Friday, August 25, 2017

The Start of a New School Year - Easing Anxiety, Encouraging Engagement

Currently, all my storytimes are outreach storytimes done at preschools and daycares, either with the Storytime Bus as part of our Storytime-To-Go program, or what I refer to my "regular" storytime where I go in the classroom that is not part of the STG program. Just as summertime brings new challenges with the changes in routine, less structure, staff changes, distractions, etc., the beginning of the new school year has its own challenges.

This is when kids move to different classes, start daycare/preschool for the first time, or return to daycare/preschool after being home all summer. So we are often dealing with separation anxiety, some tears, and all the little bumps and hiccups with scheduling that are bound to happen. Also, we are starting with a new crop of 3 year olds that don't know the routine and may have not ever had storytime before.

So, I usually keep things short and sweet, and while I generally like to use storytime to introduce new books and authors, for the first storytime of the school year I generally use books I expect them to be very familiar with, for a couple of reasons. For one, having something familiar provides a little bit of comfort, and hopefully helps ease their apprehension (particularly when getting on the Storytime Bus for the first time), and already knowing the words and story encourages participation and keeps them engaged. I also do songs they will already know, or activities I know will be particularly fun and engaging.

So, for the last two weeks I picked a simple, straightforward theme of "Colors", knowing that most of them already know at least some colors, and they typically love identifying them and talking about their favorites.

The Books
Color themed storytime, books about colors
(Click on image to view larger version)

Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin & James Dean. By now, most kids are familiar with Pete the Cat, and I know from when we had the song on our listening station in the library that kids LOVE singing his song. This book packs a lot into a short, simple story: colorful illustrations, making predictions, identifying colors, singing the song and saying repeated lines, and teaches as lesson about not letting every little thing upset you.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr. & Eric Carle. This is an old favorite for generations that many kids know by heart and love reciting with you. I've seen many nervous little faces light up when I pull this out and they see something familiar. It has great rhyme and rhythm, and of course Carle's wonderful illustrations, and the kids can see themselves in the diverse children's faces at the end.

Snappy Little Colors by Dugald Steer is a bright, and color ful pop-up book with different animals, my favorite being the shark. You can never go wrong with a pop-up book!

Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh, and Monsters Love Colors by Mike Austen (and I just realized I have the British book cover in my collage, whoops!) are both fun books that introduce the idea of primary and secondary colors (though not using those terms). Each book shows how to make new colors by combining the primary colors. I usually save these for the older kids because the brand new 3's generally don't quite grasp the concept yet, and Mouse Paint in particular is a bit longish. All the kids giggle at the end of Monsters Love Colors, when the last little monster wants to be "super mega tropical rainbow with raspberry swirl on top!".

I did occasionally use a couple of other books, but these were by far the ones I used the most, particularly Pete and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, which I used for my brand new class of 3-year olds at my "regular" storytime.

Songs & Activities

Little Mouse Flannel, Mouse House, Colors Storytime
Little Mouse, Little Mouse

This flannel board activity is probably my absolute favorite because we have so much fun with it. I inherited this set, and have since added two more colored houses, as well as a cookie and an apple. I usually hide the mouse in the very last house, behind the apple, and build suspense as we look behind each house, saying "Little mouse, little mouse, are you in the  (color)  house?" I really ham it up, and by the end they know he has to be in the last house. But then I remove the house and reveal the apple, and play dumb when they say they see the mouse. They get so excited when the see his little ears and feet peaking out!

Colors Storytime, Colors flannel board activity, little mouse, mouse house

I also used the song "If You're Wearing  (Color)  Today", first telling them to stand up, then once they were all standing, I'd call different colors and ask them to sit down until everyone was seated again. I saved this for the older kids because the young ones seem to have too much trouble following the directions and understanding what's going on.

For my brand new class of 3-year olds, I stuck with a few songs I knew they would know, like the "ABC's" (kids always want to sing that), "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star", and "Itsy Bitsy Spider", which encouraged participation and made them feel like they knew what was going on. I also introduced our welcome song, story song, and closing song.

How It Went

Overall, the first round of storytimes for the new school year went very well. There were a few hiccups with scheduling and and the youngest kids that don't know the routine yet are always a little harder to keep engaged, which is why I just plan on shorter sessions at first, so we end on a positive note. I was pleasantly surprised that there were no tears this year, though some new kids were a little nervous about getting on the Storytime Bus. It seems like they are always either afraid that we are going to take them somewhere, or disappointed that we don't. But I am happy to report that one of the kids that was very apprehensive his first time last year, is now one of my most enthusiastic fans!

It was a little sad for me, as it was the first round without the kids who had left to start kindergarten, and I would find myself missing their familiar little faces, particularly the ones who were always very ethusiastic participants. But, I have lots of new faces to get to know, and they will be seasoned veterans in no time.

And for your entertainment, a baby being thoroughly entertained by a very enthusiastic reading of Brown Bear, Brown Bear:

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