Friday, January 31, 2014

Flannel Friday: Who is Tapping at my Window?

This week, I am sharing another flannel board idea based on a poem I recently read to my daughter. It is entitled "Who is Tapping at my Window?" and was written by A.G. Deming. It can be found in A Child's Book of Poems by Gyo Fujikawa, and thanks to Google Books, you can read it online.

I like this poem as a read-aloud because it's very repetitive and has a strong rhythm that becomes really obvious when speaking the words out loud. It also reinforces kids' understanding of familiar animals (dog, cat, hen), but also introduces a few that kids might not know about (hare, cony, wren).

The clipart images I used in the Google Drive presentation below all come from Many were in the flashcards and clipart sections, but for a few, I had to comb through the story props section. Also, they didn't have a wren or a cony, so I used a generic bird and a rabbit. I added in speech bubbles as well, but I would definitely consider those optional.

This poem works well for an animal theme or weather theme, or just as an easy way to slip some poetry into story time. Find my animal-themed story times here, and my rain-themed story times here.

Today's Flannel Friday round-up is hosted by Lisa at Thrive After Three. For more on Flannel Friday, visit the official website.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Ten Valentine's Day Activities for Beginning Readers

One of my favorite holidays to celebrate in library programs is Valentine’s Day, especially with elementary students. Today’s “Ten Things” post focuses on Valentine’s Day themed activities to share with beginning readers.
  • Read It’s Valentine’s Day by Jack Prelutsky.
    The poems in this book are short, funny, clever, and easy to read. They celebrate the fun of Valentine’s Day without being too sappy, and they focus on the day-to-day events that are important in the lives of early elementary kids.  
  • Make a Valentine word cloud.
    Ask kids which words they associate with Valentine’s Day and make a list on a posterboard heart. If they’re slow to open up, start the list for them, then watch as their brains begin to make connections. Soon, they’ll be shouting out everything from “Ew, kissing!” to “I have a boyfriend!”
  • Write conversation hearts.
    Provide a sheet of blank hearts and have the kids write messages to their friends, family members, even their pets. For added fun, provide some actual candy hearts to eat while they write.
  • Do a choral reading of Will You Be My Valentine? 
    Provide each child with a copy of this wonderful printable easy reader created by Kathy Romano and Christina Murphy. Read it aloud as a group, using the illustrations as clues to help decode each animal’s name. Have the kids add to the story using their own favorite animals.
  • Draw a Valentine portrait.
    Ask the kids to choose who would they like to be their Valentine, and have them draw a picture of that person. Help them write a few sentences describing their Valentine. 
  • Write messages in Valentine cards.
    There’s always room for making good old-fashioned Valentines! Provide lots of art materials, if that’s your style, or simply provide plain paper and colored pencils. Be on hand to help kids spell the names of their friends, or to help kids brainstorm what they’d like to say to the people they love. 
  • Read Valentines from fictional characters.
    Write up a set of Valentine cards addressed to well-known characters from their friends. Have the kids guess who each one is from. (Some suggestions for fictional pairs who might exchange cards can be found here.)
  • Match rhyming words - one on each half of a heart.
    Create a set of hearts in Word or Publisher. Print rhyming words onto both halves of each heart, then cut them apart and laminate. Have the kids try to match up the broken hearts by finding matching rhymes. 
  • Make a love list.
    Kids can practice writing with this simple list activity from Apples and ABCs, which provides an opportunity for the child to write the names of everyone he loves. (I originally found the idea via Pinterest.)
  • Play Bag of Verbs (Hearts Edition).
    One of my favorite activities to do with beginning readers is “Bag of Verbs.” This is just a brown paper bag filled with action words. Kids each have a turn to draw from the bag, and everyone acts out each motion. To make it more festive for the holiday, simply print your verbs on paper hearts, or write them on foam hearts with a Sharpie.

