Thursday, June 27, 2013

Flannel Friday-One, Two, Buckle My Shoe Three Ways

It is the second week of summer reading here, which means I am raiding my files as I don't have the time to come up with something new.  Personally, I feel that every children's librarian should have as many Mother Goose rhymes in their bag of tricks as possible.  We all know that rhymes are important to early child literacy.  Plus, they are fun and are good transition elements for most story times.  As I see new ideas, they are copied and added to my Mother Goose files because I am constantly using them.

This week I thought it would be fun to show off three different ways to tell One, Two, Buckle My Shoe with flannelboards and props.

This flannelboard version is from The Best of Totline Flannelboards.  The pattern and rhyme are included in the book, so all you need to do is copy, color, laminate, and stick with velcro.  If I were making it again, I would add in die cut numbers to coincide with the pictures. 

The other two versions are from Literacy Centers and Activities for Nursery Rhymes, Volume 2 published by Teacher Created Resources.  I wish that they made more books in this series as they include a lot of full color illustrations that you can copy, cut, laminate, and are ready to go.  These I used glue dots to attach to popsicle sticks.  When I retell it, I ask for volunteers to hold the sticks (as I don't have 5 hands).  Some of the kids like to participate.

This series also does awesome folder stories.  Once you set it up, all you need to do is open the folder to tell your rhyme.

This is a lift-the-flap folder story.  I had to use my own copy paper to make the flaps, but the book provided the base pieces for me to copy.  This would also work well in an early literacy center as it is pretty sturdy if you laminate it and fasten the flaps with book tape.

Bridget at What is Bridget Reading? is hosting this week's Flannel Friday round-up.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Eric Carle Art

In my dream world where I have tons of free time and energy, I would run more programs like this one.  There are a lot of great children's book illustrators on the web who provide lesson plans and ideas for exposing kids to their art.  It is also an easy way to tie art with the library.

Where I Got the Idea
A couple of years ago I visited the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amhert, MA.  If you haven't been there, it is a great place for any children's librarian or educator to visit.  I was really impressed by their educational opportunities and programs.  If you visit their web site, they list a bunch of lesson plans, including today's program.  I printed out their sheet for each of the kids to walk them through the steps.

Ages and Requirements
We registered 25 kids, ages 6-12, for this program.  It ended up being heavy on the 6-8 year olds, but they were still able to come up with quality artwork.

Supplies Needed
  • liquid starch (check the laundry aisle at your local grocery store)
  • tissue paper-It comes as color fast (like the kind you buy to put in gift bags) or bleeding (found at art supply stores).  Personally, I would buy the kind that bleeds as it makes the best colors.  I bought 2 packs and we have a lot leftover for our next project.
  • dixie cups-I used these to put the liquid starch in.  You don't need a lot of starch.  I used less than 1 inch in each cup and each kid had plenty.
  • paint brushes
  • watercolor paper
  • scissors (for those kids who don't want to tear)
What to Do
I started off by showing a couple of Eric Carle illustrations in various books.  You will want to find ones with multiple colors-The Very Lonely Firefly is a good example if you look at his wings.  Then I showed off my example.  I explained that I used a bunch of triangles to make a star shape.

I explained that you should create your tissue paper shape first, whether the first letter of their name, a fish, or filling the whole paper with tissue paper pieces.  It helps if you give them some ideas before they begin as some kids will look at the white sheet of paper and give you a blank look when you ask them what they are going to make.

When they are ready, you spread liquid starch with a paintbrush on the white watercolor paper.  You put the piece of tissue paper on top of the starch and brush starch over the tissue paper.  This causes the color to move on the tissue paper and create the blending effect.

The Final Product
I am always amazed at what the kids come up with.  We had a couple that looked like they could have come out of an Eric Carle book.  There were flowers, stars & moons, heart butterflies, the first letter of names, a dog, and a tiger.  Some of the kids got really creative and crumbled their tissue paper to make a 3-D effect.  The entire program cost less than $20 and it is definitely worth doing again.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Toddler Art-Dinosaurs

We run a Toddler Art program every summer at the beginning of our summer reading program.  We registered 25 2-3 year olds.  This year's theme was dinosaurs.  We used the pattern from Making Learning Fun for the brachiosaurus.  For the body we used a paper plate and for the head, tail, and feet, we used 90# cardstock.  We premade 2 of each for each child.  The goal is for the child to decorate one dinosaur for us to decorate our program room and to decorate one dinosaur to take home.

Our Set-Up
We do almost all of our toddler programs on the floor.  We don't have child-size tables for them and this allows their caregivers to work with them and not take up another child's space.  Plus, clean-up is a breeze if you just have to roll up brown craft paper after the program.

I come up with one station idea for every 5-6 kids.  There will be stations that will have more kids there at one time, but that's okay.  This teaches them to take turns.  You will never be able to predict what the most popular station will be-this year it was glitter glue and last year was watercolor paints.  Use 1 idea or concept at 1 station because these kids are learning to do these activities themselves.  Think of supplies that kids this age like to use but don't get to use very often-paints, glitter glue, crayons, stickers, chalk, markers, stampers, etc.  They don't have to be complicated stations.  Once you have your ideas, look for supplies that the kids can use themselves (this is their program, not their parents).  I look for easy-to-squeeze bottles of glue, chubby crayons, and stampers with big handles or large stamp pads to ink the stamps.

