Thursday, May 30, 2013

Flannel Friday-A Blooming Garden

This week's rhyme is from the April/May 2010 issue of The Mailbox.  If you are unfamiliar with The Mailbox, it is a magazine geared towards teachers at different age levels.  We get the preschool edition.  While we are not teachers, there are a lot of great art, literacy, and story time ideas that we can tailor to our programs.  I also really like their patterns.  Even if it isn't something that I will use right now, I flag them for the future.  Now that my advertisement is over, I bring you A Blooming Garden.

Like all good things, the rhyme is copyrighted so I can write it out for you.  What happens is that all of the kids get a flower to start and when you call their name as part of the rhyme, they bring their flower up and put it in the basket (or gift bag).  While you can do it on the flannelboard, I use mine as a prop.

While a pattern is included with the rhyme, I just ran a bunch of flowers through our die cut machine using various colors of copy paper (it saved me coloring time!).  By using a variety of colors, you can talk to kids about colors, adding another dimension to the rhyme.  They also like to pick out their favorite colors. 

This week's Flannel Friday Round-Up is brought to you by Sarah at Read It Again! 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

On the Road

This morning I had the chance to take one of my Play to Learn programs on the road to another branch.  I like doing things like this, because it connects me with a totally different group of kids and pulls me out of my comfort zone. Below are some of my reasons for traveling, plus some advice.

So Why Travel?
  • This time I traveled due to staffing.  A staff member had left, a program was scheduled, and there wasn't anyone to do the program before the new person came on board.  At our location, we can usually find subs to cover reference desk shifts.  Programming is much more difficult and requires a specific skill set.
  • I like to do programs at other locations because they make me think.  What I mean by this is that my normal kids and parents know me.  Many have been coming since they were babies and just follow the age progression up through our programs.  They know how our programs are run, why I do what I do, and how they should behave.  A new group will give you new experiences.  In addition to getting "Well, Miss Alicia doesn't do it that way", you get to share your thoughts with new people.  Can you explain your program?  Can you explain why you are doing what you are doing?  Why is coloring important in your program?  What programs do you offer in the future?  I think of it like a test.
  • Maybe you have done a really awesome program and want to take it on the road to another location.  Sometimes it is easier and more efficient for one person to create a program, such as when we did Life Size Candyland (more about this in a future post), instead of duplicating the effort multiple times.

My Advice
  • Know your space.  I am used to running programs in a room that can hold 100 people.  This morning I ran in a program that held 20.  What you can do in a large room is totally different than what you can do in a small room.
  • Be prepared.  Know ahead of time what supplies you will need and coordinate with your location.  Do they have everything you need (glue sticks, tape, paper, etc.)?  Should you bring supplies (crayons, flannelboards, etc.)?  Ask someone to assemble what you need ahead of time.  This way you won't be constantly asking a staff member where things are the day of the program.  Some questions are okay, but too many take that staff member away from their job.  After all, you are doing the program, not them.
  • Be flexible.  No matter how prepared you are, you will forget something.  It's not the end of the world.  Have a mental backup plan or extra activity.
  • How are you going to transport your program?  Personally, I would use a large bin or tub.  This way, as you prepare the parts, you can add it to the tub.  They tend to be waterproof (for rainy or snowy days).  It will also keep everything together so the back of your car doesn't look like this or your box of crayons doesn't scatter in a mud pile (true story):

Friday, May 24, 2013

Fun with Displays

You know those days where all of the kids have the same assignment?  While this happens a lot, the one that is our least favorite is Michigan biographies.  It seems as if all the classes in our service area have the same assignment at the same time to coincide with Michigan week at the end of May.  Now I don't know how familiar you are with Michigan.  We have a lot of nice things going for us-camping, lakes, etc.  When you talk about famous people, not so much.  Then there is the fact that there are very few books written on the Michigan famous people other than Henry Ford and Rosa Parks.  The kids who come in on the first day the assignment is passed out are all set.  It's those kids who wait until the last minute that really need our help.

