Thursday, July 11, 2013

Story Time Planning

This post was inspired by Anne's post at So Tomorrow called Putting it All Together: What My Story Time Prep Looks Like and Lisa's post at Libraryland entitled Story Time Prep 101. Each post outlines how these librarians prepare for their story time programs. My approach is somewhat different, so I wanted to write it all out and share it. I actually really recommend writing a post like this - for me, at least, it provided a much clearer sense of why I do what I do each week.

Step 1: Get Organized
Since my library system offers story times 50 weeks out of the year, I plan my story times one week at a time, and though it doesn't always work out, I try to stay one month ahead so that I'm never planning a program at the last minute. To that end, I keep a set of folders and documents on Google Drive that sorts my story times first by month, then by week, and then by individual session.

Since January, I have been using themes for each week, so I indicate those in parentheses in the name of the folder, and if there is a more specific focus for an individual story time I indicate that in the name of the file for the session itself. I make all of these documents for the month before I choose any materials. Once I know how many story times I'm doing, and which themes I'm focusing on, I start filling in the blanks.

Step 2: Choose Books
After I have the framework for each week, I head to the catalog, the shelves, and my past blog posts to track down the books I want to use. I always select books before anything else, because if I can't find enough quality stories for a given theme or age group, I scrap that theme and try something else. For the most part, I try to choose very broad themes so I can take them in many directions. Earlier this year, when I was doing all of the story times at my branch, this was especially important because I needed so many books. Now that I'm down to four story times a week, it is easier to find enough books on less general themes, but I still try not to get too obscure or specific, because often even if there are books, there aren't many extension activities for those themes.

Step 3: Choose Songs and Rhymes 

Finding songs and rhymes has become easier over time, as I have accumulated them over the past two years in my story time wiki.
Typically, I will consult the wiki and my past blog posts first to see what I already have on file for a given theme, or to complement a particular book, and after I've chosen what interests me from those sources, I'll do some searching around for new things. I don't always need new things, but if I remember that particular songs or rhymes were flops, I'll look for replacements. If I can't find replacements, and I have the time, I might even try to write some new material. It is also during this stage of planning that I decide whether to make a new flannel board or stick puppet and make sure I have enough time to put it together.

Step 4: Make a Set List 
Once I have notes in each document for a given theme, I go back in and start listing activities and books in the order I think I would like to use them. If I have a song or rhyme that I don't know well, I'll include the words and tune right there on the sheet so I don't draw a blank when I get in front of my audience.

Once I feel finished with a given set list, I close it and move onto the next one. I don't look at the set list again until it's time to actually set up for story time.

 Step 5: Set Up
I perform story time in two different rooms. The large drop-in story time is held in a conference room, because it frequently attracts over 100 people and that is the only space that can accommodate a group of that size. My other story times, which attract smaller numbers, are held in the actual story time room.

In the conference room, I make sure to set up a handful of chairs around the edges of the room for the adults who refuse to sit on the floor. I also put two tables at the front of the room for me to set things down on as story time goes on. I used to bring in a chair for myself, but I find that no one pays attention if I'm sitting, so I now stand for the large-group story times.

In the story room, I typically sit on the wooden steps at the back of the room, facing the door, and use the steps as a kind of stage. I keep all my props behind me so I can try to intercept kids who want to borrow them before story time starts, or even during story time. I don't provide chairs for adults in this room because the space is so small.

I set up my space 30 to 45 minutes prior to story time, depending on how I find the room when I arrive, and whether there is a program before mine. At this point, I print out my set list, and then inevitably make changes in pencil once it has been printed. Most of the time, I change the order of things, but there are also times where  I will realize I just can't stand a particular song, and I'll swap it out for something else. If I have read a book earlier in the week that was a dud, I might switch that for a better option at this point as well. When I'm happy with the list, I go find all the necessary puppets, flannel board pieces and books in the picture book bin I use for storage, and bring them into the story time space.

Step 6: Take Photos
Once I have everything laid out, I snap a photo on my phone to upload to my blog later on. This has been a great way for me to keep track of story times visually on Pinterest. Often I can just glance quickly at the picture and it will remind me of how that particular story time was received by the kids. Then I can click through and revisit more of the finer details on my blog. After the photo is taken, I change the way things are laid out just a little bit, to minimize the potential for little hands losing a flannel board piece or running off with a book. In the conference room, this means setting everything on the ledge of the whiteboard. In the story room, it means hiding almost everything inside the portable flannel board.
Step 7:  Open the Doors
I open the doors for the large story times ten minutes before the scheduled start time. In the story room, I can typically wait until just about show time. If a story time requires registration, someone else from the staff signs the kids in so that I can get in the story time zone without worrying about paperwork. Because I hate to have them all staring at my expectantly (it reminds me of being asked to speak in class when I didn't know the answer in tenth grade history), I never enter the room myself until I'm ready to start story time.

Step 8: Tune the Ukulele
I typically only use the ukulele for the large groups, and I use that ten minutes between opening the doors and actually starting story time to tune it and make sure I have the chords memorized for whatever song I'm playing. The ukulele is never left unattended in the story time space, so it accompanies me when I enter the story time room.

Step 9: Take a Deep Breath
When I enter the story time room, I take one last moment to look over my materials and make sure nothing is missing. Then I count to three in my head to get myself into the story time zone and say, "Good morning everybody!" I launch into the hello song, and then follow the set list as closely as I can for the next 30 minutes.

Step 10: Review 
After a given story time is over, I post on my blog about what did and did not work. Though this particular story time is done, doing a post-mortem analysis is actually good preparation for the next story time, especially if it's still early in the week and I'm still working with the same theme. Then I click over to the next set list and begin the process all over again!

How do you plan your story times?

1 comment :

  1. I am super impressed that you guys do 50 weeks of story times a year. That has got to be hard!


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