This year's stations
This year we set up 5 stations.  We used:
  • 8 sets of watercolor paints-If you use paints, don't use water cups.  You want something with a wider base that doesn't easily tip over.  We used a large bowl this year.
  • Glitter glue-I recommend the Colorations Rainbow Glitter Glue from Discount School Supply as little kids can easily squeeze the bottles.  It also doesn't dry up.  We currently have around 20 bottles of glitter glue from running this program each year.  As a bottle empties, we get rid of it.  You will be surprised at how long 1 bottle lasts.
  • Chubby markers-These are fun because they kind of roll across the page as the kids color.  Because the bottle that holds the ink is thicker, they are easy to handle for little hands.  They also come in fun colors.
  • Dinosaur stampers-I bought a pack of 24 dinosaur stampers from Oriental Trading.  They are smaller than I would have liked, but the kids were able to easily use them once I took all of the bases off.  I put out larger stamp pads for them to use.
  • Stickers-I found a box of foam dinosaur stickers at Michaels.  I also put out mini paw print stickers and leftover star stickers from our Dino Collage program.  If you put out stickers for little kids, know that they LOVE stickers.  To make it more user-friendly (and to not have the first kid use up all of the stickers), cut your stickers into strips of 4-8 for the mini stickers or cut each sticker apart for larger ones.  There will still be the kid who will sit in front of the sticker box for the entire program, but this lets the other kids have access too.

What I Have Learned
As you run Toddler Art programs, you will build up your supplies.  While we do a little refreshing each year (a couple of new bottles of glitter glue, some new paints, fun stickers, etc.), most of the supplies can be reused.  This keeps the cost down.  We spent less than $20 to put on this popular program.

When you advertise your program, add in a line about bring paint shirts or messy clothes.  Most parents will have something that their kids can wear even if it isn't a paint shirt.  It will save you from cringing when the first kid dumps the paint water over the floor. 

We have a lot of parents who don't do art at home, other than coloring, due to the "messy" factor.  They love this program as they get to see their children have fun.  The kids love it because they get to try new things.  I love it because I get some great decorations.  Once the parents see different things that they can do with their child (and that we don't end up with paint all over the carpet), they are more likely to try these activities at home.  I had one child today who was off with his mom to buy glitter glue at Target after the program.  Another mom asked where I recommended that her child could paint at home and we came up with her plastic picnic table so they could hose it off.

The kids love to bring their siblings, parents, and grandparents along with them to their summer programs so they can show off their artwork.  It is like an art show-the dinosaurs are up all summer.

To see last year's Toddler Art program, please visit here.  Below are this year's pictures of some of our finished products.  

Dino Collages

Let me start off by saying that I love to do collage programs.  They are relatively inexpensive to do and you get some great results.  I like that the kids can be creative and they always surprise me with their ideas.  With this program, we registered 36 4-8 year olds. 

Materials Used
We bought the Colorations Colorful Collage Kit 5 years ago from Discount School Supply.  While it looks expensive, you will use it for years.  Every time we run a collage program, I do buy something new to refresh it.  This year I added fat yarn pieces in different colors and shiny star stickers.

You will also want some sort of base for your collage.  I have used cardstock, paper plates, and various figures.  Discount School Supply sells some that are already sticky.  Lakeshore Learning sells some where you need glue (unfortunately you won't find them on the web site).  This year I found dinosaur shapes at Lakeshore Learning.  Each pack of 24 came with 4 different dinosaur shapes.

You will also want glue.  Due to the number of people in our program, we pulled out all of our glue sticks and regular white glue.  We also got some new glue gel that is awesome.  I found ours at Discount School Supply and Office Depot.  When back-to-school sales start in the fall, we will be stocking up on this as it doesn't run and it dries clear.

I also pull out our child scissors.  With the size of the boards, it is fun to cut the pieces to fit, whether they be feathers, foam stickers, or yarn.

We set up 1 long table at the front of the room for all of the supplies.  The kids pick up their collage shape, a paper plate, then pick out what they want to add to it.  All of our supplies are on trays or in bins along the table.  They take their pile to another table to work on their collage.  These tables have the glue and scissors scattered along them.  They are also covered in brown craft paper to avoid messes on the tables.

The Program
While we say the program is 1 hour, some kids are done in 5 minutes and some take the whole hour.  It all depends on the kids and their creations.  This is also a great program to stagger registration times if you want to fit in a lot of kids as those who finish in 5 minutes will clear out pretty quickly.

Monday, June 24, 2013

My First iPad Story Time

This year our goal has been to get iPads integrated with our ys programming.  This morning I was super excited to present our first iPad story time at my library.  Here is what I did:

Our Equipment
We have 14 library iPads for youth programming.  Each has a purple iGuy case, which is perfect for little hands.  We share these across 3 locations.  We are lucky to have an IT department so we can give them a list of apps to load and they do that. 

