a little bit about the story, but I didn't really plan any questions so the discussion didn't last long. Now that I know how well this format works, though, I'll prepare better next time.
Pet Show Game
The brown paper bag in the photo above that is labeled "Pet Show" contained six small stick puppets. Each puppet showed the name of an animal on one side, and a picture of that animal on the other side. Four of the animals - cat, dog, bird, and fish - came from At the Pet Store, and two others - turtle and rabbit - were added to make the game last a bit longer. I pulled the animals out one at a time, had the kids call out the word, then showed them the picture. Then I took volunteers to act out various "tricks" these pets might do in a show. The more I think about it, the more I like the way this activity went. All the kids could participate on some level, and most of them had at least one idea to share. It also got them thinking about how to describe animal behavior, and the physical aspect of it kept them from getting wild and out of hand.
Hat, Coat, Pants and Shoes has become the ending song for this story time, just by default. The kids love it, and I enjoy the challenge of coming up with new ways to surprise them at the end of each verse.
When the kids came into story time, the nametag they received was a blank "blue ribbon" with a hole punched in it and a string so they could wear it around their neck. At the end of story time, I provided crayons for them to design their ribbon, as prize for doing so well in the pet show. I didn't see that many of them actually coloring it, but some of them got really into it. I would like to see this portion of the story time get a little bit stronger, but quite a few of the parents are really concerned about getting in and out in 30 minutes. I think they might be squeezing this story time in before other after school activities. But everything else went so well, I have no complaints whatsoever! I have found a structure that works, and I'm going to try sticking to it for a few weeks in the hopes that the kids will become accustomed to the routine too.