Sunday, August 28, 2016

Pets, Pets, and More Pets!

When I started with the Storytime-To-Go program, several kits had already been developed, including one for "Cats" and two for "Dogs". I really didn't want to spend an entire two weeks reading stories JUST about cats, or JUST about dogs, so I pulled a few good books from each and added several books that were about all kinds of pets and some with unusual pets.

I saw an average of 5 groups each day, starting each session with our "story song" and Letter-Of-The-Day (Pp), then reading 2-3 books and doing 1-2 songs/activities with each. Each session runs 20-30 minutes, depending upon whether the class arrives on time or not.

The Books 

(Click on picture for full-sized image)

Widget by Lyn Rossiter McFarland & Jim McFarland (very cute, counting & imitation)
Ah-Choo! by Lara Wayne Koehler & Gloria G. Adams (pet allergies, lots of sneezing)
Melissa's Octopus and Other Unsuitable Pets by Charlotte Voake (dark humor)
The Doghouse by Jan Thomas (suspense, surprise twist)
Come Out and Play, Little Mouse by Robert Kraus, Jose Aruego, & Ariane Dewey (repetition, days of the week)
Hieronymus Betts and His Unusual Pets by M. P. Robertson (funny, surprise ending)
Cats Are Cats by Valeri Gorbachev (short, but funny, unexpected results)
I Don't Want A Cool Cat! by Emma Dodd (lots of different cats, good rhythm)
Kitty's Cuddles by Jane Cabrera (short and sweet, good for younger audience)
The Grumpy Pets by Kristine Lombardi (cute story, identify expressions & feelings)

*For older kids I would also suggest Dr. Seuss' What Pet Should I Get?, and Emma Dodd also has one called What Pet To Get I wanted to use, but was checked out.

The Activities 

Being a Big Bang Theory fan, of course I had to do "Soft Kitty", the song Sheldon wants when he's sick:

Soft kitty, warm kitty;
Little ball of fur.
Happy kitty, sleepy kitty,
Purr, purr, purr.
*Source: Willis Music


I also had an action rhyme that lets the kids get some movement in, imitating different animals, and ends with them sitting down, ready for the next story.

"Can You?"

Can you hop like a rabbit?
Can you jump like a frog?
Can you waddle like a duck?
Can you wag your tail like a dog?
Can you fly like a bird?
Can you swim like a fish?
Can you sit back down and be still like this?



There was a farmer had a dog,
and "Bingo" was his name-oh.
B - I - N - G - O!
B - I - N - G - O!
B - I - N - G - O!
And "Bingo" was his name-oh!

I did a little twist on the traditional version. We would repeat the song 5 more times, and with each verse I would remove a letter, starting with "B". But instead of clapping in its place, I would replace the letter with a dog on the board and have the kids bark instead.


In addition to the above activities, I used the tunes to "Wheels On The Bus" or "If You're Happy And You Know It" to have them do songs with different animals and their sounds or motions on the first day, but the kids seemed a little bored with them as we do use them fairly often, so I avoided them and only used the other activities the rest of the rotation.

How It Went

Kids love animals and any animal theme is usually a hit, and this was no exception. The kids all loved sharing about their pets, and it was very interesting to hear about some of the unusual pets they had. While most of them had dogs or cats, there was an occasional rabbit, bird, frog, or turtle, and I had one little girl insist she had a pet penguin and a couple of other kids who were adamant they had a pet elephant at home!

All of the above books worked really well, but some of the favorites were Ah-choo!, The Grumpy Pets, The Doghouse, and Hieronymus Betts and His Unusual Pets.  Hieronymus Betts is a particular favorite of mine as well, and those of us with little brothers especially appreciate the humor. I was slightly surprised that a couple of kids correctly predicted that one of the fish in Cats Are Cats was going to turn out to be a big shark, and they all had fun sneezing along with Ah-Choo! Some of the kids were familiar with "Soft Kitty", and all enjoyed acting like all the different animals in "Can You?" and barking like dogs with "B-I-N-G-O".