This is our Michigan biographies display.  I like it because it helps the librarian quickly see if there are any biographies available.  It also gives the kids a choice in famous people instead of just giving us a blank look when you ask who their report is on.  We had to really stretch to pull this one together.  Anyone with any sort of Michigan connection is pulled, whether they were born here, still live here, or played for a sports team.

In addition, we have a sign highlighting our Biography In Context database.  This is to help those kids who need multiple sources for their report.

Here are today's tips for creating a display:
1.  The area you are using should be clean (not dusty).  After all, if you see dusty items on store shelves, do you really want to buy them?

2.  If you are using sign holders, they should be in good condition.  This includes no big scratches or cracks. 

3.  Pull visually pleasing titles.  I like ones with bright colors or fun illustrations on the front.  Covers should be in good condition, even if you have to add some book tape or replace the book cover.  This is a good time to check over the section for books in need of repair.

4.  Size matters-it creates interest.  Big items should be in the middle and little items should be on the outside (think pyramid).  This will draw your viewers eyes into the display.  You can also start small and continually get bigger (like on my second shelf above), similar to a ramp.  This is something, though, that you only want to do once and not throughout the whole display or it will look chaotic.

5.  Can you pull items from more than one section?  Can you add dvds?  While I didn't do it here due to the theme, this makes the display fun.  It also highlights your different collections.  I get a lot of people saying, "Oh, I didn't know that you carried_________."

6.  Can you pull in a web presence?  This could be QR codes, highlighting your databases, or taking a picture and posting it on your library's Twitter account.  With so many people having mobile technology, this is a great way to reach them.

7.  Do you need a sign?  Some displays are obvious, such as all books on the Titanic, and wouldn't need one.  Some need a little help or you want to make a connection with something, such as a Michigan biography display and a Michigan biography assignment.  You want the lightbulb to go off in people's minds when they see it.

8.  Refill.  Refill.  Refill.  No matter how much it excites you to see empty holes because it means the books are going out, the point is to highlight your collection.  You can't do that if people can't see the items.

Random display fun-if you are out shopping at one of your favorite stores, pull out your smartphone and snap a picture of displays that interest you.  Go home and look at the picture again and figure out why the display was appealing-was it colorful?  Was it filled with items?  Was there something else?  Stores have merchandisers and libraries don't.  This gives you a chance to learn some tips from them.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Flannel Friday-Crazy Critters

I was going through my files this week and found one of the first flannelboards that I ever did.  The pattern and directions are included in A Storytime Year by Susan Dailey, which is a great resource to have on your professional reference shelf.  My kiddos love games in story time, which is one reason why this is great.  It has been used so many times that I think that I need to color/copy the pieces again and laminate them.

 Here are all of the animals mixed up (except the monkey).

 Here are the animals with the correct parts.

If you make this game yourself, it helps if you use a different color for every animal.  It helps the kids if they are putting the parts together.  It also helps you if you are quickly grabbing parts during story time.  I like to use this during animal or silly story times.  It also works well as an early literacy station if you have a flannelboard out in your library.  To add some literacy to the game, we talk about what each animal is called and what noise it makes when they are put together.  You can also talk about what noises you think that the mixed up animals would make.

I am hosting the round-up this week at Libraryland.  Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Flannelboard Organization

If you have ever done a children's story time, you will know that it isn't just about reading books.  There are a lot of extras that come into play, from flannelboards to crafts to stick puppets.  The problem then is what do you do with this stuff when you are done?  Most of us don't have tons of storage and must find the most efficient way to use what we have.

When I started my career 12 years ago, I started by stashing the extras in my desk drawers in alphabetical order by title.  This got a very cumbersome very quickly.  My colleague and I do 9 story times a week with 5 different themes and 6 different age levels.  They all require "extras" for fun and quality programs.  I needed to do something different.  I pulled out all of our flannelboards from Lakeshore Learning and kept them in the file drawer, like above.  The reason that they are separate from the rest of my stuff is that they have bulky stuffed pieces and take up more room.

