Saturday, February 18, 2012

Hail to the Chief: A Presidents Day After School Story Time, 2/16/12

My new approach to after school programs is receiving very interesting reactions from our after school crowd. For one thing, it's attracting not only the original group of kids who have attended afternoon programs since we opened last year, but a whole new set of kids who have never come to programs before. On the other hand, though, people - especially parents - seem puzzled by the fact that I let the kids color and work on crafts while I read. I think most of them feel better once they see it in action, but still, I feel awkward a lot of the time, and I'm working on ways to make that less obvious.

One of  the goals of this program, believe it or not, is to focus more on books and less on "fluff." Rhymes and songs have their place in story times for very small kids, but for older kids, I've noticed they start distracting them from the focus of story time, which is, in a word, reading. So instead of drawing out the afternoon by starting the craft at 3 and then trying to do a thirty minute story time at 4, I've combined them, and as future weeks progress, I hope to link the crafts more and more closely to the books, and to literacy in general.

Here's what the program looked like this week:

The Craft: Lincoln Penny Pendants 
I. Supplies
  • Star template
  • Scissors
  • Crayons
  • Glue
  • Hole Punch
  • Yarn
  • Pennies

II. Prep

The only preparation I did ahead of time, aside from dividing the supplies amongst four tables, was to cut lengths of yarn so the kids could just grab one in their selected color and attach it to their necklaces. I also created an example pendant, pictured below, to give the kids an idea of how to put them together.

III. Process

Most of the kids - except one family whose mother insisted upon it - did not layer their stars, but just used one and stuck a penny on the center of it. The library only has one hole punch, so making sure everyone got the chance to punch a hole was a bit of a tedious task, to the point that next time, I might go back to punching holes ahead of time. Even though I didn't really plan on latecomers, some kids also came in just  for the craft after the stories were over, and the last child didn't finish until right before we closed at 5:30.

The Read-Alouds: Books About Presidents

Book 1: Duck for President by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Betsy Lewin (2004)
Farmer Brown's duck decides to run for president of the farm, and from there launches an unexpectedly successful political career. Though this is not nearly as great as Click, Clack, Moo, and some jokes went over the kids' heads, they still really liked it. I actually wish I'd read a second funny one to keep the laughter going after this.

Book 2: George Washington's Birthday: A Mostly True Story by Margaret McNamara, illustrated by Barry Blitt (2012)
This is not a great read-aloud, and really only a useful book for kids who have already learned about the life of George Washington. Events that happens on his fictitious seventh birthday hint at and parallel events in his real life. The kids seemed to like it, but I know they didn't really "get" it. It also confused the heck out of a mom who was actually quizzing her kids on what they learned at story time. (Oy.)

The Book Display: More Presidential Books

For the first time ever, I displayed books in a story time that I wasn't going to read, and kids actually looked at them. A brother and sister spent almost half an hour with a chart of U.S. Presidents, just figuring out who was dead and still alive. Their favorite discovery was that Adams and Jefferson died the same year and were in  fact friends. Talking to them about that chart, which was in the back of Hanoch Piven's What Presidents Are Made Of, was the highlight of my entire afternoon.

Here's the full list of what was on display: 
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