Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Tuesday, April 29, 2014 10 Yucky Chapter Books

This month, The Library Adventure is participating in the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge by posting a book list for each letter of the alphabet. My post for the letter Y is up today! Check out 10 Yucky Chapter Books

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Story Time Music: Going it Alone

Today's post is the second in a series about my experiences using music at story time. Last week, I reflected on the ways I have used recorded music, and on the pros and cons of this approach. This week, I'm talking about the advantages of singing a cappella.

Deciding not to depend on any recorded music for my story time sessions was intimidating at first. There is a huge difference between singing along with a CD and leading a whole group in song with nothing but your own voice. Still, once I found the courage to try it just once, the experience was completely liberating. Suddenly, I had all these great opportunities at my fingertips:
  • I could use any song, provided I had memorized the tune and could either remember or read the words from a cheatsheet.
  • I could use piggyback songs, or write my own verses for songs I liked, for which I thought the lyrics were weak.
  • I could control the pace of my singing depending on the age of the kids, and add or delete verses depending on the reaction of the crowd.
  • I could transition easily into a song without worrying about whether the equipment would cooperate.
  • I could do story time at a moment's notice, in any space, with any set-up and never have to worry about whether there would be a CD player. (This was especially useful when I began doing more outreach.)
  • I was able to model singing for parents and caregivers who might be shy about singing with their kids, and every adult in attendance was able to take the songs home with them without having to check anything out or wait their turn for the CD to come back.
My story time audiences never complained about the lack of recordings. Some of them even paid me compliments for my singing voice, which I did not expect, but which gave me the confidence to keep going. I made sure to continue singing favorites like The Wheels on the Bus and Chickadee, even though I didn't use the CDs anymore, and I also introduced lots of new favorites as time went on. I felt much more like myself when I was doing story time in this way, and I never really missed the CDs like I thought I would. (In fact, on the few occasions I tried to bring back some of my audience's favorite recordings, they were not well-received at all!)

Finding the guts to sing without accompaniment in front of a large group also gave me confidence to take on a new challenge: playing the ukulele. The next post in this series will talk about incorporating live music into story time.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Story Time Music: On the Record

Music is a huge part of story time. Singing with kids is a great way to promote early literacy skills, and it's fun, too! In my three years as a children's librarian in DC, I used recorded music, a cappella singing, and the ukulele to incorporate music into my story time sessions. Over the next several weeks, I will be posting about my experiences using music in story time, and how these experiences have informed the decisions I make about incorporating music into my story time sessions. I begin today with my reflections on recorded music.

I had actually never even thought of using recorded music in story time until I started my job in DC. All the nursery school teachers and children's librarians I knew did all their own singing. But my very first day in my library branch, someone else was still covering the story time, and every song she used in the session I observed came from a CD. I immediately adjusted my expectations. "Oh," I thought. "I'm supposed to use recordings." For the first several months of story time, that's what I did. Here are some of the advantages of recorded music that I discovered during this time.
  • I could use songs I didn't know well, or for which I didn't know all the words, because the recorded singer could do most of the singing for me.
  • I could comment on the kids' actions during songs because again, the song could go on whether I was singing or not.
  • If I had laryngitis (which I did once), or just didn't feel like singing, I could still incorporate music into story time.
  • I could take time to get used to my story time audience without the added anxiety of also singing in front of a group.
  • The recordings included instrumentation that would have been missing from an a cappella performance, and which exposed kids to different beats and rhythms I might not be able to replicate on my own.
  • I could promote CDs from my collection at story time and encourage folks to check them out.
Though I enjoyed story time from the get-go, as the months went on, I became more and more comfortable being "on stage." As I started to think more critically about my story time performances, I began to see the drawbacks of relying solely on recorded music.
  • I was stuck with what was available in my collection, and with whatever verses were used by the recording artist.
  • If the CD player was accidentally unplugged during story time, everything derailed rather quickly. (I also tried using an iPod, but that was even worse, as our speakers were forever turning themselves off mid-song.)
  • I couldn't necessarily cut a song short if the kids were getting restless.
  • The transition from book to song was cumbersome because I had to find the correct CD, correct track, etc.
  • The adults in my audience began to carry on personal conversations the second I pressed the play button for a song.
After about a year of relying pretty heavily on recorded music, I decided it was time for a change and I began doing all my story times without any CDs or MP3s on hand. Next week, I'll talk about the new joys and challenges I faced when I decided to sing all on my own.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Fizz, Boom, Read! Preschool Story Time Starter: Light and Electricity

Today, in my final preschool story time starter for the Fizz, Boom, READ summer reading program, I am focusing on light and electricity. This is one of the more versatile science themes I have considered - you can focus on many different aspects of the topic, depending on your collection, your audience, and the materials available to you. This theme is also a great opportunity to reuse some of the nighttime activities you may have developed for the Dream Big! Read summer reading program in 2012. (To see my other Fizz, Boom, READ story time starters, visit these links:
Five Senses, Temperature, Living vs. Non-living Things, Weather, and Sink or Float?)

