Friday, June 22, 2018

A Perfect Storytime


Today was continuation of the "Library Day" theme I've been doing all month, but my storytime today was one of those rare, amazing storytimes that is just perfect, where the kids are completely engaged the whole time, and love every story and song that you do.

This is a special group to start with, as it is the classroom where I first developed my storytime skills as a volunteer while I was working as a page at the library. At the time I was caught in a catch-22: I needed program experience to advance, but as a page I was not allowed to do programs at work. I was fortunate to find a volunteer opportunity at this nearby daycare, and after 9 months I finally got promoted to the position I currently hold. So in addition to being grateful, I've been working with this same classroom for about 4 years now. It's been a different group of kids each year, but the same teachers.

We started with our welcome song, then I introduced the theme by asking them if they remembered where I worked. It took a few guesses and additional prompting, but someone finally came up with the library. We talked about all the different things to do at the library, then sang our story song.

I started with my favorite library-themed storytime book, Froggy Goes To The Library by Jonathon London and Frank Remkiewicz. Froggy is always well-liked by kids, and I like the humorous way this story teaches appropriate library behavior, and shows such exuberant enthusiasm for reading and storytime. The kids laugh at his forgetting to get dressed, ewwww at his breakfast of home flies and ketchup, and love joining in Froggy's silly song and dance, which we all did together.

After discussing using your inside voice in the library and how libraries are fairly quiet most of the time, I told them I knew a story about a day the library was NOT quiet at all, and let's find out why. 

Then we read Zachariah Ohora's The NOT So Quiet Library. Oskar and Theodore's quiet day at the library is interrupted by a gigantic 5-headed monster! They convince the monster that books aren't for eating, but then the monster wants to eat them instead! What will they do? Age-appropriate drama with a happy ending, and of course Ohora's wonderful illustrations (I just love his style!).

We followed that up with Laurie Berkner's "These Are My Glasses", which has proven to be popular with all the kids.



Then we finished up with Brian Won's latest in his "Hooray!" series, Hooray for Books! I'll be honest, I don't think it's his best work, and don't find it as engaging as Hooray for Hat!, but the kids still seem to like it pretty well. 

Turtle can't find his favorite book. Did he loan it to one of his friends? One by one he asks the other animals until finally he finds it....at the bottom of Lion's huge stack. Kids will like cheering "Hooray for books!" each time, and predicting where Turtle's book will turn up.

After that we sang our closing song and ended with passing out stickers.

How It Went

As I said, this turned out to be one of those rare, perfect storytimes. I'd like to think I always do a good job reading, but this time I felt like I absolutely nailed each book. And the kids were so engaged, seemingly hanging on every word, and I mean all of the kids! This is so rare, but particularly for this group who has been the most difficult class to keep engaged out of the four I've had here. They're good kids, but have always been a challenge and required the most engaging books, and even on a good day there's always lots of wiggling and getting distracted. But today, they were ALL quiet, still and listening! It was just amazing! They liked all of the books and the song, but I think The NOT So Quiet Library had them riveted in suspense.

While this was a wonderful storytime, it was also rather bittersweet. As I've said, this group has always been special, and after initially volunteering I was able to fold them into my outreach storytime program when I got my current position 3 years ago. But, now I'm about to transfer to the children's department in the suburban branch closest to my home, and I had planned on letting go of this storytime and letting my replacement in Outreach continue with it. However, after today I'm seriously having second thoughts and trying to think of some way to keep doing it at least once a month, even if I have to go back to doing it on my own time as a volunteer, especially since at least initially my new job will only have 1 family (mostly toddlers) storytime a month.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Electrical Conductivity - STEAM Program



Last year my boss bought these really cool gadgets from Lakeshore, called "Light & Sound Touch Circuits" that I used to demonstrate completing/interrupting a circuit as part of my "Paper Circuits" and "DoodleBots 2.0" programs last summer. At the end, the kids had a few minutes of free time to play around with the Touch Circuits, and they loved them so much, I knew right away I wanted to build an entire program around them.

I realized they provided a very simple and kid-friendly way to test electrical conductivity of different materials that would be safe for even the youngest kids, and I thought that would be a good program that would suit a fairly wide range of ages and abilities, involve making observations, analyzing data, drawing conclusions, then testing their conclusions.

Recommended Ages: 5-10 

Recommended Group Size: limited by number of Touch Circuits, but no more than 24

Time: 45 minutes

Budget: $25 for each Touch Circuit, the rest is negligible


Touch circuits, electrical conductivity for kids

Materials:
  • Lakeshore Light & Sound Touch Circuits, ideally 1 for every 2 kids - $25 ea
    (there are other ways to test conductivity, but this is probably the easiest and most kid friendly)
  • Variety of metallic household items (we used copper tape, aluminum foil, coins, wire, paper clips, coated paper clips, key rings, pipe cleaners)
  • Variety of non-metal household items (we used popsicle sticks, straws, yarn, paper strips, cotton swabs)
  • Water in small open container
  • Green leaves, blades of grass, stems (must be fresh)
  • Dry leaves, grass, twigs
  • Data recording sheet 
  • Pencils


Instructions
  1. Divide students into pairs (no larger than groups of 4), and give each group a Touch Circuit, set of materials to be tested (pre-sorted into ziplock bags), and small dish of water. Give each person a pencil and data recording sheet.

  2. First, each person records their prediction on their data recording sheet, then two people work together to test each item, taking turns if there are more than 2 per group.

  3. To test, one person holds one end of the Touch Circuit with one hand, and touches one end/side of the material to be tested with the other. If the material is conductive, the Touch Circuit will light up and make sounds (the sound feature can be turned off if desired). Make sure each person has good contact with the test material, and that they do not touch the other person.

  4. After about 6-8 items have been testing (making sure they have done a mixture of both conductive and non-conductive materials), have them stop and look over their results to that point carefully and see if they observe a pattern in their data that leads them to a conclusion (hopefully they will recognize that metals are conductive while non-metals generally aren't).

  5. Instruct them to use the knowledge gained from the first series to help them make more accurate predictions on the remaining items tested. Encourage them to test other materials in their classroom.

  6. For the water, have each child put one finger in the water, but do not touch. Explain that while water is not a metal, it does contain charged particles from the minerals dissolved in it and the auto-ionization of the water into charged hydrogen and oxygen molecules. Explain this is why you do not swim during a thunderstorm!

    *Also, it is a MYTH that pure water will not conduct electricity! While it may not have dissolved minerals, water still auto-ionizes at a constant rate, so will always have
    charged hydrogen and oxygen molecules, thus can and WILL conduct electricity!

  7. Discuss the results and their observations and conclusions, then give them free time to play around with the Touch Circuits.

How It Went

It went pretty well, except that the kids went through it much faster than I expected (they were almost all at the higher end of the age range this time). I made the mistake of putting the supplies out on the tables (with the exception of the Touch Circuits) in advance, so when the kids came in and sat down, they were distracted by the stuff and weren't really listening to my instructions.

At first some of them rolled their eyes, thinking this was going to be lame, but when I pulled out the first Touch Circuit, the faces of those who remembered them from last year lit up. I had expected them to take a little more time to think about their predictions and do the testing, but most of them raced through it (I realized later it was because this day camp is very laid back and unstructured and they are allowed to play video games and watch TV during free time). I also instructed them to stop at the end of the front page, so we could discuss the results and patterns before proceeding, and many didn't follow that instruction and got ahead.

I deliberately threw in a couple of tricky or surprising items, like plain versus uncoated paper clips, and pipe cleaners. The coated paper clips will not conduct electricity despite being made of metal because the colored coating acts as an insulator. Similarly, the chenille on the pipe cleaners can act as a barrier, and one must either squeeze very firmly or touch the end to be sure to contact the metal core. I was impressed that some of them figured those things out on their own. They were almost all surprised that water was conductive, and that the leaves and grass were conductive.

Afterward, I let them have about 15 minutes to play around with the Touch Circuits, and they had a blast seeing what kind of crazy circuits they could make, and linking several together. We turned off the lights so they could really see the lights and colors. Here is a short video clip to see them in action, but it comes with a caution for those who may have seizure disorders due to the brightly flashing lights:



And here is a quick and dirty video demonstrating how the Touch Circuit can be used to test conductivity:



Friday, June 15, 2018

Library Day!


So we took a break from Outreach storytimes in May to reorganize and make some changes, and this month the re-invented version of the Storytime-To-Go program debuted. Not only will we be going in the classroom instead of on the Storytime Bus, but the frequency of visits will be reduced from once every two weeks to once every four weeks so I can double the amount of facilities I visit. I am not in favor of this change personally, as I feel it reduces storytime to a novelty rather than a true early literacy intervention program, but I am making the best of it. 

Since it was a new beginning and I have picked up so many new daycares, I decided to kick-off with a "Libraries & Reading" theme to introduce myself and the program to the kids, and of course promote the library and reading. I read 2-3 books and did 1-2 other activities with each group (except for one daycare where the noise level was so high it was just an exercise in futility), in addition to my lead-in and closing songs. 

The Books


library day, library storytime, books about reading
(Click on any image to see full-size)

  • Maisy Goes to the Library by Lucy Cousins, good introduction to library
  • Lola at the Library by Anna McQuinn & Rosalind Beadshaw, good for youngers
  • The New LiBEARian by Alison Donald & Alex Willmore, cute twist
  • Froggy Goes to the Library by Jonathan London & Frank Remkiewicz, my fav
  • Wild About Books by Judy Sierra & Marc Brown, cute but long, better for olders
  • The NOT So Quiet Library by Zachariah Ohora, kids really like
  • I Took My Frog to the Library by Eric Kimmel & Blanch Sims, funny & short
  • Chicken Story Time by Sandy Asher & Mark Fearing, another favorite!
  • A Place to Read by Leigh Hodgkinson, looking for the right chair, ok
  • Born to Read by Judy Sierra & Marc Brown, little longer, kids like recognizing classics
  • Read It, Don't Eat It! by Ian Schoenherr, teaches how to treat library books
  • Hooray for Books! by Brian Won, not as good as Hat, but most kids liked it ok
  • Dog Loves Books by Louise Yates, cute, dog opens bookstore, provides RA
  • Llama Llama Loves to Read by Anna Dewdney, longer, better for school-age
  • Reading Makes You Feel Good by Todd Parr, bright illustrations & simple text

The Activities

When I first started working with this program, I was encouraged to used thematic songs and rhymes, but over time I realized that just didn't work very well sometimes, particularly for new kids or the younger kids, because they just didn't know them. So first I made sure I only used songs/rhymes with lots of very obvious hand motions so the kids could at least participate that way if they couldn't sing along even after repeating.

With the younger kids in particular, I found it just ended up being me singing/reciting to them while they just sat there, or worse, got squirmy. So I started doing a lot more old classics that they knew, and more importantly, they wanted to do: ABC's, Itsy Bitsy Spider; Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star; The Wheels On The Bus, Old MacDonald, etc.

Since half of the kids I was seeing this time were new, many were younger, and I couldn't find any really good library/reading related activities, I stuck with traditional children's songs, and Laurie Berkner's "These Are My Glasses" since it is simple, repetitive, and has hand motions to go with it, so it is easy for the kids to do.



 One class taught me a new song that I'm definitely going to have to incorporate:



Another change I made was instead of giving the teacher coloring sheets related to the theme, I felt a more valuable resource would be to give them a list of all the above books and some songs and rhymes related to the theme. That way they could sing along, and have additional books and activities to use later or share with parents if they chose. I also included in bold red lettering when the next storytime visit would be, as well as my contact info in case they had schedule changes or questions. 

How It Went

It was a real mixed bag! Some classes loved it, were well-behaved, good listeners, engaged, and clearly enjoyed and appreciated it. Others were not engaged at all, bored, and wiggly. I think the books were not as interactive or engaging enough for some of my more challenging groups, and it seems like some of the new classes are not accustomed to structured activities requiring them to be still and quiet. It is also more challenging than I expected to get the teachers to sit and participate with the kids now that I'm in the classroom rather than on the storytime bus. 

One place had completely open classrooms, with only low half-walls dividing them, and the noise level was just ridiculous! I couldn't even hear myself, much less expect the kids to hear and listen. I just read one book to each group and got out of there as my head was throbbing and my ears were ringing! I'll have to have a talk with the director to see if there is not an enclosed room anywhere that we can use for storytime.

I would say the books that worked the best were The NOT So Quiet Library, Froggy Goes to the Library, Chicken Story Time, and Maisy Goes To the Library. The kids who were older and could listen to the longer Born To Read got very excited about recognizing some of their favorite classics in the illustrations. I thought The New LiBEARian was really cute, but it seemed to go over the kids' heads. Almost everyone like Laurie Berkner's "These Are My Glasses".

Friday, June 8, 2018

Flannel Friday - Sharks & Fishies


So, I had an interview* recently where I was asked to prepare a storytime plan. I decided to have fun with it and not overthink things for a change, and just go with a theme that I've done a few times and always have fun with, "Shark Week". I do a Shark Week theme every year and already had some really fun books and a few good songs, so I decided to come up with a couple of additional activities using flannel & felt props as well.


