Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Last Round of Storytimes for the Year

Today I finished up my last round of storytimes for the year, with a Christmas theme (keep in mind these are outreach storytimes and the theme was requested). It was a lot of fun, with several humorous stories, a great flannel board, and singing Christmas songs, which we all know are SOOOO much better when accompanied by bells!

I had all the same books as I've used before, with the addition of two others I came across in our stacks, that I'll highlight here:

That's Good! That's Bad! On Santa's Journey by Margery Cuyler & Michael Garland. I've used Cuyler's original book before in a series of Zoo-themed storytimes and thought this one would be fun, too. It works better with some groups than others, as not all kids get the humor and irony, but the ones that catch on to the pattern of things that seem to be one one turning out to be the other will really enjoy this book. 

Santa has a number of seeming misfortunes, like being stuck in the chimney, bumping his head, being left behind by the reindeer, falling out of the sleigh, splitting his pants, etc., but it all works out and he gets all the presents delivered.

Are You Grumpy Santa? by Gregg and Evan Spiridellis is another funny book that has our poor Santa running into one mishap after another. Mrs. Claus' snoring wakes him up, he stubs his toe, no hot water in the shower, a skimpy breakfast, being chased by a poodle in France, slipping on a noodle in Italy, nearly run down by bulls in Pamplona, and bumping his tush into a Christmas cactus in Phoenix, Arizona!

Poor Santa is upset and miserable, and then spies a card someone left for him, along with a plate of cookies. And now he's no longer grumpy! This story gives an explanation for why we leave cookies for Santa, and shows that anyone can have a bad day and get the grumpies, even Santa.

I had the same Rudolph flannel I used last week, and we sang a lot of "Jingle Bells", with real bells of course, and a few rounds of "Frosty the Snowman" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" during the two-week rotation.

The kids really loved all the stories and the Rudolph flannel, but what I think most of them loved the most was getting to use the bells. Most groups were so excited and yelled out "Jingle Bells!" as soon as they heard them. In fact, two of my little friends loved them so much they wanted to keep them. One little boy sweetly asked if he could take them home to his mom, but understood when I explained I had to keep them for other kids to use. But one little girl was much more sneaky, hiding them behind her back and slipping to the back of the group so I never noticed she didn't turn hers in. But one of the other kids ratted her out, and she was so mad about giving them up! Ah, the seductive lure of the jingle bells...

While I love doing storytime, I am looking forward to having a little break from it for a bit. I will be taking 3-weeks off from storytime over the holidays, for 3 reasons: (1) there are so many closings and low attendance it isn't worth it, (2) the kids just get too crazy as we get closer to Christmas, and (3) the Storytime Bus needs to have it's annual inspection and maintenance, and scheduled repairs. This gives me a chance to take time off for the holidays or a vacation, but this year I may take a day off, but will be at work most of the time.

I'm looking forward to a break and having a chance to do something different. My major projects will be catching up on some much needed collection development, and working on a presentation I've been asked to give in January. I also might pick up an extra shift at the Children's desk or help with one of their programs, which is always a nice change of pace.

Flannel Friday Round-Up (Placeholder)

Here is this week's placeholder!

If you have a flannel (or other visual aid or prop) to share, please leave a link to your blog post in the comments of this post. If you don't have a blog, but still would like to share, let me know and I'd be happy to host it for you!

I'll put it all together in a Round-Up on Friday night, but can add any late submissions on Saturday morning.

Visit the Flannel Friday Pinterest Board for past Round-Up's and tons of inspiration. For more information about Flannel Friday and how to participate, visit the Flannel Friday Site. This is the last Round-Up of 2017! Round-Up's will resume in January, 2018! 

Friday, December 8, 2017

Flannel Friday Round-Up

Flannel Friday

Here's the Round-Up for December 8th! 

Bear In The Lair Flannel Friday
Heather of "Lady Librarian's Literacy, Lifestyle, and Lookbook Log" (some nice alliteration there) has shared a lovely re-invention of the beloved "Little Mouse" flannel, reinterpreted as "Bear In The Lair", with each lair having different colors (think leaves, flowers, moss, mud, or snow) around it. I love it! Isn't it a beauty?

Hanukkah Chanukah Flannel Board

By coincidence, here is another flannel based on the same "Little Mouse" rhyme as Wendy of "Flannel Board Fun" shares her "Little Mouse: Hanukkah Variation". Wendy also has a rhyme that can be easily adapted to any theme as the rhyme is independent of what is hiding and what it's hiding behind, which could come in very handy!

