Friday, June 23, 2017

Unusual Things, or, A Hastily Planned Storytime Without an [Intentional] Theme

So the last two weeks have been really crazy with planning and conducting extra summer STEAM programs for the school-aged kids. I hate to admit it, but I had no chance to plan my storytime for today, and found myself at home on Thursday night with no plan, and no books pulled, so the theme was going to have to be "Whatever Books Miss Jennifer Happens to Own and Feels Like Doing"!

So I looked through my rather small collection of picture books, and pulled out an old favorite, Elizabite: Adventures of a Carnivorous Plant, and a more recent discovery, Hieronymus Betts and His Unusual Pets. My daughter loved Froggy, so we have several Froggy books, and I selected Froggy Learns To Swim since it was summer and some of the kids were likely taking lessons or had at least been to the pool. As I looked at them, I realized I had unintentionally created a loose theme of "Unusual Things", with a very unusual plant, unusual pets, and a frog who can't swim (that's unusual, right?).

We started with our welcome song and brief introduction, then sang our story song to help us get focused and ready for our first book, Elizabite: Adventures of a Carnivorous Plant. I have always loved this lesser known story by H. A. Rey, creator of Curious George, partly because I've always been fascinated by carnivorous plants. 

But it's also a cute, funny story told in a pleasant rhyming text that has a great rhythm for reading aloud, and it has some great vocabulary words, like: carnivorous, botanist, frankfurter, and laboratory.

I also showed them a picture of a real carnivorous plant, the Venus FlyTrap, then we talked about the ordinary flowers we see growing around the daycare, and did a cute little action rhyme about planting a rose:
Plant A Seed

Dig a little hole, plant a little seed.

Pour a little water, pull a little weed.

Chase a little bug. Look, there he goes!

Give a little sunshine, grow a little rose.

I told them to smell the rose, and one little girl said it would make you sneeze if you were allergic. I said that was true, but these are pretend roses, so they won't make you sneeze. And of course when we repeated it, about half the group sneezed after smelling their pretend rose, and thought they were soooo funny! 

Next we moved from unusual plants to unusual animals with Hieronymus Betts and his Unusual Pets by M. P. Robertson. I came across this book a couple of years ago, and I love it! Hieronymus Betts has some very ususual pets, like a slugapotamus, a sabre-toothed rhino-toad, a porcupython, and a whatchamacalit! 

But, guess what is even slimier, louder, greedier, scarier, fiercer, stinkier, and stranger than all of those?? Very funny with some fun nonsense words, imaginative illustrations, and an unexpected twist at the end.

Next, we talked about what kinds of pets (and little brothers) we all had, and since most of the kids had dogs, we followed up with singing a round of "B-I-N-G-O"; after the first verse substituting a clap for a letter, and repeating until we were clapping all five letters, and finishing by singing a final verse saying and clapping each letter.


There was a farmer who 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!

Our final book was Froggy Learns To Swim by Jonathan London & Frank Remkiewicz. What could be more unusual that a frog who doesn't know how to swim and is afraid of the water?? This is a great summer-time read, as many of the kids are going to the pool or beach, and some are taking swimming lessions, so they can relate. It is also very interactive, as they can join in saying "Bubble, bubble; Toot, toot" and "Chicken, airplane, soldier" as well as doing the arm motions. And of course everyone will get a big laugh when Froggy looses his swimsuit!

We finished with our closing song and passed out stickers.

How It Went 
I'll be honest, I did feel a little guilty for putting so little thought into this week's storytime. But you know what? It ended up coming together amazingly well, and not only were the kids clueless about how quickly I threw it together, they really enjoyed it and listened very attentively to the stories! This is one skill for which I have my current position to thank. I also do a mobile storytime, with as many as 6 back-to-back storytimes a day, with ages ranging from 3 to 5. I have a bin full of books to use, and have to do everything on the fly, adjusting to each class, with no real planning. This job has really helped me to learn not to obsess and over-plan things, and how to go with the flow, making last minute changes when needed, which is a wonderful skill to have!

The kids really liked everything we did! They listened very well and were really engaged in everything. They were fascinated by the idea of carnivorous plants, and predictably laughed when Elizabite bit the maid's butt. The loved all of Hieronymus Betts' fantastic pets, and enjoyed sharing what pets they had. They sung along with "BINGO" and planted seeds with the rhyme, and really got into joining Froggy saying "Bubble, bubble; Toot, toot" and "Chicken, airplane, soldier" as well as doing the motions. And of course they thought it was hilarious when Froggy lost his swimsuit.

So it turned out to be a great storytime, after all.

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