Five Little Fishies, shark flannel rhyme, shark fingerplay
(click on any image to see full-size version)

Five Little Fishies & Mr. Shark

Five little fishies, swimming in the sea.
(hold up 5 fingers, move hand)

Teasing Mr. Shark, "You can't catch me!"
(singsong voice)

Along comes Mr. Shark, as quiet as can be,
(move hands together in wavy motion)

And SNAPPED that fishy right out of the sea!
(open arms and clap together)

Four little fishies..... (continue counting down to zero)

No little fishies, swimming in the sea.
Just Mr. Shark, as full as can be!

This is obviously a take off on the old rhyme with monkeys & an alligator. I just found some clipart to use for patterns and used colored Sharpies to add details, plus googly eyes (googly eyes always make things better!). You could also use the 5 fish by themselves with the following classic children's rhyme to count up:

Five Little Fishies Swimming In A Pool

Five little fishies, swimming in a pool.
(5 fingers, move hand to indicate swimming)

The first one said, "The pool is cool"
(1 finger, shiver)

The second one said, "The pool is deep"
(2 fingers, hold hand up high)

The third one said, "I want to sleep"
(3 fingers, lay head on hands)

The fourth one said, "Let's dive and dip!"
(4 fingers, move hand up and down)

The fifth one said, "I spy a ship!"
(5 fingers, look out)

Along comes a boat, a line goes KERSPLASH!
(move hand like boat,move finger in arch)

Away the five little fishies dash!
(5 fingers, move hand away quickly)


I'll share the second one in another post soon, so stay tuned!  FYI, the Discovery Channel's "Shark Week" kicks off July 22.

*I'm extremely happy to report I did get the job!! Next month I will move from Outreach to the Children's Department of our busiest branch. I super excited to be back in a children's department, and working with some awesome children's librarians there!


For more felt & flannel ideas and tips, check out the Flannel Friday Facebook group and Pinterest Boards! To share your flannel, submit via the Flannel Friday Tumblr. For complete information and all the details, visit the main Flannel Friday website.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Flannel Friday - Five Little Bunnies


5 Five Little Bunnies/Rabbits, bunny flannel, rabbit flannel


Five Little Bunnies
(modified from Let's Play Music)

Five little bunnies playing on the floor;
One hopped away, and then there were four.

Four little bunnies hiding behind a tree;
One climbed up, and then there were three.

Three little bunnies wondered what to do;
One went to sleep, and then there were two.

Two little bunnies looking for some fun;
One jumped down a hole, and then there was one.

One little bunny, alone in the sun;
He hopped home to his burrow, and then there was none.


Obviously you can use the word "bunnies" or "rabbits", whichever you prefer, and this could of course be used around Easter time, but any time as well. I initially put this together to have an activity to follow the book Everybunny Dance!

I made a quick and easy pattern using the shapes tool in MS Publisher, with ovals for the ears and circles for the head, body, and tail. Feel free to use my bunny pattern, or make your own. I decided to use a mix of white and brown bunnies, but you could make them all the same, or use other colors. 

When I go to the trouble to make felt pieces, I like them to be multi-purpose, so I will try to find other songs or rhymes to use them with. The first rhyme uses counting and rhyming words; this next song works on letter recognition with the addition of felt letters spelling out "bunny" and the tune of the classic song "Bingo":


B-U-N-N-Y Flannel & song


B-U-N-N-Y

I know a pet that's soft and cute, 
And "Bunny" is it's name-oh.
B - U - N - N - Y
B - U - N - N - Y
B - U - N - N - Y
And "Bunny" is it's name-oh!

Repeat, and after each verse turn one rabbit around, and instead of saying that letter, either clap or hop in it's place (depending on space and preference).



And here is a "Five Little Bunnies" rhyme that counts up instead of down:

Five Little Bunnies

One little bunny, wondering what to do,
another bunny came along, then there were two.

Two little bunnies, hopping like me (Hop)
Another bunny came along, then there were three.

Three little bunnies, jumping around outdoors,
Another bunny joined them and then there were four.

Four little bunnies, so fluffy and alive,
Another bunny joined them, then there were five.

Five little bunnies, ready for some fun,
Hopped away in the warm, spring sun.



For more felt & flannel ideas and tips, check out the Flannel Friday Facebook group and Pinterest Boards! To share your flannel, submit via the Flannel Friday Tumblr. For complete information and all the details, visit the main Flannel Friday website.