Somebody on staff was giving away four-drawer file cabinets and we thought this would help with our organization.  These hold all of our flannelboards, magnetboards, stick puppets, coloring sheets, patterns for the future, and flat crafts.

Each hanging file folder is labelled with a story time theme, such as colors or babies (see above).  Everything that fits that theme goes in that hanging file folder. As you can see above, we mostly use file folders to hold individual flannelboards.  There are also baggies or 9x12 envelopes, depending on how small the pieces are.

Each file folder includes the pieces (such as the stick puppets above), the rhyme, and sometimes a pattern if I think I would use it again.  The thing that I would recommend if you do something like this is to write down the citation of where you got the rhyme from.  It is something that I do now, but wish I started at the beginning (especially for things like Flannel Friday).

Above is an example of parts in a baggie.  As you can see, it is clearly labelled as to what it is (the rhyme/book) and what I am going to do with it (flannelboard).

With hanging file folders to hold a subject together, you can see how easy it is to tuck flat crafts and coloring sheets in the back like my ninjas above.

What I like about my filing system is that everything on a subject is together.  This is extremely helpful when I go to plan my story times.  The first thing that I do after coming up with themes is to check my files to see what I already have.  Most of my flannelboard creation time is not done out of necessity, but out of free time.  After 12 years all four drawers are completely full (and I still haven't figured out what to do next-maybe some weeding).  Now that I use Evernote to keep track of my story time plans and rhymes, I also include a note as to where items are filed.  After all, Mouse Paint could be filed under mice or under painting.

If we had more space at our branch, I would definitely ask for more file cabinets-at least 1 more for story time and another for programs.  How do you organize your story time stuff?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Flannel Friday Round-Up

Welcome to this week's Flannel Friday Round-Up.  There are a lot of great ideas, including some for Dig Into Reading.

Based on Books
This story always makes me laugh.  Check out Thrive After Three's saddle to help her retell Are You a Horse? by Andy Rash.  

Librarian Vs. Storytime pulls out a classic-The Very Hungry Caterpillar.  Her pieces are unique in how she makes them (and would also make some good craft projects). 

Can you ever resist a flannelboard about colors?  Fun with Friends at Storytime has a fun color game based on A Color of His Own by Leo Lionni.  

With Kiddos @ the Library brings us Windblown by Edouard Manceau.  I hadn't ever seen this story before, but I love the simple shapes.

Dig Into Reading
While not flannel, if you are looking for a fun Dig Into Reading story time plan, check out Storytime with Miss Tara and Friends.  She has a mud puddle jump activity that I am sure everyone will be "borrowing".

If you missed it the first time, you will definitely want to check out the new and updated version of Worms at Read It Again!  I love how the worms "magically" move and the kids will too!

Random Flannel Fun
From a non-science person, I am always impressed when someone comes up with a quality STEM program (and gives me a plan to follow).  Check out Mrs. Andre's Library for How Do Your Flowers Grow?   The flannel flower parts are a good illustration of what flowers need to grow.

Just in time for the holiday weekend (in the U.S.), Storytime with Miss Tara and Friends has Five Little Firecrackers.  Her fireworks are really cool (almost magical).

Here at Libraryland, I have pulled out my Crazy Critters game.  This is a fun game for both story time and early literacy centers.

For more great Flannel Friday info, check out the official web site with info on schedules and how to participate.  Check out all of our past round-ups and links on the Flannel Friday Pinterest page.  If you are on Facebook, join the Flannel Friday group.  If you are on Twitter, find us using #flannelfriday. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Great Summer Reading Thermometer

When we sat down to plan summer reading this past winter, we talked about increasing our stats.  While this is always something that we want to do, in addition to putting on a quality program, the reasoning behind it is as follows.  Every couple of years our library system conducts a community survey.  One of the really surprising results every time this goes out is that there are many library users who are not familiar with our summer reading program for ages 0-adult.  Somehow we are missing getting the word out to these people, despite our many ways of advertising.  It is a big deal when we run a program in all departments for 1/4 of the year and people don't know about it.  We needed a new way to get word to our customers.