Flannel Friday

Visit the Flannel Friday Pinterest Board for past Round-Up's and tons of inspiration. For more information about Flannel Friday and how to participate, visit the Flannel Friday Site. I will be hosting next week's Round-Up as well, so get those submissions ready! 

Christmas Fun - Preschool Storytime

I had a last-minute idea to make this a full-fledged "Reindeer" storytime rather than a general Christmas one, but of course I had waited too late, and there were no suitable reindeer stories to be found, so I stuck with the original plan.

Christmas StorytimeWe started with our welcome song, then talked about Christmas a little bit, and sang our story song, with a couple of special Christmas verses added (say "Ho, ho, ho!" & say "Merry Christmas"), and settled down for our first story, Click, Clack, Ho! Ho! Ho! by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewis. 

This is a good book for groups that are less attentive as it is relatively short, little text, but a fair amount of action going on. Kids can identify the animals, predict what's going to happen when the next ones go up, say the "Ho, Ho...Oh, No!", and predict whether Santa will get stuck or not. This has been very well enjoyed by every group I've ever read it to.

Christmas Storytime, Christmas Pop-up, Snappy Little Christmas
Since they did such a good job of listening and staying engaged with the first book, I decided to go straight to the second book and save all the songs and flannel until the end ['If it ain't broke, don't fix it' is my motto!]. 

Since this group needs highly interactive books, I decided on the Snappy Little Christmas book with it's pop-ups and bright illustrations (though the pop-ups are not quite as impressive as some of their other books as they don't really have as much"pop" or movement). There is a snowman, reindeer, angel, tree, carolers, penguins, and of course, Santa! One thing that I think is funny and always point out is that the reindeer (who, while unnamed, must be Rudolph as it has a red nose) has ornaments hung all over its antlers.

Next we did a great flannel activity I found a few  years ago that the kids all love:

Rudolph, Rudolph

Christmas Storytime, Reindeer Storytime, Rudolph Flannel Board
Rudolph, Rudolph pattern from Library Quine 
Rudolph, Rudolph, what will you do?
You can't guide Santa's sleigh if your nose is BLUE.

Rudolph, Rudolph, you're such a silly fellow.
Who will know it's you if your nose is YELLOW.

Rudolph, Rudolph, your way cannot be seen,
Through the wintry weather if your nose is GREEN.

Rudolph, Rudolph, Santa gave a wink.
But what will he say if your nose is PINK?

Rudolph, Rudolph, it's time to fly at night.
But you can't get through the snow if your nose is WHITE.

Rudolph, Rudolph, it's time to go to town.
But you can't help Santa if your nose is BROWN.

Rudolph, Rudolph, Santa has his sack.
But you're not ready if your nose is BLACK.

Rudolph, Rudolph, the children are in bed.
And now you can get on your way because your nose is RED!

  *Poem found at Crafty Chic Mommy

The more I ham it up, the better they seem to like it! Each time I try to convince them that whatever color I have is good enough, and of course they always insist we have to keep trying. Usually they cheer and applaud by the time Rudolph *finally* gets his red nose. 

Reindeer sweater, ugly Christmas sweater
After that, I said that since we just helped Rudolph find his nose, and Rudolph was in our book, and Rudolph was on my sweater, that I thought we needed to sing Rudolph's song; they readily agreed. So, we sang "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer", then sang it again because the kids didn't know all the words and motions well enough to do the whole thing the first time and faded out very quickly after the initial "Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer..." They did much better the second time.

Then I said "Let's sing another Christmas song. Listen, and see if you can guess which one I'm thinking of..." and gently jiggled my bag to make the jingle bells I had brought ring softly. Immediately their faces lit up and they all yelled, "Jingle Bells!" I don't think there's anything better to them than singing "Jingle Bells" with actual bells.

We sang it twice, just repeating the first verse because I don't know the others well enough, and since they were enjoying the bells so much, I also played "Jingle Bell Rock" and we all danced along. 

Reindeer Food, Christmas Storytime, Reindeer StorytimeI was tempted to do either another song or book because they were doing so well, but I just had a gut-feeling I would lose them if I did, so I decided to quit while I was ahead! We sang our closing song, then I told them about the bags of special "Reindeer Food" (oats, colored sugars, & sprinkles) I was giving their teacher to give them to take home, and how they should sprinkle it outside on Christmas Eve for the reindeer, then passed out stickers.

How It Went

I was a little concerned about how they would be today since it had been a month since I'd seen them because of the Thanksgiving holidays and mandatory training I had to attend. But they were really good and we all had so much fun! They loved Click, Clack, Ho! Ho! Ho! and wondering what the duck was up to. This class surprised me, as most kids think Santa will get stuck, too, like everyone else, but they were all sure he wouldn't. They also liked the Rudolph flannel board and song, but I have to say, the highlight for them was getting to play the jingle bells!

