Pre-Covid Preschool Storytime Plan

UPDATE: This was my original preschool storytime plan prior to 2020. As we recovered from the Covid-19 pandemic and resumed in-person programs, I found I had to make some changes, and have posted an Updated Preschool Storytime Plan.

By the time I started doing storytime as a volunteer at a nearby daycare, I had worked in youth services at the library for almost two years, and had been able to observe and learn from the talented children's librarians I work with. I started with the way they do storytimes at work as a general guideline, and adapted it to fit my style and group of kids.

The group I had was the 3-year old class at a local neighborhood center daycare sponsored by two of the local churches. There were usually about 18-20 kids registered in the class, but there were typically only about 12-16 there when I came to do storytime. This is the general plan that evolved after I started, and generally followed in my preschool and family storytimes pre-Covid, but varied depending on audience. I usually used themes (and still do), but not always.

Pre-Pandemic Preschool Storytime Plan

First we start with a welcome song to get everyone settled on the rug and focused on me.  I'm sorry I can't give proper credit for the source. I thought I came up with it, but I have since seen other versions of it. So, it's either parallel evolution or I may have heard it years ago at a program I took my kids to. It is sung to the tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star":

          "Welcome, welcome everyone;
           now it's time to have some fun.
           First we'll clap our hands just so;
           then we'll bend and touch our toes.
           Welcome, welcome everyone;
           now it's time to have some fun."

Next, I give a very brief welcome and introduction. I tell them my name, go around the group and say their names, briefly introduce the theme and remind them of the expectations:  sit on your bottoms so everyone can see, hands to yourself, eyes up front, listening ears on. 

Then I have lead-in song before the first book that we have come to call our "Story Song", based on the song "If You're Happy And You Know It". This is one I know I came up with on my own, but I know many other people have as well, and there are lots of other variations to fit different themes.

          "If you want to hear a story, clap your hands.
           If you want to hear a story, clap your hands.
           If you want to hear a story, a ___  ____ ____ story;
           If you want to hear a story clap your hands."

I try to fill in the blanks with something related to the theme for the day, like "a farm animal story", but if nothing works then I just repeat the previous line. We repeat with different actions, becoming quieter each time. For example, tap your toes, nod your head, sit so still, say "Shhh"...  I change it up a little, depending on how quickly they are settling down.   Sometimes I'll add something theme-related, like "Say Ho, Ho, Ho" for Christmas, "Kiss, kiss" for Valentine's day (followed by lots of giggles).

Then we are ready for our first book, followed by an action song or rhyme, then the second book, another action song or rhyme, then the third book.  

The action songs/rhymes/fingerplays change each time and fit the theme of the day. These give them a chance to move a bit between stories so they don't get too bored, exercise gross and/or fine motor skills a little, reinforce the theme, and are just fun. Since these are new each week, we do them twice.

Now, storytime is over and we end with a closing song I found here (and modified a bit), also to the tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle....":

          "Hands go up and hands go down;
           I can turn myself around.
           I can jump upon two shoes;
           I can clap and so can you.
           I can wave; I'll show you how.
          Storytime is done for now."

Then I thank them for letting me come and say that I will see them again in two weeks.  If I have already decided on a theme for the next one, I might mention it. I have also started giving them either a sticker or hand stamp at the end.

This is pretty much how I do it most of the time and it seems to be working well and fills the 30 minutes I have. Sometimes it varies, depending on the books and activities I have, and the mood the kids are in. I may add an extra song/rhyme/fingerplay or some other activity here or there and usually throw in a good stretch somewhere in the middle, and by the same token, if they are really listening well, I may read two books back-to-back. At the beginning of the school year I start out with a shorter storytime, with just 2 shorter books, for about 20 minutes. Then as the they get used to the routine and mature I'm able to gradually increase it to 3 longer books for a 30 minute storytime. I also tend to use more classics the first couple of times at the beginning of the year.

It really doesn't matter which songs you use at the beginning and end, just that you use the same ones each time. Some people may use all the same songs each week for several weeks, which is particularly good for the younger kids, or have a few of the same songs/rhymes each week along with one or two new ones. Kids need repetition, so do whatever works best for you and your audience.

I look for books that have some interactive element:  guessing what objects are, what will happen, naming colors, repetitive lines that the kids can say with me... I also like books that are funny, but the humor can't be too sophisticated for this age. I know most people do the longest books first, but I have found that it seems to work better in the middle for me. I pick really simple songs, generally to the tune of traditional children's songs, because I don't have much of a singing voice. Actually, I couldn't carry a tune with a bucket, but the kids don't seem to mind :) I incorporate props and visual aids as well, and purchased a small magnetic white board to serve as a travel "flannel" board. 

For more detailed discussions on different elements of planning storytime programs, check out my other "Storytime Planning" posts.

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