Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Animals In Winter

As we headed into December last year, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do for storytime.  It was almost winter, but I didn't really want to get into snow just yet since we really don't get snow around here until January or February.  I finally decided to focus on animals in winter, how they prepare and adapt, then do a storytime in January about fun in the snow.

We started with our welcome song, then we talked a little bit about winter and how animals prepare for winter:  some gather food in the fall to last through the winter, some hibernate, and some migrate to warmer climates.  After the introduction, we sang our "story song", which helps them get settled and focused to lead into the first story.

For our first story I selected Karma Wilson's classic Bear Snores On, in which Bear first meets all of his friends as the smaller creatures take shelter in Bear's cave during a winter storm while he is sound asleep. They inadvertently wake the Bear and at first he seems angry, but it turns out he is only sad about being left out of the "party".  All ends well and Bear now has several new friends.  While there are a number of "bear"-themed stories that introduce the subject of hibernation, but I have a soft spot for Karma Wilson's Bear books, largely due to the wonderful illustrations by Jane Chapman, and they have a nice rhyme and rhythm.

After that, I transitioned to an action rhyme that I like because it mentions several animals and how they cope with winter:  the squirrels gather nuts, the geese fly south, the fox has his winter coat to keep him warm, and the bear hibernates.

"Winter Is Cold"
          Winter is cold;                               (Hug yourself and shiver)
          There is snow in the sky.              (Flutter fingers down like snow)
          The squirrel gathers nuts.             (Pretend to gather nuts)
          And the wild geese fly.                  (Flap arms or hands like wings)
          The fluffy red fox                           (Cup hands over head like ears)
          Has his fur to keep warm.             (Stroke arms as if stroking fur)
          The bear's in her cave,                 (Form a cave shape with your arms)
          Sleeping all through the storm.     (Fold hands under cheek)
            *Source: North Mankato Taylor Library
For our second book, I choose a silly story about dressing oneself, a skill preschoolers are often still working on.  In Froggy Gets Dressed by Jonathan London, Froggy decides he doesn't want to sleep through the whole winter and miss out on playing in the snow.  He is so excited, he keeps rushing out without being dressed properly and his mother has to keep calling him back, "Froooggggyyyyy".  Finally, after all the flopping back and forth, he decides he is too tired to bother and goes back to bed.  Children appreciate the silliness and all the repetition, and will soon join in acting out getting dressed and calling out Froggy's name.  Dressing oneself is a skill that preschoolers can relate to as well.
Then we transitioned from a book about getting dressed for winter to a song about staying warm in winter, including people bundling up and animals finding other ways to stay warm.
"The Weather's Getting Cold"
(to the tune of "The Wheels On The Bus")
The weather's getting cold, so bundle up, bundle up, bundle up.
The weather's getting cold, so bundle up.  Winter's coming soon.
(pretend to wrap coat around yourself)

 The bears in the cave sleep all the time, sleep all the time, sleep all the time.
The bears in the cave sleep all the time.  Winter's coming soon.
(lay head on hands as though sleeping)

The squirrels in the trees gather nuts, gather nuts, gather nuts.
The squirrels in the trees gather nuts.  Winter's coming soon.
(pretend to gather nuts)

The frogs and the toads go deep in the mud, deep in the mud, deep in the mud.
The frogs and the toads go deep in the mud.  Winter's coming soon.
(squat low on floor)

The ducks and the geese go flying south, flying south, flying south.
The ducks and the geese go flying south.  Winter's coming soon.
(flap arms or flutter hands like wings/birds)

The people in the town wear hats and gloves, hats and gloves, hats and gloves.
The people in the town wear hats and gloves.  Winter's coming soon.
(pretend to put on hat & gloves)
Then for the last book I chose a relatively short, simple one that shows the hare and several other animals preparing for winter, again including gathering food, hibernating, migrating, and changing colors.  There are a number of books with stories about bears hibernating, but I really like how Snow Rabbit, Spring Rabbit by Il Sung Na presents the other ways different animals stay warm or adapt to winter with unique, charming illustrations.  It is short and sweet, perfect for the older toddler/young preschooler set.  I particularly like how it shows the hare changing from it's white winter coat back to it's brown coat in spring.

After that, it was time for our closing song and good-byes.

How It Went
I had about 12 kids today who were still pretty restless and getting used to the routine (this was only my third storytime with them), but I was pleased to see they were already learning the opening and closing songs and tried to sing along and seemed to enjoy doing the motions.  They really participated well in the action rhyme and song that went with the theme as well.

However, even though they asked for stories several of them were still having trouble staying focused and engaged, and were moving around and talking to each other or making extraneous comments instead of listening to the stories.  Then there were also a few who were "too engaged", wanting to stand up in front of the book and point out every detail.  Some insisted on sitting too close and refused to believe they could actually see better if they scooted back a little more.  But I did get in 3 stories this time, so we were definitely making progress.

One thing I noticed is that I seemed to lose them with transitions, when I would try to make an effort for a smooth and natural segue from one component to the next.  I found that at least with this group, it seemed to work better to just go right into the next thing without pausing or talking in between.

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