Monday, June 20, 2016

Story Time Q & A: Repetition, Large Groups, STEAM, and Behavior Problems

Today I'm answering the first batch of questions from the list I received following my "Tips for Story Time Success" webinar. These are the questions that could be answered in just a paragraph. There will be two more posts this week and next which will include answers to the more involved questions. 

Q: I repeat a lot of games and songs when it comes to my preschool storytime, mostly because the kids learn them and love them, is that okay?

A: Since we know children learn best by repetition, I think it is a great idea to repeat the same material over the course of several sessions, or even at every session you present. If you enjoy it, and the kids enjoy it, and it works for your story time, keep it up!

Q: If possible could I get some aesthetics pointers for very large groups (my storytimes are usually have between 60 and 75 in attendance) [Note: This question refers to the section of my presentation where I talked about the appearance of the materials you use in story time.] 

A: It can definitely be hard to make sure everyone can see when a story time is this large! Here a few pointers:
  • Choose books with bold lines, bright colors, and solid backgrounds that help the figures to stand out on the page. Books where a single, simple image appears on each page, and fills the entire page, are easiest to see at a distance.  
  • If you can manage it smoothly, try using big books, or using a projector to show book pages on a screen or wall. 
  • Substitute physical movements for visual aides. Instead of singing a song with a puppet, find hand gestures to accompany it, or use your fingers instead of flannel board pieces to count five little ducks, monkeys, flowers, etc. 
  • Use very large flannel board pieces with distinct features and bold lines. Avoid flannel board stories that require a lot of pieces to occupy the board at once - instead, tell simple stories without a lot of moving around of figures.
  • Tell stories without the book and make them visual in some other way - hand gestures, full-body movements, facial expressions, etc.
Q: Have you added STEAM elements to your story times?

A: I have always done STEAM programming separately from story time, but I do have a list of story time starters for STEM themes that I created to go along with the Fizz, Boom, Read summer reading program in 2014 that might be of interest!

Q: How do you address problem children? It is difficult when the parent is sitting in the same room but refuses to calm her child down, who is then riling all the other children up to misbehave as well!
The entire last chapter of my book is devoted to story time problems, and there is a big section in there about child behavior. In the specific situation you mention - a parent refusing to calm down the child - I would probably address the parent in the moment in a friendly, but firm way. Something like, "Whoops, this little guy needs to find his mom." That lets the child know you see what he is doing, and the parent know that you expect parents to handle those types of behaviors. If it escalates beyond that, I would probably have to ask the parent not to bring the child anymore, or at least to leave with him when his behavior gets out of control. I would try to have a supervisor or colleague in on that conversation if at all possible.

Do you like this feature? Would you like to see it continue? Email me with your own story time question at 

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