I had one really sweet girl compliment me on my skirt and earrings when she first came in, then sidle up to me before she left and tell me I was "really pretty", which of course made my day. On the last day one little boy cracked all the adults up as I was reading Melissa's Octopus and Other Unsuitable Pets. When I got to the chameleon, he broke out with "Karma, karma, karma, karma, karma chameleon..." For you youngsters, that's a song by Boy George and Culture Club from the 80's; I have no idea how this 4-year old knew it!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Things That Go

[Last week I officially started my MLIS program, which is going to take up a significant amount of my free time, so in order to keep blogging somewhat regularly, I'm going to have to simplify things a bit. The posts that summarize my 2-week rotations with the Storytime-To-Go program have been taking a significant amount of time to write because I use so many books. So I've decided I'll have to drop the descriptions of each book and just list the titles and authors.]

This rotation was "Things That Go", featuring stories about cars, trucks, trains, boats, firetrucks, construction vehicles, and more. I saw an average of 5 groups a day, and read 2-3 stories and did 1-2 songs/activities with each group, in addition to our "story song" to begin and our Letter-Of-The-Day. This week I chose to use the letter "Gg" since in both the words "things" and "that" start with the "th" digraph rather than a simple "t" sound.

The Books 

(Click on the picture to see the full-sized version.)

The Bus Is For Us by Michael Rosen & Gillian Taylor, (after all, we were on a bus)
Maisy's Book of Things That Go by Lucy Cousins, (pull-tab pictures that move)
Zoom! by Diane Adams & Kevin Luthardt, (roller coaster)
Mr. Gumpy's Outing by John Burningham, (a classic, lots of animals)
Giant Pop-Out Vehicles by Amelia Powers, (good for ages 1-3)
Bunnies On The Go by Rick Walton & Paige Miglio, (rhyming text gives clues)
Row, Row, Row Your Boat by Jane Cabrera, (a book you can sing)
Go-Go Gorillas by Julia Durango & Eleanor Taylor, (repetitive line, rhyming text)
Ducky's Key Where Can It Be? by Jez Alborough, (lift-a-flap, good for younger kids)
Night Light by Nicholas Blechman, (lift-a-flap, guess the vehicle by its lights)
I'm Dirty! by Kate & Jim McMullan, (did not seem to flow very well)
Machines At Work by Byron Barton, (did not hold interest, too simple)
Sheep In A Jeep by Nancy Shaw & Margot Apple, (fun, good for younger crowd)
Off We Go! by Will Hillenbrand, (cute, but needs a little more text to flow well)
Mighty Truck by Chris Barton & Troy Cummings, (superhero truck)
Supertruck by Stephen Savage, (not pictured, another superhero truck)

The Activities

All the activities I used this time ended up being songs, though most of them had a fair amount of movement. I still need to develop some some flannel board or other activities to go with this kit in the future.

Hurry, Hurry

Hurry, hurry, drive the firetruck!
Hurry, hurry, drive the firetruck!
Hurry, hurry, drive the firetruck!
Ding, Ding, Ding, Ding, Ding!  

Hurry, hurry, climb the ladder!
Hurry, hurry, climb the ladder!
Hurry, hurry, climb the ladder!
Ding, Ding, Ding, Ding, Ding! 

Hurry, hurry, spray the water!
Hurry, hurry, spray the water!
Hurry, hurry, spray the water!
Ding, Ding, Ding, Ding, Ding! 

[I would start by saying we were going to pretend to be firefighters, and we were at the firehouse and got a call that there was a fire. Then I would ask them what we needed to do next to lead into each verse, acting out each action. Once the fire was out, we would often get another call, as they loved this song and wanted to do it over and over.]


Down By The Station

Down by the station, 
early in the morning.
See the little puffer-bellies all in a row.
Hear the station master, 
Calling, "All aboard!" now.
"Puff, puff"; "Toot, toot!"
Off they go!

[Follow up with the children pretending to be trains, going in a circle, 
saying "Chugga, chugga; chugga, chugga, Whoo-whoooo!]


Driving Around In My.....

Driving around in my little red car,
Driving around in my little red car,
Driving around in my little red car,
Beep, Beep, Beep, Beep, Beep!

[Repeat, saying saying different colors, types of vehicles, and sounds. 
For example, "Driving around in my big yellow bus....honk...." or "Driving 
around in my little blue police car.....whoo-whoo-whoo-whoo".]


The Wheels On The Bus
(of course we HAD to do this one since we were on the Storytime Bus!)