Miss Katie's Recommended Books

  • Night Lights by Susan Gal
    A little girl and her dog explore all the different sources of light that present themselves when it gets dark. I love this book for its illustrations as much as for its content, and it's a good way to get kids thinking about all the places they see light.
  • Blackout by John Rocco
    I recommend practicing how you will read this aloud before you share it, but kids tend to love the illustrations and the story provokes lots of great questions about how things change when the lights go out. It also shows how families can regain a sense of community when they unplug for just a little while - a message many parents might appreciate even if the kids don't quite catch it.
  • Dance by the Light of the Moon by Joanne Ryder
    All the farm animals get together for a dance by the light of the moon, presented by the farmer in appreciation of all they do! This one doesn't have very much to do with light, but I have always had wonderful story time experiences with the story, and it works just as well with toddlers as with kindergarteners.
  • Night Light by Nicholas Blechman
    This is a counting book combined with a guessing game, so it's a perfect one for encouraging kids to interact with  you. It also deals with transportation, which is one of the most popular interests among preschoolers, so it's pretty much a guaranteed hit. This one is also a good option for groups on the older end of the preschool spectrum.

Other Possible Books

Songs & Rhymes

    • Song: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
      Everybody knows this song, and usually they're anxious to sing along. If you have an especially musical group, they might even like to learn the lesser-known second verse.  
    • Song: Mr. Sun
      This song is fun to sing and easy to learn even if the kids and their parents don't know it. I like to use a puppet, and invite the kids to give him a high-five at the end of story time.  
    • Song: Stars Shine Bright (non-Christmas version)
      This song asks the kids to identify stars by color - it's always a huge hit, especially with class and camp visits.  
    • Rhyme: Five Little Moths
      I wrote this rhyme for the Dream Big, Read theme and then never actually used it. It can be a fingerplay or a flannel board. 
    • Rhyme: Two Little Fireflies
      This simple rhyme is a take-off on Two Little Blackbirds. It's a quick one, and very simple, but if the kids are on the younger side, it's a good one for regaining their focus after a busier activity.

    Games & Activities

    • Flannel Board Sorting Game: Does this need electricity?
      Depending on the age of the kids, it could be fun to share images of a variety of household objects and ask them whether they do or do not use electricity. I think this is more likely to work in a group of five-year-olds than a group of three-year-olds, but I know something like this would have been perfect for one of my preschool camps this summer.  
    • Flannel Board Guessing Game: Whose shadow is this?
      Create a set of objects and their shadows. Show the kids the shadow and have them guess what it is, then reveal the true image. The set in the link above is pretty basic, and the group I used it with guessed the items fairly easily, but you can choose easier or more difficult-to-guess objects based on the kids you typically see.  
    • Activity: Making Shadow Animals
      I have never tried this, but I think it would be a lot of fun to project a light on the wall and teach the kids how to make different shadow animals with their hands. Your collection may have non-fiction books on this topic, which you can promote, or you can use these instructions from Zoom at PBS Kids. 
    • Discussion: What wish would you make on a star?
      Asking kids what they would wish for is one of the best story time discussion starters. When I have asked this question of four-year-olds in the past, kids have had great answers including:
      • "A ninja!"
      • "A big red gem, and when you open it up, it has a medium gem, and a small gem, and a large gem!"
      • "Snowflakes that turn into throwing stars!"
    If you can, make a list of their answers, then have the kids help decorate the poster with star stickers to be displayed in the story room, or in another special place in your library.

    Visit These Sites For More Ideas

    Saturday, April 5, 2014

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

    Ten Creative Ways to Share Nursery Rhymes at Story Time

    Nursery rhymes are a great way to expose young children to vocabulary, rhythm, and rhyme. (PBS Kids has a great post explaining exactly how and why.) While reading them aloud without any special props is perfectly fine, sometimes it's fun to get a little bit creative. Here are ten unique ways to share nursery rhymes with your story time audiences and/or your own kids at home.
    • The Colorful Itsy-Bitsy Spider
      The itsy-bitsy spider is usually portrayed as a black or brown spider, but wouldn't it be fun if he was a bit more colorful? The rhythm of the song makes it easy to substitute a color combination for the words "itsy-bitsy." You could have "the red and orange spider," "the blue and yellow spider," or "the green and purple spider." Use a template like this one to make a two-toned spider out of felt, or to print and color a paper version.  Have the kids name the colors, then sing the new words along with  you.
    • Baa Baa _________ Sheep
      Another nursery rhyme song that lends itself to a lesson in colors is Baa Baa Black Sheep. Sing the traditional song one time through, then change the color of your sheep. I have done this activity on the flannel board countless times,  but Mel's Desk gets the credit for the original idea.
    • Mary Had a Little Lamb
      If the black sheep can change colors, so can Mary's lamb. Here are the verses I use for each color:

      Mary had a little lamb whose fleece was...
      • blue as the sea
      • red as a rose.
      • green as the grass.
      • black as the night.
    • Old King Cole
      I did an entire Flannel Friday post about the Sharon, Lois, and Bram version of this song, which introduces the names of three musical instruments (fiddle, clarinet, and trumpet) and the people who play them.
    • Hey Diddle Diddle with Puppet
      I have always done this rhyme for babies using a cloth cow hand puppet. I lift the cow way up into the air when she jumps over the moon and invite the caregivers to lift the babies up, too. Sometimes, this also works with toddlers if they like to put their arms up and wiggle their fingers.
    • Little Boy Blue Magic Envelope
      Not every nursery rhyme lends itself to a magic envelope, but this one works nicely. Read my story time post from last May that explains how I did it. Learn how to make and use a magic envelope from Sharon at Rain Makes Applesauce.
    • Sing the Nursery Rhyme Rap
      This song, which goes to the tune of 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall, is taken from The Bilingual Book of Rhymes, Songs, Stories, and Fingerplays
    • Shake to the Rhythm
      It can be tricky to know what to do when there are no obvious hand gestures associated with a rhyme. Remedy this by handing out shaker eggs or other instruments and having everyone help keep the beat as you chant the words. For a fun twist, try this song by MaryLee.
    For more nursery rhyme activities, check out my story time plans for babies and toddlers and preschoolers.

    Tuesday, April 1, 2014

    Fizz, Boom, Read! Preschool Story Time Starter: Sink or Float?

    Today, I'm sharing my second-to-last preschool story time starter related to the Fizz, Boom, Read! summer reading theme. This one focuses on sinking and floating. (Previous posts can be found at these links: Five Senses, Temperature, Living vs. Non-living Things, and Weather.)

    Miss Katie's Recommended Books

    • Who Sank the Boat? by Pamela Allen
      A series of animals climbs into a rowboat, and the reader is asked on each page to guess who might have sunk the boat. There aren't very many books about sinking, but this one is a great introduction to the concept, and  while I doubt every child in the room would get it on the first reading, the animal characters and the fact that the book addresses the kids directly would be enough to keep them interested. I think it's also fun to listen to kids' theories about who sank the boat.
    • 10 Little Rubber Ducks by Eric Carle
      This book is based on a true story, and it tells what happens to ten rubber ducks when they fall off their ship and into the ocean. It's a great preschool book because Eric Carle is the illustrator, it involves counting, and it involves an animal familiar to most kids under five. I also think kids tend to know Eric Carle's books about bugs, but not many of his others, so this is a chance to give one of the lesser-known titles some attention.
    • The Tub People by Pam Conrad
      Most kids first encounter the concepts of sinking and floating in the bathtub, where they have probably played with toys at some point. This book focuses on a whole family of small wooden figures who live along the edge of the bathtub. When Tub Child is sucked down the drain, his parents are sure they will never see him again, until a plumber comes to save the day. Sinking and floating don't figure heavily into the plot, but the subject matter of the story in general should get the kids talking about their own bathtime experiences that relate to this theme.

    Other Possible Books

    Extension Activities

    • Song: Five Little Ducks
      Kids love this song, and it's a perfect one to sing after reading 10 Little Rubber Ducks, or any duck-themed book. This is especially useful with large groups, as the quacking gets a lot of their excess energy out between books.
    • Song: Row, Row, Row Your Boat
      This song is well-known, and most likely to encourage adult participation. It's also a good one to use if your preschool groups tend to skew young or include many toddler siblings.
    • Flannel Board Song: Five Pirates in a Boat
      You can sing the original version of this song, Eight Rowers in a Boat, or make it a bit more preschool-friendly by turning it into a flannel board with pirates! Find a diverse array of pirates at, and use a coloring sheet as a pattern for a boat.
    • Song with Picture Props: Sailing Out to Sea 
      Practice number or color identification with this piggyback song I came up with based on Bumpin' Up and Down in My Little Red Wagon. I used cardboard signs, but you could also adapt this one to the flannel board.
    • Song: Swimming, Swimming
      I remembered this song from Girl Scouts and looked up the lyrics again. Have the kids act out the different strokes and speed up a little bit with each verse until everyone collapses into a giggling heap.
    • Experiment: Sink or Float Crayons
      This simple experiment comparing the bouyancy of crayons of two brands comes from a book published by Scholastic entitled Teaching Science with Favorite Picture Books. Though it is designed to accompany an early elementary lesson on Stone Soup, it would work just as well on its own. Specific instructions can be found in the Google Books preview below.

    Visit These Sites for More Ideas

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