Monday, January 20, 2014 Ten Passive Library Programs for Tweens

Having trouble getting attendance for your tween programs? Try one of the ten passive program ideas I'm sharing today at The Library Adventure.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Flannel Friday: Old King Cole

When you spend all day with a baby, you also spend a lot of time with kids' music, books, and toys. One day, while feeding my daughter and listening to Sharon, Lois, and Bram, I heard their version of Old King Cole for the first time. The first verse is the traditional rhyme that most of us know, where the king calls for his three fiddlers.  The second and third verses, however, change the instrument from a fiddle to a clarinet, and then to a trumpet. I have used other similar adaptations of nursery rhymes in story times in the past, and I immediately thought that Old King Cole would make a nice addition to that list. Specifically, I like that it  provides an opportunity to introduce musical vocabulary into story time and to teach kids that there are words for instruments, as well as specific titles for the people who play those instruments.

To mimic what I would do on an actual flannel board, I created just a single slide in Google Drive, where the pipe and bowl and the various instruments fade in and out to show how they would be added to and removed from the flannel board. Below are the presentation, my script for sharing this flannel board with preschoolers, and links for all the clipart I used.

(Click the right arrow to advance the presentation.)

(Hear the Sharon, Lois, and Bram version of the song here.)
Old King Cole was a merry old soul 
and a merry old soul was he!
He called for his pipe, 
and he called for his bowl,
and he called for his fiddlers three.

Add pipe and bowl to the flannel board as they are named, but do not yet add the fiddles.

Hmmm... what is a fiddle? A violin! Right! And if we have three fiddlers, how many fiddles do we need? That's right! Three! Help me count them, okay?

Add fiddles to flannel board, counting aloud with the children. 

How would you play a fiddle? Let's pretend to play our fiddles as we sing the second part of the song.

Pretend to play a violin.

Every fiddler had a fine fiddle,
And a very fine fiddle had he;
Oh there's none so rare, as can compare
With King Cole and his fiddlers three.

Repeat full rhyme twice more, substituting fiddles with clarinets and trumpets.

Now it's your turn. Which instrument would you like to sing about next?

Possible choices are included at the end of the Google Drive presentation - oboe, saxophone, flute, and harp.

You can download the clipart images I used from the following links:

This week, Flannel Friday is hosted by Kathryn at Fun with Friends at Storytime. For more on Flannel Friday, visit the official website.

Monday, January 13, 2014

At the Children's Desk: A Day of Questions, Volume II

In the weeks before I left my job, my duties away from the reference desk began to dwindle, and I started really focusing my attention on answering questions. There were several days in September and early October where I was on the desk more often than I was not, and on those days, I took notes, keeping track of every question I was asked, and by whom. Today's post focuses on the questions I handled during the last shift of the day on Thursday, September 19. I mostly let the questions speak for themselves because they're more interesting - and funnier - that way, but I have included some notes in brackets where necessary.

3:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.

  • Senior Citizen Woman: Do you have a post-it note? Do you have Scotch tape? Do you have a pen? Is this book [just sitting on the desk] available?
  •  Staff Member: Can you find out how old the person on computer 2 is? 
  • Teacher: You were a CYBILS judge, too? Where do you blog? Do you have a graphic novel collection? 
  • Same Senior Citizen Woman:  I need to rewrite my note. I guess this is the paper? And this is the tape? Did you hear about that library in Fairfax that threw away all those books? 
  • Middle Schooler: I came up with an adjective at school today that seemed really obvious at the time, but now I can't remember what it was. It starts with D, and it means horrible. (And I need it to do my homework.)  [Answer: Dreadful] 
  • Same Senior Citizen Woman: What is this library, four or five years old now? 
  • Same Middle Schooler: Do you know where Miss [name of coworker] is? Is she going to be on the desk? 
  • Child: Can I borrow a pencil? 
  • Adult: How do you get to use a computer?

5:30 p.m. - LIBRARY CLOSES

To see a full day of questions, check out Day of Questions Volume I.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

More Content Coming to Story Time Secrets!