The wheels on the bus go 'round and 'round,
'Round and 'round, 'Round and 'round.
The wheels on the bus go 'round and 'round,
All through the town.

The wipers on the bus go swish, swish, swish....

The doors on the bus go open and shut....

The driver on the bus says, "Move on back"....

The babies on the bus go "waaa, waaa, waaa"....

The mommies on the bus go "shhh, shhh, shhh"....

The daddies on the bus say "I love you"....

[Act out each motion with your hands]

How It Went 

Overall, it went well, although I found that I got a little bored with it by the end, which is an occupational hazard with doing outreach and doing so many storytimes with the same theme. I liked using the books that showed various types of things that go the best, and Maisy's Book of Things That Go, Bunnies On The Go, and The Bus Is For Us seemed to be the most well-liked by the kids. They especially appreciated The Bus Is For Us since we were on the Storytime Bus! They also really liked Zoom! and noticed right away how at first the dad was excited and the boy was nervous, but then Dad started getting scared and/or sick, and the boy started to enjoy it. They appreciated the humor in this turn of events and liked the dramatic descriptions of the roller coaster movements.

Some books that just didn't seem to work as well, at least for me, were Machines At Work, Night Light, Off We Go, Might Truck and I'm Dirty! (which was a surprise as I really like using her dinosaur books I'm Big! and I'm Bad!).  For the most part, these just didn't seem to flow well enough to keep the audience engaged. Night Light became frustrating and many lost interest as they almost never guessed right. 

They liked all the songs, but the ones they seemed to really enjoy the most were "Hurry, Hurry" and "The Wheels On The Bus". Most groups would ask to do "Hurry, Hurry" over and over, and I even heard one little boy singing it this week when we had moved on to the next theme of "Pets". I think they like the faster pace and pretending to be a firefighter, particularly spraying the water. Some of them would get a kick out of "spraying" me or their teacher. They all knew "Wheels On The Bus", so that really boosted participation, and of course they appreciated the relevancy since they were on the Storytime Bus.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Colors - The New Class

Today was my first day with a new group of three-year olds, and I was eager to see what this year's class would be like. I decided to stick with a basic theme that I knew always worked well, but was not likely to get them overly excited, like "Dinosaurs" or "Jungle Animals" might. So I chose "Colors", knowing it's a basic concept that 3-year olds should know fairly well, but possibly not completely mastered yet, and that I had books and activities that always worked well. 

I started by introducing myself and explaining that I was from the library and would come every two weeks to have storytime, and that we would read stories, sing songs, and other fun activities, then I went around and said all their names (the teacher had thoughtfully put nametags on them). 

We started with our welcome song, and I introduced our "color" theme with an activity I've used before, a color "magic" trick. I had a small gift bag with a rainbow already inside it, and several pictures of different colored items (mine happened to be mostly food). Then I held up each one, let them identify the item and color, then placed them in the bag (I went in proper ROY G BiV order). Then I closed the bag, shook it up, and had them all say "Abra cadabra!" and pulled out the rainbow.

Next we sang our "story song" to lead into our first book, the classic Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr. and Eric Carle. 

I like to use classics that children are likely to be familiar with at the beginning of a new school year for two reasons: (1) they are often apprehensive about being in a new situation and a familiar story can be comforting, and (2) they are often more engaged in a familiar story, especially one like this that is repetitious and has a nice rhythm that encourages them to join in and say the words along with you.

I followed this with the song "If You're Wearing..."

If you're wearing red today, red today, red today,
If you're wearing red today, please stand up!

[Use different colors based on what the audience is wearing, and you 
can try different actions, such as "sit down", "turn around", etc.]

For our second book I chose another sure hit, Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by James Dean and Eric Litwin. Pete is a very popular character, and this book in particular is very engaging with the repetition and catchy song, and gives the audience a chance to predict what color Pete's shoes will turn each time he steps in something, as well as identify what he steps in. 

To hear the story and song as told/sung by the author, go to the Pete the Cat website. This is a definite must-have, go-to storytime book.

After Pete the Cat I brought out a flannel board activity that is always a hit with the preschool crowd, "Little Mouse". Hide the mouse behind one of the felt houses, then say the rhyme below, naming the color of one of the houses then looking behind that house.

Little Mouse

Little mouse, little mouse, are you hiding behind the ____ house?

