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?

Wild for Animals! Preschool Story Time, 7/11/13

 Wild for Animals! Preschool Story Time, 7/11/13

I really wanted to ensure a big audience for this week, so I promoted it on our neighborhood list-serv and told several families I saw throughout the week that it would be perfect for their kids. That was all it took - there were 25 kids, and at least a dozen parents in the room by the end, and it was a great story time! 

Book: Where's My Mom? by Julia Donaldson
This book was a new one for me, recommended by our library associate. The kids loved it, though I think I found it funnier than anyone else.

Book: From Head to Toe by Eric Carle 
I have never done this with a preschool audience, but I thought it was a nice alternative to some of the action songs that  this age group tends to dislike. There were some little guys in attendance, and we kind of lost them at this point, but the target age group had a great time. 

Flannel Board Story: Fifteen Animals by Sandra Boynton
(I used the text found in Philadelphia Chickens because my library doesn't seem to have the book.)
This went over well, but I didn't expect it to, so I overcompensated and babbled too much afterwards and kind of lost everybody. I'll know better when I use this again tomorrow.

Book: What Do You Do with a Kangaroo? by Mercer Mayer
This was the dud of the day. The parents seemed annoyed by the constant  advice to throw the rude animals out of the house, and the kids just didn't get it. 

Song: Visor, Tee Shirt, Shorts, and Shoes
These kids were a little young to think this was funny.

Book: Actual Size by Steve Jenkins
This was maybe one book too many, but some of the kids were into it. Most others were distracted by a mom who couldn't just leave her toddler be and kept having to talk loudly at him to redirect him from the space behind me where he was climbing on the steps, despite it clearly being blocked off by tables. 

Craft: Sticker Collages
I have a huge pad of stickers from Michael's, and I pulled out the jungle stickers and provided green construction paper and crayons. The kids made all kinds of great jungle pictures, and the younger siblings loved putting stickers all over their pages.

I use the same hello and goodbye songs at almost every session. Click here for the tunes and words. For descriptions of each of my story times, click here.

Read-Along Story Time for Beginning Readers (Letter P), 7/10/13

Read-Along Story Time for Beginning Readers (Letter P), 7/10/13

I am so pleased with the number of kids who came to today's story time. Most of them were the older siblings of my toddler story time regulars, and others were graduates of preschool story time. There were about five kids who were able to read, and the rest consisted of a baby, five toddler siblings, and a set of twins whose first language is not English.

iPad Presentation
Instead of simply showing the kids labeled objects beginning with p and asking them to call them out, this time I wrote complete sentences to accompany each image. This way the kids who could read got to practice some sight words, while the ones who could not yet read the words were able to call out each image by name. I don't have the right to distribute the images I used, but my text is below:

This is a panda.
Here is a parasol. 
Look at the pumpkin. 
This bird is a parrot.
This bird is a penguin.
Wow! A pirate!
The pilot flies the plane.
This pickle is green.
Here comes the plumber.
Hi there, little pig!
Do you eat pancakes?
Time for pizza!

My favorite comment from a child during this segment of story time was, "The plumber plunges out the toilet and makes it work!" That about sums it up.

On Google Books, I found Phonics Through Poetry by Babs Bell Hajdusiewicz, which contains a poem entitled "The Plumber's Pledge". I told the kids to listen for the "p" sound in each line of the poem and to stand up or sit down each time they heard it. They got a big kick out of trying to keep up with the poem, which really uses quite a few Ps, and we did it twice to get them good and ready to sit and listen to a book. (You can read the poem in the Google Books preview below.)


We read If You Give a Pig a Pancake. I think this book was a little basic for the group, because most of the older kids remembered it as a book they read "when they were little." There were no complaints, however, and since there were so many toddler siblings, it ended up being a book everyone could enjoy.

Sequencing Activity
I used clipart and a kindergarten handwriting font to make a set of sequencing cards for the story. I asked questions to prompt the kids to retell the story. When we started our retelling, I had all the images mixed up on one flannel board, and as we figured out their order, I invited the kids up one at a time to put the images on a second flannel board in order. One little girl was really on the ball, so she was the one who answered me most of the time, but I did allow every child who wanted a turn to come up and place a card on the flannel board.

Bag of Verbs
I will never get over how much fun this is. I love how creative the kids are with their movements, and how enthusiastic they get over it. This portion of story time can get a little wild, and sometimes the parents who stay in the  room look at me like I'm insane, but I have never once had it become so chaotic that I couldn't get the group's attention back again. 

Matching Game
After the success of the watermelon matching game two weeks ago, I decided to make another one for this session. I called it "Opposites Pizza." I made a pizza out of posterboard and then glued little paper peppers to it, each labeled with a word. Then I cut out some green peppers with the opposites of those words printed on them and held them up one at a time. I asked the kids to read the word, then to tell me its opposite, and then to find its opposite on the pizza. I handled turns the same way as with the earlier sequencing activity - I made sure everyone who wanted a chance to put a topping on the pizza had the opportunity.

Write and Draw Activity
I found a coloring page of a blank pizza and gave one to every child, asking them to cover it with toppings beginning with P. Most kids just drew their "p" items, but one girl actually wrote a great list, with words like "pretty" and "pickles."

Summer has definitely rejuvenated this story time, and I'm so pleased to have so many parents who are invested in bringing their kids each week. I am hoping for another great experience next Wednesday!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...