Three years ago, when I first began blogging, I had so much content it was too much for one blog. There were times at the height of my blogging frenzy that I was posting two reviews at Secrets and Sharing Soda and three story time posts here at Story Time Secrets in one day. In the past three years, though, I have gotten married, left my job, and started a family. I no longer perform story times regularly, so I don’t have many of those posts to offer, and though I’m still reading quite a lot, I’m not reviewing nearly as many books as I used to. To make things easier on myself, therefore, I’ve decided to consolidate everything back to just one blog. Because it has more subscribers, and because I prefer its name and layout, I will be moving everything here to Story Time Secrets.

What this will mean for my readers is an increase in content. In addition to story time ideas and posts about library service, you will now also see book reviews for all age levels and my weekly Old School Sunday posts, featuring kids' books published prior to the year 2000.

Thank you so much for your support of my blog over the past three years. I look forward to sharing more great posts with you in the months and years to come!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Flannel Friday: It Fell in the City

Today's Flannel Friday post was inspired by a read-aloud session with my daughter. Since she was born, I've been reading poems to her from Read-Aloud Rhymes for the Very Young. There is a section near the end of the book with a bunch of winter poems, and as I read "It Fell in the City" by Eve Merriam, that old familiar lightbulb went off in my mind, telling me that this would make a great flannel board. 

I discovered that, thanks to Highlights magazine, the text of the poem is available online. Click here to read it, or to listen to the audio version. The basic concept is that snow falls all night, turning each of the familiar objects out on the street from its original color to white. The poem actually never states that what fell in the city was snow, which throws in a nice guessing game component for story time audiences. 

I created a simple Google Drive presentation to demonstrate how I might share this poem as a flannel board. If I were really planning to use it in a story time, I'd probably do my best to make the pieces out of actual felt, as I think it would be much easier - and more logical - to create snow-covered objects using white felt  than it was to recolor everything in Microsoft Paint. I also included a final slide showing just snowflakes. I would ask the kids at the end of the poem to tell me what they think fell in the city, and then after they all hopefully called out, "Snow!" I'd show them the snowflakes to confirm they were correct.

Here is what the presentation looks like:  

This poem would work well for a snow, weather, or winter theme, as well as a city theme, or a poetry theme. It could even be included in an author study of Eve Merriam.

This week's Flannel Friday host is Anna from Future Librarian Superhero. For more on Flannel Friday, visit the official website. Look for more Winter ideas on the Flannel Friday Winter Pinterest board.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Reflections on Library Service to Preschoolers