Our plan
In the past, our librarians tended to be the big "pushers" of summer reading.  After all, it is easy to talk about a program to people who come right to you and ask about it.  This year we are encouraging everybody on staff to push the program.  Our circ staff can ask customers if they picked up a summer reading form as they check out books.  Our pages who are in the stacks can offer a basket and a summer reading form.  This opens the door for them to talk about the summer reading program.  Nobody is exempt.  We are being proactive.  After all, when you go shopping, good staff do not wait for you to come up to them with questions.  They ask what they can help you with.

We came up with 2 big goals for the summer-increase our registrations by 10% and increase our # of finishers by 10%.  We are offering milestone rewards for all staff at the halfway point (donut holes in the breakroom) and at the end (a pizza party).  I created a thermometer that will hang in every location's breakroom.  The milestones are clearly marked so everybody is a part of the summer reading process.  Plus, it creates fun in the midst of summer reading.

This is our first year trying this so I am sure that we will need to do some tweaking at the end of the summer.  How do you encourage all staff to participate in summer reading?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Flannel Friday-Pete's Big Lunch

If you follow my blog, you will know that Pete the Cat is one of my favorite book characters.  It is like Christmas for me when a new Pete the Cat book comes out.  This week we tried out Pete's Big Lunch, one of the new I Can Read books by HarperCollins.  What I like about it, other than the silliness, is that you are building something.  This translates really well over to a flannelboard.  Plus, in the case of Mrs. Lisa lost her voice this week, the kids were able to tell the story as we stacked the pieces up.

If you have missed this book, Pete is making a sandwich.  He just uses some unlikely ingredients.  As you can see, Pete uses a whole loaf of bread, a fish, a tomato, mayo, an apple, crackers (by this time the kids are giggling), a pickle, swiss cheese, an egg, 2 hot dogs, a banana, a can of beans, and three scoops of ice cream (by now you have lots of laughter).

All of the pieces for this flannelboard are cut out of felt with puffy painted details.

This week's Flannel Friday Round-Up is hosted by Storytime Katie.  For all things Flannel Friday, check out the official blog.  Also, make sure you stop by the Flannel Friday Pinterest page for an excellent flannelboard resource.  

Next week's round-up will be hosted here at Libraryland.  If you will be going out of town for the holiday weekend (in the U.S.), the placeholder will be up by Wednesday (a little early this week).

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Sick Days

They happen at least once a year and unfortunately you can't schedule them.  Mine tend to come the first week of summer reading or right in the middle of a story time session (you know, those times when you can't take off).  What do you do when you get sick?  How can you run a program with no voice?  Here are a couple of tricks and tips to minimize the damage.

1.  Have a back-up plan.  Do you have a story time plan written out in case you can't be in the building (the flu does hit all of us and never on convenient days)?  Here are two samples of what I have put together for my Music and Movement story time and my 2 Year Old Story Time.  My boss and my colleague both know where these are located and can pull them out.  They both know where all of my materials are located.  While neither of them want to do my story times, they can in a pinch.

2.  Have a secondary back-up plan.  I know that this sounds funny, but some days, you can't afford the extra staff to run a program if you are already out sick.  In this case, I have a staff member pull out a disc of my Lisa's Dance Party songs, put it in the cd player, and just push the play button at the beginning of story time.  While this isn't my favorite thing to do, I like it better than cancelling a program.  After all, parents put forth a lot of effort to make it to the library.  We want to give them the best experience possible on a given day.