The set I inherited also had a felt orange, apple, cookie, and piece of cheese, so I hide those as well, placing the mouse behind the apple. Then as we check each house, I really ham it up, building suspense. First I peek behind, and say I see something, then finally reveal what is underneath. When we get to the one with the mouse and the apple, I play dumb like I just see the apple, and let the kids point out that the mouse is there.

For our last book I chose Lemons Are Not Red by Lara Vaccaro Seeger. I like this book because it is short and simple, but requires more thought that simply identifying colors. Each item/animal is first shown in a nonsense color, such as a red lemon, the audience must name the correct color (though they will often catch on that the background color gives them the answer). 

When you turn the page the item is revealed in it's correct color, and the first color is shown on an appropriate item, such as a red apple.

We ended with our closing song and I passed out stickers.

How It Went
It went extraordinarily well, especially for the first time with a new group of kids. When I first arrived I asked the teacher what kind of crew they had this time, and she said this group was much quieter than last year's (very chatty & wiggly) class, but they were very young. I took a quick look around the room and saw that they all looked like they had probably just barely turned three.

When I first start with a new group I usually just plan on a 20-minute storytime with two short books, and gradually work up to a 30-minute storytime and three longer books. Last year's class took a few months to get to the point I could consistently do three books. But the kids today were such good listeners, engaged and well behaved, that I was able to do a full 30-minutes and three books right off the bat! I was very pleasantly surprised.

Most of them knew Brown Bear, Brown Bear and joined in right away, and quickly caught on to Pete the Cat so that by the end most of them were singing along with me. They really liked my little "magic" trick and wanted me to do it again, and LOVED the "Little Mouse" flannel board and asked to do it again as well, and some even wanted to do it a third time. They had a little more trouble with the "If You're Wearing" song, and some wanted to stand up for every color whether they were wearing it or not, but they still seemed to have fun. I was amazed when it came time to pass out stickers that there was no pushing, cutting or arguing.

I'm really curious to see if they keep up the model behavior, or if they were just more subdued because it was the beginning of the school year.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Polar Animals, or Pengins Do NOT Live At The North Pole!

Since it is so hot and miserable here in late July, I decided to take a mental break from the heat and talk about animals that live where is is cold and icy year-round (or nearly year round), mainly polar bears and penguins.

Which brings me to one of my pet peeves, the misconception most people seem to have that polar bears and penguins live in the same place, when in truth, they live about as far apart as possible!  Polar bears are found in the Arctic, where the North Pole is. However, penguins are found in the Antarctic, or South Pole region (and other areas in the Southern Hemisphere). There are no penguins in the northern hemisphere (except in zoos and aquariums). Some people seem to think "Arctic" is a general descriptive term for any place that is cold and icy; however, it denotes a specific geographical region around the North Pole.

So I began each session by introducing the topic and the letter of the day, "Pp". Then I brought out a globe, and showed them first where we live, then where the Arctic circle around the North Pole is and explained that's where polar bears and lots of other animals, even some people live. Invariably someone would pipe up and add Santa. Then I would show them how we would have to go all the way down to the bottom of the earth to find where the Emperor penguins live, in the Antarctic around the South Pole. I also explained that no people live there because it is even colder and more icy than the Arctic. 

After our story song, I read 2-3 books and did 1-2 activities with each group in our Storytime-To-Go program.

The Books 
In Good Morning, Little Polar Bear by Carol Votaw and Susan Banta we get to see many different Arctic animals as the little polar bear cub wakes up and greets all his friends, including the puffin, Arctic fox, Arctic hare, Arctic wolf, walrus, harp seal, otter, and the very unusual narwhal. The story is told with a series of rhyming quatrains and charming illustrations.

For the younger, more wiggly groups, Tad Carpenter's Who's That? Arctic Animals introduces several arctic animals in a fun lift-flap guessing game.  Each spread gives a few clues, and shows a small part of the animal, then when you lift the flap the whole animal is revealed.

Panda & Polar Bear by Matthew J. Baek is a sweet story about friendship. The polar bear cub accidentally falls down the snowy cliff, landing in a muddy patch in the jungle below. He meets a panda bear and discovers that you can be friends even if you're different. But, how will he get back home? A little long, but a cute story with watercolor illustrations.