Now, I'm sure some will look at this and immediately judge and disapprove that I did a Christmas storytime, but my response is that I am here to serve the needs of my patrons and my community, and this was an outreach storytime to a church-sponsored daycare who incorporates Christianity into their curriculum and had not only approved, but requested the holiday theme, and it was enjoyed by all. 

Monday, December 4, 2017

Sometimes It's Just A Hokey-Pokey Day

Trouble keeping kids engaged in storytime

Ok, so you are well-versed in the principles of ECRR and storytime planning in general; you have an established beginning routine, you've selected some really great books, chosen some fun songs, rhymes, and a great flannel board activity. Things start out okay, but quickly disintegrate. Or maybe you can sense the energy level is all wrong as soon as they come in. 

So, what do you do when it isn't working?? Here are a few things to try*:
  1. Extend the beginning routine. If they are extra wiggly that day, add a couple of very familiar songs before you start the first book. I've noticed all kids LOVE to sing the ABC song, and that almost always pulls everyone together so they are engaged as a group.

  2. Just stop. Hopefully they will realize you are waiting for them to quiet down and will settle down on their own.

  3. Redirect. Remind them they need listening ears, to sit down, catch a bubble. Establish a signal, such as a clapping pattern or saying like "1, 2, 3, all eyes on me" that they will immediately recognize as a cue to settle down. Remind them of expected storytime behavior. Sometimes I will even repeat all or part of the begining routine. If it is one or two specific individuals who continue after a general redirection, call them by name and ask them a question about the story. In some cases you may have to call them by name and tell them specifically what you need to them stop doing and what they should be doing instead.

  4. Move on. Sometimes a particular book just isn't going to work with that group on that day. If you've made a couple of attempts to redirect and they are still not listening, it's okay to just quit in the middle and say something like, "I think we'll save this book for another time" and move on to a more interactive book or activity. If some are engaged and you don't want to cheat them out of the ending, feel free to paraphrase and shorten to get through the book faster.

  5. Just move! Stop and do some type of movement activity to get their wiggles out. Maybe even two! Then follow that with a quieter activity then ends with them sitting back down, and try another book.

  6. Sing. Doing very familiar songs really seems to help get them all involved and everyone re-focused and on the same page, things like the ABC's, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Itsy Bitsy Spider, etc. Once you have them focused, then try another book.

  7. Hokey-Pokey Day. A very wise and now retired youth services manager had a great saying, "Sometimes it's just a Hokey-Pokey day." Some days no matter what you do, books just aren't going to work. So do what will work; sing songs, do the "Hokey-Pokey", play with instruments, blow bubbles with music, get the parachute out. It's okay. I guarantee there will be other days where all they want is stories. It all works out.

  8. Cut it short. If you've tried everything, and nothing works, kids are melting down or climbing the walls, it's okay to end early. Really, it is! There is no point in trying to force something that is just not going to work; it's better to quit before everyone gets too frustrated and try to end on a positive note. Just cheerily say something like, "Well, I think that's enough for today, I'll see you next week!" If the kids seem disappointed, I might add something like "maybe we can work on our listening skills and next time we'll be able to do more stories", but not in a scolding way, just a matter-of-fact. I want to keep storytime a positive experience for everyone, as much as possible.

    Sometimes things are just out of your control, sometimes kids are new to storytime, sometimes they are just a little young for a full-length storytime. When I get a class of brand new 3 year olds at the beginning of the school year who have never been to storytime, it's going to take them a little while to learn the routine, so we do more singing, maybe only one book, and end a little earlier. I let the teacher know that's normal and expected, so they don't feel like the kids misbehaved.

    Other times, there is just something in the air, a change in routine, missed a nap, having a party or something else special going on that day. The worst time I ever had was when it started snowing the first snowfall of the year just as the kids were coming out to the Storytime Bus. I knew storytime was going to be a lost cause then! Just think about how magical that first snowfall is to a 3 or 4 year old. I gave it a go, tried all of the suggestions above, and NOTHING could keep them engaged, and they were literally climbing the walls! It was absolute and utter chaos. So I said, "Well, this is not working today, so let's just stop now and we will try again next time!" And the next visit they were perfectly fine.

So the bottom line is, trust your instincts, don't feel like you have to force something that isn't working, and don't beat yourself up for a bad day or needing to end early. It likely has nothing to do with you! 

*I based this on my experience with preschoolers; obviously expectations should be developmentally appropriate and would be a bit different for toddlers.