3.   When you run 28 weeks of story time a year, chances are good that you will lose your voice at some time.  This happens to me at least 4 times a year.  When this happens to me, here's what helps me to put together a program:
  • First, explain to the parents what is going on.  Really, it is obvious (after all, if you have no voice, you really can't talk).  You will find that they are really supportive in these instances and will take some of the burden of the program off of you.  After all, they are happy that the program is still going on.  These are the instances where I really feel appreciated.  The parents will sing louder and participate more to keep the program going.
  • If you have no voice, you really can't read a story.  First, I raid our JKIT area which cd and book kits.  Are there any that will work for your group?  Second, I raid You TubeWith a laptop (or iPad) and a microphone set up, you can let someone else tell the story while you flip the pages.  We used this method this week with Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes and Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons.  I let Eric Litwin tell the story while I turned the pages.  There are also a lot of really good apps out now that will actually tell the story (check out the Sandra Boynton ones for sure).  These are great to use in this type of situation.
  • This is also a good day to pull out a flannelboard or two.  Do you have any that have a lot of pieces (so everybody can take a turn)?  How about ones with matching pieces?  These are the ones to pull out-many of these will tell themselves with very little words.  The kids are still having a great experience and you don't have to talk.  Plus, with 30 or so kids each putting a piece up on the flannelboard, this will take up about 10 minutes of your program.
These are just a couple of ideas that help me to put on story times when I am sick.  What do you do?  The biggest thing that I have found to be helpful is to think outside of the box.  This isn't the type of program that I want to do every day.  After all, talking is an important early literacy skill.  How can you put on a program that is audience-driven?

Smiley Face with a Cold, Sneezing into Handkerchief by Antares42 - A yellow smiley face (emoticon) sneezing into a handkerchief

Friday, May 10, 2013

Flannel Friday-Cleaning Up

It's Friday so that means it is time for some Flannel Friday fun.  This week in our Music & Movement program, we did stories about Cleaning Up.  While the stories are great, it is hard to find rhymes and flannelboards that work.  Below are two that we used.

This is not an original idea for me.  Unfortunately, I do not have the citation of where it came from (Anybody???  If you know it, I will add it in.  I think it is one of the recent ALA books.)  It is called "Where Does It Go?  The parts are all clip art, but I took pictures of things around my house for the refrigerator, the closet, and the toy box.  The goal is to match all of the items to where they belong.  We start off by looking at the refrigerator, the closet, and the toy box and talking about what goes in each.  Then I hold up each clip art item and ask where it should go.  Sometimes I am silly and say things like, "Should the chocolate milk go in the toy box" or "Should the shirt go in the refrigerator?"  The kids thing this is hilarious and you will get a lot of "No's" and laughter.  As this is a flannelboard game, it encourages participation so know your group if you use this.  It is one of those situations of "If you ask them a question, they WILL answer (and tell you their whole life story)."  The trick to this one is to find items that the kids will recognize.

 For our refrigerator, I cut out an apple, swiss cheese, and chocolate milk.

Our closet has a shirt and tennis shoes.

 Our toy box has a teddy bear and some blocks.

The second flannelboard is Five Little Toys.  All of the pieces are different and I used clip art for each.  You can do this as an action rhyme or add in the clip art.  Mine is done on a handheld magnetboard.

Five little toys on the bedroom floor.
(Hold up 5 fingers.)
I'm not playing with them anymore.
(Shake head, no)
I picked one up and put it away.
(Pantomime picking up toy.)
I'll play with it another day.
(Nod head, yes)
Repeat with four, three, two and one.

I love to use counting up or down rhymes with toddlers.  After each verse, we count all of the items that are left.  With the older groups, you can just ask "How many toys are left?"  It adds something extra into the rhyme and makes them feel like they are participating.

This week's Flannel Friday round-up is hosted by Amanda at Trails & Tales.  For all things Flannel Friday, check out the official blog.  Are you planning a story time?  Check out the Flannel Friday Pinterest page for ideas!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Z is for Moose

This morning in our 2 year old story time, our theme was M is for Moose.  This was the perfect time to pull out Z is for Moose by Kelly Bingham and Paul Zelinsky.  If you haven't read it before and work with young children, you definitely need to pick it up.  It will work with themes on mooses, abc's, or funny stories.

With 2 year olds, they really want to be "in" on the joke.  Most of them like to laugh, even if it is for no reason.  This book has lots of silly things going on.  To get them ready, we practice our abc's before we read the story.  Then, we look at the title and sound out the word "moose".  We talk about what letter moose might start with.  Could it start with "m" like mouse or mom?  What else is on the cover?  Then, we sound out "zebra".  What letter could zebra start with?