Polar Bear's Underwear by Tupera Tupera is just great silly fun, and the only funny book I could find for this theme. Poor Polar Bear can't find his underwear, and his friend Mouse helps him look. The design of each pair of underwear they find gives a clue to its owner. After the audience guesses, lift the flap to reveal who each pair belongs to, leading up to a funny ending.

Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? is another fun book from Bill Martin, Jr. and Eric Carle with bold, bright, slightly abstract illustrations of many different animals for the audience to identify and imitate their sounds, and a rhythmic text. At the end of the book, go through and have the audience tell whether each animal is a polar animal or not, and if not where they are from.

Animal Babies In Polar Lands by Jennifer Schofield is a non-fiction book with beautiful photographs of adorable baby animals from the polar regions and their mothers for the audience to identify. However, almost all the animals are from the Arctic, with the exception of the penguin, so be sure to make the distinction clear.

One Day On Our Blue Planet: In The Antarctic by Ella Bailey is the only book I could find that focuses on animals in the Antarctic by following a little Adelie penguin chick's journey. I like that it distinguishes between the animals found on the ice versus animals that are found in the sea and clearly illustrates that there are no land mammals in Antarctica, while there is much greater diversity in the sea. My only complaint is the illustrations are rather busy.

If You Were A Penguin by Wendall and Florence Minor illustrates various types of penguin habitats and behaviors, with bold, colorful illustrations. There's a list of penguin facts at the end, followed by a key identifying all the species shown in the story. I like how this shows the diversity of penguin species, and that they don't all live on the ice (in fact, only 6 of the 17 species are in Antarctica).

Salina Yoon's Penguin series tells several different stories about Penguin and his friends that feature bright, bold illustrations with heavy black outlines that I favor for the younger kids in particular. The storylines are usually sweet with a touch of humor.

In Penguin On Vacation, Penguin is tired of the cold and ice and decides he wants to go somewhere tropical for vacation. But once there, he finds that his usual activities don't work on sand. Luckily, Crab shows him all the fun things to do at the beach.  In Penguin and Pinecone, he befriends a lost pinecone, but realizes he must help Pinecone get back to the forest where he belongs. When he returns to visit Pinecone, he is in for a big surprise!

The Activities 

I had two flannel board activities, a song, and then of course we did some penguin waddling just for fun!

"Five Little Penguins"

One little penguin...feeling very blue,
Called for his brother, then there were  (two).

Two little penguins swimming in the sea,
Called for their sister, then there were  (three) .

Three little penguins waddle on the shore,
Called for their mother, then there were  (four) .

Four little penguins learning how to dive,
Called for their father, then there were  (five) !


"I Know A Little Penguin"
(to the tune of "I'm A Little Teapot")

I know a little penguin,
Who sat on some blocks.

He swam in the ocean,
And he climbed on some rocks.

He snapped at a seagull.
He snapped at a seal.

He snapped at a fish,
Oh, what a meal!


"Five Little Polar Bears"

Five little polar bears, playing near the shore.
One tumbled in, and then there were  (four) .

Four little polar bears, swimming in the sea.
Once chased a seal, and then there were  (three) .

Three little polar bears, what shall we do?
One went swimming and then there were  (two) .

Two little polar bears playing in the sun.
One took a nap and then there was  (one).

One little polar bear, not very old.
Where's my mom? I'm hungry and cold!

How It Went
While the kids really liked the idea of polar bears and penguins and thought my puppets were really cute, their response to the books was a little lackluster. While the books weren't bad, I think I really needed at least a couple more funny books, and a couple of truly engaging stories to help balance out the more superficial, sweet stories and books that just showed different animals. A couple of the groups specifically requested funny books, and I only had the one. I don't think I'll repeat this theme until I know of a few different books to use.

Polar Bear's Underwear was predictably a big hit, and they seemed to really like Polar Bear, Polar Bear, especially since they were all familiar with Brown Bear, Brown Bear.  Salina Yoon's Penguin books were also well-received. Of course they all liked waddling around like penguins.

I also wish I had known about "The Narwhal Song"!  I knew of "Baby Beluga", but had never heard of a narwhal song until my son told me, after the fact of course. It is fun and has a fast, catchy tune, but you do have to be careful which version you use!  Some are not appropriate for children, but this one should be: