Friday, March 24, 2017

Wild About Animals!

Lately the themes for my Storytime-To-Go program have been repeats, and I didn't really do anything significantly different from the last time, so I didn't bother to write them up. But this time, while I didn't really use a novel theme, I did use a new assortment of books and activities. This was just a generic "Animal" theme, as a way to use an assortment of good books that had not been used in our previous, more specific themes, such as "Jungle Animals," "Zoo Animals," "Oceans," or "Farm".

Each session is approximately 25 minutes (depending upon whether the class arrives on time!), and I generally do 3 books and 1 or 2 songs/rhymes/activities with each one, but it does vary. I start each session by introducing the topic and the letter-of-the-day ("Aa"), then we sing our story song to help us settle down. I use a variety of books over the course of the two-week rotation.

The Books

(click on picture for larger image)

Hide & Seek  by Il Sung Na, very charming illustrations, predict who is best at hiding.
Ernest, the Moose Who Doesn't Fit by Catherine Raynor, funny, fold-out page.
Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing by Judi & Ron Barrett, very silly.
Brown Bear, Brown Bear... by Bill Martin, Jr. & Eric Carle, a classic.
From Head To Toe by Eric Carle, great to incorporate movement (but skip the donkey).
Wild About Us! by Karen Beaumont & Janet Stevens, diversity & self-acceptance.
Who Ate All The Cookie Dough? by Karen Beaumont & Eugene Yelchin, cute, repetition
Sitting In My Box by Dee Lillegard & Jon Agee, reading and imagination.
Never Take A Shark To The Dentist by Judi Barrett & John Nickle, humorous
Spunky Little Monkey by Bill Martin, Jr., Michael Sampson & Brian Won, movement
Whose Nest? by Victoria Cochrane & Guy Troughton, beautiful illustrations, lift-a-flap
Quiet As A Cricket by Audrey & Don Wood, mentions lots of different animals

The Activities

With this particular selection of books, we ended up incorporating a lot of activities with the stories, rather than as a separate activity. For example, both From Head To Toe and Spunky Little Monkey incorporate movement. Also, I had sets of flannel board pieces to go with both Brown Bear, Brown Bear and Quiet As A Cricket so I would hand out pieces to each child prior to reading the story, then when I got to the point in the story where their animal was mentioned, they would bring it up and place it on the board. They always love being able to participate in this way, and it was nice to have a different way of doing Brown Bear, Brown Bear since everyone knows it.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear

Quiet As A Cricket

Another book that was used to incorporate an activity was David Carter's pop-up If You're Happy And You Know It, which features pop-up animal characters that illustrate the appropriate action for each verse when you pull the tabs, such as clap your hands, wag your tail, pat your head, and touch your toes.

This book is really cute, and everyone seemed to really enjoy it, including the adults. I think everyone's favorite was the little dog wagging his tail.

Then I also had some photographs of a number of different animals so they could see some realistic pictures of animals they might not be familiar with, like the armadillo, though I think they did end up knowing most of them.

How It Went

Though all the books worked fairly well, the ones they seemed to enjoy the most were Ernest, the Moose Who Doesn't Fit, Brown Bear, Brown Bear (no one ever seems to get tired of that), Who Ate All The Cookie Dough?, Wild About Us, and Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing.

They really enjoyed having the animals from the two stories to put on the board, and I really liked how it worked out that we didn't have add separate activities, because several of the books incorporated movement and song with them. The kids seemed to like this better as well.

Whose Nest? worked better for some classes that others. I did like how it showed that lots of other animals besides birds build nests, and one little girl was really fascinated when I told her I had a leopard gecko at home like the one in the book. I showed them a couple of photos of him, and she asked me a couple of questions about his lifestyle and diet, and a couple of kids said they wanted to get one, too. Here is a picture of him celebrating Dr. Seuss' birthday:

Friday, March 17, 2017

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

So, with my regular storytime falling on March 17th and being of Irish descent, I had to do a St. Patrick's Day-themed storytime. It took a little digging to find some suitable books, but luckily (and surprisingly) I found some at my small local library rather than where I work.

We started with our welcome song, then talked a little bit about how St. Patrick supposedly drove all the snakes out of Ireland, and some of the G-rated ways people celebrate St. Patrick's Day. They were already aware it was St. Patrick's Day and that people wear green. We also talked about clover/shamrocks, and how finding one with four leaves is supposed to be lucky. Then we sang our story song to get ready for our first book.

In Green Shamrocks by Eve Bunting and Joelle Dreidemy, Rabbit plants shamrock seeds in order to have shamrocks just in time for St. Patrick's Day. But, when he goes out to pick some to make a chain, the whole pot is gone! Poor rabbit is in a panic to find them before someone eats them

The illustrations are bright and colorful, and the story has drama and humor, as well as an opportunity to talk about gardening, misunderstandings, and compromise.

After that we counted down from 5 to 1 with a little shamrock fingerplay I found at Sunflower Storytime and made laminated clip-art shamrocks with magnets attached as a visual aid:

"Five Green Shamrocks"

Five green shamrocks growing outdoors.
Mother picked one, and that left four.
Four green shamrocks, green as they can be.
Father picked one, and that left three.

Three green shamrocks playing peek-a-boo.
Sister picked one, and that left two.

Two green shamrocks nodding in the sun.
Brother picked one, and that left one.

One green shamrock for St. Patrick's Day fun,
I picked it, and that left none!

Our second book was a cute story by Leslie McGuirk called Lucky Tucker. Tucker is a little white dog whose St. Patrick's Day is getting off to a bad start. He wonders if his luck will improve if he rolls in a bed of four-leafed clover. As he chases after the leprechaun who assures him his luck is about to change, he finds that indeed his luck has improved.

This is a short simple story with brightly colored illustrations that are clear but not too detailed. It introduces both the idea of four-leaf clovers being good luck, and the leprechaun, which many children may not be familiar with.

I followed this with a great flannel board from Jen In The Library inspired by one of my favorite childhood cereals, Lucky Charms, which she modified from Storytime ABC's version that was modeled after Martin and Carle's Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

Lucky Charms

Leprechaun, leprechaun, what lucky charms have ye?
I have a red heart here with me.

Leprechaun, leprechaun, what lucky charms have ye?
I have an orange star here with me.

Leprechaun, leprechaun, what lucky charms have ye?
I have a yellow moon here with me.

Leprechaun, leprechaun, what lucky charms have ye?
I have a green clover here with me.

Leprechaun, leprechaun, what lucky charms have ye?
I have a blue diamond here with me.

Leprechaun, leprechuan, what lucky charms have ye?
I have a purple horseshoe here with me.

Children, children, what colors have we?
Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, and Purple

Children, children, what do those make?
A rainbow!

And what can you find at the end of the rainbow?
The leprechaun's pot of gold!

I followed that with a song that incorporated some movement, and ends with the kids sitting down for the rest of the story that I found at Literary Hoots:

Clap, Clap, Leprechaun Clap
(to the tune of "Skip to My Lous")

Clap, clap, leprechaun clap.
Clap, clap, leprechaun clap.
Clap, clap, leprechaun clap,
Clap your hands for me.

Stomp, stomp......stomp your feet for me.
Dance, a jig for me.
Bow, bow.....bow like this for me.
Sit, sit....sit down for our next story.

This made a great segue into our last book, How To Catch A Leprechaun by Adam Wallace and Andy Elkerton, which I led into by explaining the legend that if you catch a leprechaun he has to give you his gold, but that leprechauns are very hard to catch and like to play tricks on people.

This book shows the leprechaun sneaking in and out of people's houses playing his tricks, and escaping all manner of traps. The traps start out simple and become more and more complicated, but the leprechaun still manages to escape. Perhaps you can design a better trap for next year? Cute and funny, with vibrant illustrations, and a 4-leaf clover hidden in the endpapers.

After that we did our closing song and passed out stickers.

How It Went
Being a good Irish lass, I was excited about doing this storytime, and felt like I had found some good books and some really cute songs and rhymes to complement them. However, I came down with the flu last week (despite getting a flu shot every year for the last 15 years!), and while I am no longer contagious I have not yet fully recovered, so my execution was a little lack-luster due to the residual fatigue and dizziness.

The kids still seemed to enjoy it, though. They really got into Green Shamrocks, with the drama of the missing shamrocks, and the silliness of the goat wearing the pot on his head. One little girl was so excited when the shamrocks started sprouting. Lucky Tucker didn't fair as well, though, as it did not hold their interest at all and there was a lot of talking and moving around. But they all settled down for How To Catch A Leprechaun, and really seemed to enjoy all the leprechaun's tricks.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Dr. Seuss On The Loose!

I've always loved Dr. Seuss, I think since I first saw the original animated version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas (I never get tired of seeing it, even though my kids always groan, roll their eyes, and complain when I recite all the words and sing the songs). I love the nonsense words, the imaginative creatures and contraptions, and the rhyme and rhythm; as an adult I appreciate the greater message in many of his works, too.

Given all that, you'd think I would have done a Dr. Seuss storytime before, but the reality is most of his books are too long for a preschool storytime, so I have only used one them before, and even then I skipped pages. But, this year since my storytime fell just a day after his birthday, I decided it was time to give it a try, and I did manage to find some books that were either short and simple, or could be easily shortened.

We started with an explanation of why I was wearing a giant red and white striped hat, which some did recognize as "the Cat's hat". I talked a little about Dr. Seuss and how he wrote many, many children's books that were full of silly words, strange creatures, and funny happenings, and that every year we celebrate reading during the week of his birthday, and mentioned some of the more well-known books and characters. Then we sang our welcome song and our story song.

For our first book I read Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now! I chose this one not only because it was short and simple and I knew would be fun as a read aloud, but because it is not one of the more widely known Seuss books, which I wanted to avoid in case they had already read the better known ones at school, plus I wanted to introduce something new. 

This story has a lot of repetition that will have the kids join in telling Marvin to "Please go now!", and laughing at all the funny ways the narrator suggests Marvin might go.

After that, instead of reading Green Eggs and Ham, I told them we were going to do something a little different since most of them already knew it and *sing* it. I got this cute song from Miss Meg's Storytime:

"Green Eggs and Ham"
(to the tune of "London Bridge)

I don't like green eggs and ham,
eggs and ham, eggs and ham.
I don't like green eggs and ham,

Would you like them here or there,
here or there, here or there?
Would you like them anywhere?
Green eggs and ham?

I don't like them here or there,
here or there, here or there.
I don't like them anywhere,

You should try green eggs and ham,
eggs and ham, eggs and ham.
You should try green eggs and ham.
You might like them!

After that we read Would You Rather Be A Bullfrog?, which was illustrated by Roy McKie and published under a different pen name, Theo. LeSieg. For those who may not know, "Dr. Seuss" was the pen name Theodor Geisel used for books that he both wrote and illustrated. For the books that were illustrated by others, he used a different pen name, usually "Theo. LeSieg", which you might notice is his abbreviated first name with his last name spelled backwards!

This book asks repeated questions about would you rather be this or that? Some are expected, like would you rather be a dog or a cat, but others are silly, like would you rather be a table or a chair? Kids will enjoy giving their opinions, though may have trouble explaining why. Both this book and the next one are easily shortened since each spread is independent as there is no overall story, and I did shorten both.

The next book, Oh Say Can You Say? brings back memories for me! When my daughter was little, Suess was one of our staples, and while I can read this book pretty easily and somewhat fast, my husband never could. He always got tongue-tied and frustrated! So, my daughter would frequently torture him by asking him to read it, knowing that he hated it but couldn't ever say "No"! 😂 

I wasn't sure how these would go over with the younger kids I had, so I planned on skipping several of them for sure, and just playing it by ear. I introduced it by explaining what tongue-twisters are, and had them try a couple of the classics: "Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers," and "She sells seashells by the seashore." Then I started with the longer ones in the book. I could tell the kids weren't really getting it, or at least didn't find it amusing, so I stopped after three.

After this we sang a song I had intended to do as part of the introduction, but forgot (Oops!). When I first saw this song on Melissa's family blog, "Mel's Desk", it only had one verse, but I made up two additional verses in order to add more Seuss characters. I printed out pictures of each character, laminated them, and put on popsicle sticks for visual aids. Prior to singing the song, we went through and identified each character.

"Dr. Seuss Is On The Loose!"
(to the tune of "Bingo")

Dr. Seuss is on the loose,
and this is how we know it:
Cats, hats, eggs and ham,
Cats, hats, eggs and ham,
Cats, hats, eggs and ham,
This is how we know it!

Dr. Suess is on the loose,
and this is how we know it:
Grinch, sneetches, turtles, and wockets,
Grinch, sneetches, turtles, and wockets,
Grinch, sneetches, turtles, and wockets,
This is how we know it!

Dr. Suess is on the loose,
and this is how we know it:
The Lorax, Things, fish, and Who's,
The Lorax, Things, fish, and Who's,
The Lorax, Things, fish, and Who's, 
This is how we know it!

(click on thumbnail for a larger image)

Our last book, Because A Little Bug Went Ka-Choo! is probably one of the most often overlooked of Geisel's books because it was written under the pen name "Rosetta Stone". To my knowledge, this is the only book he published under that name. He collaberated with illustrator and friend Michael Frith, and the name was supposedly to honor Geisel's wife, who's maiden name was Stone.

This is a great cause-and-effect story that starts simply with a little bug sneezing, which sets of an incredible chain of events leading up to total chaos! It will get a lot of laughs, but is also good exposure to the idea of cause-and-effect and consequences. This is one of my favorite Seuss stories, and one of the most overlooked (another is The Big Brag, which is also not very well-known).

I had one last activity, also from Mel's Desk and Hummingbird Educational Resources, that features the most adorable props ever! It is a fingerplay that is not specifically "Seussical", but is about cats putting on hats, with the hats being in the style of the Cat-in-the-Hat. 

"Five Cats In Hats"

One little cat on a sunny day,
put on his hat and went out to play.

Two little cats as the sky turned dark,
put on their hats and went to the park.

Three little cats when the sky turned blue,
put on their hats and went to the zoo.

Four little cats by the kitchen door,
put on their hats and went to the store.

Five little cats on a sunny day,
put on their hats and then all ran away!

I forgot to take step-by-step pictures to show the construction, but I found a printable stripe background at Vintage Digital Stamps (a scrapbooking site), and one page was more than enough for five hats. I simply cut short strips of the paper and used a glue stick to glue them into tubes that would easily fit any of my fingers. 

Then I used a punch (forgot to check the size, maybe 1"?) to cut circles out of card stock. I cut an "X" in the center of each with an exacto knife, bent the pieces up and glued to the inside of the striped tubes (Melissa has a photo showing this). I didn't realize until later that my hats have too many stripes. They should have 3 red stripes and 2 white stripes, but they looked too short that way to me, so you may want to look around for a background with slightly wider stripes.

Then we did our closing song and passed out stickers, and I surprised them with a little something extra! My manager gave me a bunch of headband-style Cat-in-the-Hat hat's that she had leftover from a big program last year to give them ($1 for package of six at Target!).

How It Went  
Everything went well and we had a lot of fun! They all started giggling as soon as I walked in with the big hat on, and asking me why I was wearing it. Most of them were familiar with at least some of Seuss's books or characters. They really liked Marvin K. Mooney and Because a Little Bug Went Ka-Choo!, and Would You Rather Be A Bullfrog was okay, too. Oh Say Can You Say didn't seem to interest or entertain them, so I didn't force it, but they did at least get an introduction to tongue twisters.

The liked all the songs and activities, especially the fingerplay with the little Seuss hats. I could tell they were a little disappointed that I didn't have any for them. I wish I did, but that would have just been too time-consuming, unfortunately. They were all excited about their hats, especially the teacher! She took a group picture, then took them up one or two at a time for individual pictures as well! This class and teacher in particular are always SO appreciative of everything I do and the little things I'm able to give them every once it a while. It's no wonder I love going there! 💗

I'm hoping to add a picture of them to this post because they were just so cute, but I'm still waiting for permission... In the meantime, here's one of me and my very own Cat-in-the-Hat, Toby!

(He's actually freaked out about my hat, not his. He's a scaredy cat, and it always scares and disturbs him when any of us wear hats!)

Friday, February 17, 2017

Shapes All Around Us

While I try to incorporate shape recognition into storytime when I can (as well as colors, numbers, letters, and other concepts), I had not yet done a whole "Shape"-themed storytime yet this year, so I decided it was time for one. [Since shape recognition is often lagging behind other concepts, and some 3-year olds I see really don't know any shapes, I do like to do a whole storytime on shapes each year since they are not incorporated into books, songs, and rhymes nearly as often as counting and colors.]

We started with our welcome song, followed by our story song. For our first book I chose a little gem that I snapped up from a cart of books the children's department was discarding from their office storytime collection (I'm in outreach), Make A Change: Shapes by Margot Thompson and Geff Newland. This is such a fun book for talking about shapes, with wheels to turn, tabs to pull, flaps to fold, and pop-ups! 

Watch as a snake slithers out of the page to coil into a circle, an chick hatches out of an oval, a rainbow arc appears, a triangle roof tops a fairy cottage, and discover a pyramid (square base and triangular sides) complete with a mummy in his rectangular sarcophagus, followed by sea stars and the Man-In-The-Moon! Even the endpapers have something to offer; the front has several shapes that can be magically turned into a different shape by folding in the flaps, and the back offers a turning wheel that reveals different shapes to identify. (Unfortunately, there were very few copies of this book sold in the states, and it is now out of print).

We continued the fun with a song that is also a shape guessing game:

"Do You Know What Shape This Is?"
(to the tune of "Do You Know The Muffin Man?")

Do you know what shape this is,
What shape this is, what shape this is?
Do you know what shape this is,
I'm holding in my hand?

At the end of each verse I would hold up a different shape (cut out of craft foam). I had a circle, square, triangle, rectangle, oval, heart, star, and diamond (I'd like to add pentagon, hexagon, and octagon). I pointed out the similarities and differences between the circle and oval, square and rectangle, and that a triangle had 3 sides. We talked about how the heart was a special shape because it meant love (to tie in with Valentine's Day, which was earlier this week, and our stickers). I ended with the star and diamond, and told them I bet they knew a song that had those shapes in it. Some of them said "no", but a few quickly put it together, and then we sang it:
"Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star"

Twinkle, twinkle, little star;
How I wonder what you are.
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star;
How I wonder what you are.

Since our songs did not have a lot of movement in them, I had everyone stand up, give a good stretch and shake their wiggles out, before quieting our bodies and sitting back down for the next story.

Our second (and final) book was a really fun, silly one that I just happened to come across straightening up the stacks a couple of weeks ago, Circle, Square, Moose by Kelly Bingham and Paul Zelinski. This book starts out to be a simple, straightforward shape book, illustrating various shapes with everyday objects, until Moose decides to insert himself into the story, painting out some words and adding "Moose" in their places and running amuck. 

He eats the sandwich that was supposed to show a square, brings along a cat, gets everyone tangled in the ribbons that were supposed to show curves, and ruins the story. Even Zebra can't get him under control, and sadly laments that the story was ruined and has no ending. But, Moose manages to partially redeem himself by coming up with a rhyme for the last shape to end the book.

Then we sang our closing song and passed out stickers, which were special "I Love My Library" stickers in honor of "Love Our Libraries" month. I pointed out to them how each sticker had three shapes: the square backing, the round sticker, and the heart in the center.

How It Went
We had a very fun, slightly boisterous, storytime today! Who knew shapes could be so exciting? This group always loves calling things out, and I have noticed every time I've done the "Do You Know What Shape This Is?" song with this class (even with different kids each year), they tend to get louder and louder with each successive shape. I shut the door as a precaution, and tried to rein them in, but they just couldn't contain themselves. But, I'd rather have the problem of too much enthusiasm over a group of kids who just stare at you with blank faces while you can hear crickets chirping any day!

They really liked the first book, and I remembered just as I was about the bring the snake out that their teacher really hates snakes and won't even look at them. This is well-known among the kids and they LOVE to indulge in a little good-natured torture by making sure to show her EVERY picture of a snake they see, so they all laughed when they realized what it was. But then some of the kids decided they didn't like the snake that much, either, and thought I should unwind it back inside the page before moving on. They were amazed by everything that appeared, especially the mummy. It is such a shame this book is almost impossible to find now, even used. I'm glad I was able to get my hands on a copy.

They absolutely loved Circle, Square, Moose and really got into it; I had a lot of fun doing it as well. This is probably one that most people would need to practice a little first to really make the most of it, and would be great to do with a partner voicing the moose (especially if they were wearing antlers!). They kids laughed and giggled so much, and got a kick of being able to tell Moose to get out of our book, and I was glad to see they recognized how wrong is was to write (or paint) in a book. I only read two books this time since this one is a little on the longer side, and even though the first one is short, it always inspires a lot of discussion.

As I was leaving, one little boy ran after me, saying "Wait, you gotta give me my hug!" Have I said how much I love preschoolers? I do like to do programs for other ages as well, but it's hard to beat the innocence, enthusiasm, and adoration of preschoolers!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Out Of The Mouths of Babes

As anyone who has spent much time around kids knows, they can say the darnedest things! From brutal honesty to fanciful, detailed stories to revealing family secrets, you never know what they're going to say next! For some reason the theme over the last two weeks inspired many unexpected comments from the kids; so many that I was inspired to dedicate a whole post to share them!

For the last two weeks of the Storytime-To-Go program we have been doing a "Love" theme, which has some Valentine's Day stories, as well as several general stories about love, hugs, and kisses. I usually start out by talking about love, how we can love different people (or things) in different ways. The kids usually start by first saying they love their mommies and/ or daddies. But one day it didn't quite go the way I expected, revealing one family's dirty laundry. 

One little girl (whose parents I have gathered are recently separated from other things she has said) comes out with "I just love my daddy. I don't love my mommy because she punches my daddy." There was a slight pause as we (the teacher, my volunteer, and I) exchanged slightly panicked glances, then I just moved on as though I hadn't heard anything unusual. It made me sad to know that she had witnessed her parents having a physical altercation.

Then today we had a case of a little TMI. I was going to have them do the following rhyme:

I have a little heart,
It goes thump, thump, thump.
It beats even faster when I jump, jump, jump.
I get a special feeling when I look at you,
That makes me want to give you a hug, or two!

I lead into by asking them if they know where their heart is, and what it does. Then I explain about how the beats are the heart squeezing to pump your blood throughout your body. One little girl pipes up with, "My mommy pumps to feed my baby brother!". The adults laughed, and the male teacher looked just a wee bit uncomfortable. I told her that was a different kind of pumping and moved on!

And that was followed up by some brutal honesty in the next group. At the end of each session, our driver (who happens to be around 75) hands out stickers to the kids. I always tell them, "That's all the time we have for today, but if you would like a sticker, you need to stay seated, criss-cross with your feet our of the way so (driver) doesn't trip. We don't want (driver) to fall and get hurt!" To which one kid replied, "Cuz he's old!" and another kid piled on with "Yeah, he's *really* old." Of course they aren't meaning to be rude, simply stating a fact, and fortunately our driver has a sense of humor about such things!

Earlier this week, one child told something on himself. I was reading Froggy's First Kiss and got to the part about everyone teasing Froggy and saying, "Froggy has a girlfriend; Froggy has a girlfriend". I always stop and ask the kids if that was nice for everyone to tease Froggy, and they always respond "No!". Then one little boy volunteered that his older brother teases him and says that Sally, a girl in the same class, is his girlfriend, but she's just his friend. Fortunately the girl in question didn't seem to mind and laughed about it. 

Sometimes what they say is incredibly sweet. While reading Love Monster, we observed how the monster was sad because people only want to cuddle with soft, fluffy things like kittens, puppies, and bunnies, and no one wanted to cuddle with him. A very empathetic young lady stated adamantly that "I would cuddle with him!".

But best of all was on Monday, when we were talking about who we loved, and one precocious little boy said "I love Mr. (driver) and I love you! And you're pretty!" [Insert collective "Awwwww" here.] And that my friends is why I love my job!