This book works well because the kids can help tell the story if you want them to.  I start off with "a is for" and let them fill in the blank.  With a large apple illustration, you will get a lot of "apple" answers.  The illustrations are familiar enough that they should be able to get most of them, but I did have to help them with fox and glove.  By the time you get to "m", the kids will be laughing.  When you keep going and the zebra is "protecting" the illustrations, they will almost be rolling on the floor with laughter.

For those of us who use early literacy messages in our story times, this is a good book to use for your example.  In addition to reading the story, you can talk about the illustrations or what might happen next.  The kids are practicing their reading skills when you let them read along.  Even if they don't know the actual words, they know the shapes (like they know a picture of an apple is an apple).  The more of these connections that they put together, the better they will get at it, and the more prepared they will be to actually read when the time comes.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Why We Use Nametags

This is one of those subjects where everybody will have a different option.  Some librarians don't use any nametags for programs, while some have parents write their child's names on a label when they arrive.  For me, it goes back to my personal rules of children's programming:
  1. Know your audience.
  2. Know what you can handle (this includes how many kids).
  3. Know what you are trying to accomplish.
How it all started for us:
We started using nametags in Fall 2008 because we had to start registration for all of our programs.  At our location, we hold story time in a large meeting room with a maximum capacity of 100 people.  We were getting 60 kids, plus siblings and parents for some of our story times.  It was chaos-we didn't have enough props for all of the kids (shakers, scarves, etc.) and the room was too loud for the kids to hear the stories.  This was not a meaningful experience for anyone (me included).

For our next set of sessions, we started registration.  We told all of the parents ahead of time.  Those who had attended one of our 60+ kid sessions understood the reasoning behind registration.  After all, we were after the best possible experience for their children.  Since this was the first time that we started registration, we didn't enforce it.  We wanted to see if it worked and to get people used to the whole registration process.  We made it as easy as possible-we use the Evanced Events calendar so people can register in person, over the phone, or on their own computer.

The next step:
If you have registration, you need a way to keep attendance.  Otherwise, why would people bother to register?  Are the people attending who should?  Our events calendar automatically sends reminder emails.  If people don't attend for 2 or more weeks, we contact them to see if they are still interested in the program.  Do you have a lot of people sneaking in?  We had a lot of this in the beginning.  By using nametags that all look alike, we were able to easily identify those people who snuck into programs.  Then we could explain our registration policy after the program and hand them a calendar of events. 

The issues:
No matter what you do, there will always be issues.  Our biggest problem was that nonresidents would fill all of the spaces in the first 30 minutes of registration.  This made our residents, who are taxpayers (and basically pay my salary), upset.  Our solution for this is to offer priority registration for our residents 2 weeks ahead of time.  We open up all of our program registrations 1 week ahead of time for everyone.

In addition, all of your librarians (or people who deal with the public) should be on the same page and have the same answers.  If someone isn't registered for a program, will you let them in?  If you have a mom telling their child that the mean librarian will not let them in, will you stand firm?

Our nametags:
We are fortunate enough to have an AccuCut die cutting machine at our Main Library with some basic dies.  We are also close to our local Intermediate School District who has a wide assortment of dies.  Each session gets a set of die cut nametags in a specific shape and color (for example-green frogs, red apples, white sheep, etc.).  We have a 3M Heat Free Laminator in the building and all of the shapes are run through the laminator and cut out.  For our 2 year old, preschool, and school age sessions, we string the nametags with yarn.  For the baby sessions, we use packing tape on the back of the nametag for the parents to stick to the baby's back (or the adult's front).

Since we do take attendance, we use stickers on the nametags to mark who attends each week.  The kids love the stickers!

For us, premade nametags work.  It may not be the same for you.  At our location, we run 9 story times a week, 8 of which are in the mornings.  With a 30-minute program, we have under 30 minutes in between programs to get people out, reset the room, and let people start coming in.  This is where knowing what you can handle comes into play.

For one-time programs (pretty much everything other than story time), we use Avery 5163 labels.  They are large enough that you can add some clip art to fit your program and type in the child's name, but small enough that they will still fit on a child's shirt.

The early literacy connection:
I like to be in the program room 5-10 minutes ahead of time because the kids who get there early love to talk.  Here are some of the fun things that you can talk about using their nametags:
  • What does your nametag say?  Mine says something different.  It says Mrs. Lisa.  Do you see any of the same letters?
  • What shape is your nametag?  What does a frog say?
  • What color is your nametag?  What is your favorite color?  Do you see anything green around the room?
Talking is an important skill for young children because it builds vocabulary.  Plus, if you do it you will be modeling the behavior for the parents.  Hopefully they will pick up on it and do it at home. 
Random nametag fun:
  • Kids love taking their nametags home after the last class in a session.  I have heard of kids playing story time at home and making their stuffed animals wear the nametags.  I have also had kids come back with their nametags from every session throughout a year around their neck (just like fancy necklaces).
  • Last week in our 2 year old story time session, the kids were using their cow nametags to talk to each other.  None of them used words-I just heard a lot of mooing.  

Monday, May 6, 2013

Fun with Bubbles

You can tell that spring is here in Michigan.  Last week I showed you Chalk Play and this week I have Fun with Bubbles.  Bubbles are a lot of fun to play with outside, but you may be wondering about the early literacy connection.

Blowing bubbles works on your child's motor skills (both fine and gross).  Whether your child blows the bubbles from a wand or uses a bubble gun, they are exercising the muscles in their hand.  Eventually, those muscles will be strong enough for your child to write and for them to have control over their pencil or crayon.

If you are playing bubbles with your child, you are modeling new vocabulary and ideas for them.  As a child's vocabulary increases, they are better prepared to read and write.  Talk about what you see and are doing.  Are you blowing one bubble at a time or many bubbles at a time?  Are the bubbles small or large?  Who can pop the bubble?  Can we pop all of the bubbles?  Where do the bubbles go when they fly over the fence?  One of my favorite ways to talk about the bubbles is to talk about how many we blow with a bubble gun.  You get the best answers from 3 and 4 year olds, which also work on their early math skills.  I can ask, "How many bubbles do you think there are?"  Then I tend to get random answers, such as "67" or "100".  What is interesting is that they know that there are a lot of bubbles so they pull out the largest numbers that they know.

Bubbles are not just an outside toy.  We end all of our baby story times with bubbles.  In addition to the early literacy benefits, bubbles are a good tool for a baby's eyes to track.  Once they have "found" their hands, they will try to touch them too.  Plus, they are fun.  If you inject some fun into what you do, chances are better that parents and kids will remember your idea and replicate it at home. 

Friday, May 3, 2013

Story Time Swap: Crazy Traffic Light

I was trying to come up with a new idea for this story time swap when I downloaded the April issue of Children's Programming Monthly from ALA.  On page 10 is Rob Reid's poem called "The Crazy Traffic Light".  While I like to try to add poetry to my story times, poets make it really easy for me if they add in some sort of actions or sounds to help entertain the children.  That will move it to the top of my "Must Use" list.

If you are unfamiliar with the poem, you can read it here.  It is also in Children's Programming Monthly (vol. 3, no. 8 or April 2013) and in Family Storytime: Twenty-Four Creative Programs for All Ages by Rob Reid.  I came up with a pattern which you can download here.  Otherwise, it is just a bunch of circles in different colored felt on a gold rectangle.

red, yellow, and green

pink, purple, and orange

brown, white, and blue

This week's round-up is hosted by Loons and Quines @ Librarytime.  For all things Flannel Friday, check out the Flannel Friday blog.  

Thursday, May 2, 2013

New at Our Early Literacy Center

If you follow me, you may be familiar with our Post Office Early Literacy Center.  If not, you may want to check out post #1 and post #2Now that we have ironed most of the kinks out, it is working out great.  My issue was that I have been getting a lot of letters.  What do you do with all of these letters put them in a folder on your desk or post them on Facebook every so often?

Ta-da!  We now have a book.  All I needed was a binder and some page protectors to get started.  At this time, our book does not circulate, but that may change in the future.  I like the idea of the book because it reinforces the reading early literacy skill.  Plus, it is fun for kids to read their letters!

Our first page explains the center and why we are doing it.  One of our biggest problems so far is getting parents to work with their children, instead of texting their friends or finding their own materials.  There is a purpose to our play-it isn't just a babysitting tool.

I added dividers for each of our eight characters and copied some of my favorite letters for each character.  (Excuse the sideways pictures. I haven't figured out how to flip them yet.)  While spelling isn't important for letters that are included in the book, I looked for ones that are fun and are good examples of letter writing.  For example, did the kids write who the letter was to (Dear Froggy), did they sign it, and did they write a message.  Below are two more letters (also sideways).

This bottom letter I like because the child actually drew The Pigeon.  I do like to add some fun to things, in addition to being educational.  So far the book has been a big hit.  I have seen kids reading the letters both with and without their parents. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Chalk Play

Michigan has been having some great spring weather lately so I have been spending a lot of time outside with the nieces.  This morning we were playing with chalk.  I thought that by showing you some of our creations, you may pick up a new trick to play with early literacy.  For me, it tends to shade most of what we do (even if it isn't obvious).

I haven't figured out how to flip this top picture yet so you will just have to look at it sideways.  Otherwise, you can see that I wrote the number "2" in yellow chalk and my 3 year old niece traced over it in pink.  Chalk is a great way for your child to practice their letters and numbers.  First, it is big enough for their little hands, which gives them more control over the chalk.  In addition, like above, chalk is great for layering.  You can write out your child's name, their age, or any other word and they can trace over it.  Because chalk is temporary, it doesn't matter if you make a mistake.  It is all about the process!

My niece kept trying to make her own hopscotch board, but couldn't quite make her squares big enough.  While it isn't the traditional board, we made a ladder shape (or a giant rectangle with lines through) and numbered the spaces.  She had to tell me the numbers as we wrote in the squares.  Kids are funny, because she had to make sure I had a number "0", which then meant that we had to talk about where it would go.  Even though we were dealing with numbers (which is an early math skill), we did a lot of talking (early literacy skill) as we put the numbers in order.  Then we talked about how we should jump on the squares.  Can you use one foot to jump on all of the squares?  Do you use both feet?  Can you do one on one foot and the next square on two feet?

Chalk is fun for drawing.  If you use your sidewalk as your canvas, you have lots of empty space to make your creations.  Drawing for kids is important, because they are using their hand muscles as they draw (like exercise).  These same muscles will be used as they begin to write words with a pencil and paper.  In addition, you can pull out your talking skill.  Try asking your child about their creation.  You can see that the above creation is a rainbow.  We talked about the colors that were used (because they weren't the traditional colors) and the shape of the rainbow.

You can see that the above shape is an "X".  We have a lot of fun playing pirates.  Of course, pirates have to find the "X" and dig for treasure.  This turned into a fun game, like Hide and Go Seek, where one of us had to draw the "X", then we both had to find the "X" and pretend to dig for treasure.  Then we talked about what treasure we found.  The funniest was when I said that we found gold coins and she asked if they were chocolate gold coins, because that is all that she is familiar with.  You would be amazed at the amount of new vocabulary that kids learn as they use their imagination.

This game came about by accident.  We had already wrote both of our names as we signed our pictures.  I sat down and wrote out the alphabet in my empty space.  She came over and wanted to know what I was doing.  Then we spelled words with our feet (I pointed and she jumped on the letters).  We went through all of the members of the family, like "MOM" and "DAD".  Then we created our own words.  This gave us a chance to talk about what sounds letters make.  She always had a good time coming up with words like ZXPQA or YTKMN and I would sound them out for her.  This is a good thing to do because we are practicing sounds and the letters that make them.  We are assembling words with those sounds.  Plus, we are making it fun so she will want to keep doing it.  Early literacy can be fun!

Now that I have shown you some fun early literacy ideas to use with chalk, pull out your chalk on the next sunny day and draw with your child.

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