Traditionally, the age group most likely to be served by a library is the preschool set - roughly ages 3 to 5. When I was a kid, there was always preschool story time, even if there were no programs for toddlers or babies, and some smaller libraries still only offer preschool story time today. Preschool classes also make regular visits to libraries, which means librarians interact with them in large numbers on a monthly - or sometimes even weekly - basis. Here are some basic tips for serving preschoolers' needs at the library.
  • Ask preschoolers open-ended questions.
    The main difference I notice between preschoolers and toddlers is that preschoolers are much more interested in expressing their feelings and opinions. Whereas a toddler might want to tell me that her dress is blue, a preschooler will want to tell me where she bought the dress, and when she wore it, and which of her friends has the same one in pink. Sometimes it can be overwhelming when 25 preschoolers want to tell you something all at once, but I've also found that talking to preschoolers about the things that interest them is one of the most rewarding parts of children's librarianship. To get kids talking - and working on their narrative skills - ask open-ended questions, both about their lives, and about the books you share with them. When doing an art project with preschoolers, ask them to tell you the story behind their pictures, and if you can, write down what they tell you so they can share it with their parents and caregivers. Give preschoolers room to speak up for themselves and enjoy the great anecdotes you will hear as a result!
  • Explain to preschoolers how the library works.
    Preschoolers are curious about everything, and they love knowing how the library works. When I have a slow moment at the children's desk, I will sometimes let a child test out a stamp or scan a book and I will explain to him what I use these tools for. When I take a child to the shelf to find a book he has requested, I try to explain to him which section we're looking in and why, and sometimes even how I might find the book on that particular shelf. Not every child absorbs everything the first time they hear it, but taking a few extra moments to engage the child in the process of using the library is a helpful practice that encourages their curiosity to grow as they age.
  • Ask preschoolers for their input.
    One of the nicest things about preschool story time is that it can easily become an interactive experience. With babies and toddlers, I plan out the movements and verses for action songs ahead of time, knowing they will need me to guide them. With preschoolers, though, I can let them make decisions about which animal they want to act like, or which part of their body they want to move next. I never make anyone participate who doesn't want to, but I do offer a turn to everyone and most of the time, every child in the room wants to share an idea before we move onto the next activity. Sometimes I might also let the kids vote on which book they'd like to hear next, thereby giving them even more of a reason to buy into story time.
  • Don't force music onto preschoolers.
    I don't know if the preschoolers I know are just unusual, but I've noticed that many of  them hate it when we sing at story time. Unless the song is funny, or allows them to play musical instruments, they often groan and beg to read another book instead of singing a song. I have never gone an entire preschool story time with no singing, because we always do a hello song, but with groups that I know are particularly against singing, I will throw in just one action rhyme in the middle of the story time and otherwise stick to reading. Obviously some preschoolers like to sing, but if they truly hate it, and tell you so, there's no harm in sticking to books and rhymes.
  • Never ask a group of preschoolers if they have a dog.
    This last piece of advice is somewhat facetious, but if you've never worked with preschoolers before, you might be surprised at how quickly a 30 minute story time gets away from you when the discussion of pets comes up. All it takes is one child to tell you he has a bulldog, and the next 22 kids have to tell you about bulldogs they have known, seen, or imagined. I have fallen into this trap a few times, particularly when we read a picture book about a cat or a dog, but there are ways out. Simply tell the kids you don't have time to hear about everyone's pet, so you'd like to get onto the story before you run out of time. You can also head the kids off by asking them to raise quiet hands if they do or do not have a dog. This way, everyone can quickly share, but you don't lose your entire story time to a discussion of  the time Grandma's dog ran away. When all else fails, distract them with an action song - preferably one with a lot of complicated moves. 
Preschoolers are just beginning to form their opinions about the world. By providing them with lots of opportunities for discussion and age-appropriate information about topics that interest them you not only help them learn to better express their thoughts, but you also help them form a positive opinion of libraries which will keep them coming back throughout childhood - and into adulthood, too!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Flannel Friday: Tommy Trout


If you follow me on Twitter, you have already heard the news that my daughter was born on Thanksgiving Day. Little Miss Muffet, as she will be known here on the blog, is now over a month old, and we are loving every minute we spend with her. Luckily, she is a very easy baby, so it seems like I will have time every now and then to blog and contribute to Flannel Friday.

The story I'm sharing today is called "Tommy Trout,"and it's a birthday-themed rhyming story by Ann Ingalls which was published in the July 2011 issue of Highlights High Five magazine.  (The audio version of this issue can be found here.) In a style similar to Drummer Hoff, the story lists who brought what to Tommy's birthday party, with a repeated refrain where Tommy himself blows out the candles. The story would work well with a preschool audience or with beginning readers. As it was basically impossible to find a decent set of clipart people that fit the cast of characters, I decided to focus on beginning readers so I could just show the characters' names without any visual representations. I then replaced each of the items brought to the party with an image of the item so that the story became like a rebus.

Here is what the presentation looks like in Google Drive.

If I were doing a beginning reader story time, I would probably use this presentation as is, either on the iPad, or projected onto the wall, depending on the size of the group. For preschoolers, I would probably try to scrounge up some people to use and actually tell the story on the flannel board. With both age groups, I'd encourage them to repeat each line with me, so they were effectively retelling the story as we went, and afterward, I'd introduce a matching activity to make the connection between the names and the objects with which they rhyme. I also included two slides at the end - one with candles lit, and one with candles extinguished to give the kids the chance to pretend to blow them out.

This week's Flannel Friday host is Lisa from Libraryland. For more on Flannel Friday, visit the official website. Also check out Flannel Friday's Birthdays Pinterest board for more ideas related to this theme.
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