What We Did
While we have used iPads for 1 story or song in a program before, I wanted this program to be all on the iPad.  My reasoning is twofold-1)  I wanted to give kids a new experience with quality apps and 2) I wanted to model good app behavior for the parents.  I passed out a take-home sheet for all of the parents.  It listed the apps that we used, how we used them, and recommended apps for the future.

We registered 12 kids ages 2-4  and the program filled up almost immediately.  While summer reading isn't necessarily the best time to start something new, we wanted to trial our program before our fall newsletter deadline to work out the logistics.

Our first program was all about the farm.  I started off by showing the parents the basics of the iPad (the kids knew how to work them right away).  I then read Barnyard Dance by Sandra Boynton.  I used my voice to tell the story and showed them how to flip the pages.  As I read, I pointed out fun things to try during free time at the end of the program.  We then sang B-I-N-G-O using the Felt Board app.

After our first song, we read Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? by Dr. Seuss.  Once again, I pointed out the fun things to do with this app.  Then, we sang Old MacDonald using the Duck Duck Moose app.  This one was fun, because while it includes animals, it has other fun farm things, such as a tractor.  This gave us a chance to talk about what noises we think a tractor would make.

The two stories and two songs took about 20 minutes.  Then, we opened it up for free play time.  I showed the kids how to turn up the volume (I had the iPads set on 2) and let them play with the apps.  We also had Make a Scene Farmyard and Peekaboo Barn HD for the kids to play with.

The Results
Since this was our first time trying out the program, I wanted to know what our customers thought.  With 12 kids and their caregivers, I was able to talk to everybody as they were leaving to see what they thought.  They loved it!  Most took home their sheet so they could check into the apps at home.

With this age group it helps if each child has a caregiver.  While the children know how to use the iPads, it helps to have an adult right there to help them get started.

Our Next Step
We are working on our budget for next year as the one technical piece that we are missing is the Apple TV.  This would help to project the app on the big screen.  It would also help if there are siblings in the room as only the child holding the iPad could see what was going on with the apps.

The other thing that we are working on is a recommended app list.  There are a lot of apps out there and parents are always asking us which we can recommend.  They also want a way for the library to provide apps for them for free (like our databases), but nobody does that yet (hint hint).

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Dino Stomp

The Dino Stomp was our first big event of the summer.  What I loved about it is that it was planned almost entirely by Pinterest (gotta love Pinterest!).  Our program was for ages 3-6.  For us, programs with stations work best.  We will have out instructions and examples at each of the stations.  The librarian(s) in the room will refill the spaces as kids get up to leave.  Unfortunately, we have learned that we can't put out all of the supplies at one time or people will do multiples or take them home.  Here's what we did:

Station 1-Dino Macaroni
What screams dinosaur more than dinosaur bones (aka macaroni)?  We used the pattern and idea from Busy Bee Crafts.  

Each skeleton uses 19 macaroni noodles and there are approximately 323 noodles in 1 16 oz. box of penne (or enough to make 17 dinosaurs).  We used Elmer's School Glue Gel-it is the best stuff ever.  It doesn't run (no matter how much they dump on) and it dries clear.  It is hard to find.  I have so far only seen it at Office Depot and Discount School Supply.

Station 2-Dino Hats
I like to have some sort of hat to make, because the kids look cute.  Plus, then parents will take pictures and post them on social media, which ends up advertising the library.

We found the idea here, but made some adaptations to fit us.  To make your own dino hat, we took a piece of green posterboard and cut a 4 inch strip.  We used our 1 1/2 inch circle punch to make the white part of the eyes and our 1 inch circle punch to make the black part.  Our triangles are 3 inches wide and we cut them in red, orange, and yellow.  Each hat uses 3 triangles at the top and we let the kids pick out their own colors.  We used black washable markers to make the two dots for the nose.  Then we fit the green circle to the kids' heads and stapled it together.

Station 3-Dino Feet and 3-D Dinos
We put two crafts at this station because they both used crayons.  Our first project was a 3-D dinosaur.

When we were ordering our AccuCut dies for summer reading, we found this great 3-D dinosaur die.  We cut him out of cardstock and had the kids color him.  The pieces slide easily together.

We also made dinosaur feet.  I found the idea and pattern at Make and Takes.  We used green posterboard to precut all of the feet and the kids added their designs with crayons.  We had a lot end up with "painted" toenails.

Station 4-Dino Eggs
Did you know that you can make your own dino eggs?  We bought a bunch of plastic dinosaurs from Oriental Trading.  I found a recipe to make dino eggs at Projects for Preschoolers.  We quadrupled the recipe for 25 kids.  We mixed up a big bucket, set it up outside, and had the kids form the "eggs" around their dinosaurs.  What we learned is that you will want at least one person permanently running this station.  Quite a few of the kids (almost half) did not want to put their hands into the dirt mixture so we made their eggs for them.  We made our own stickers out of address labels telling the kids to let their dino egg dry and to break it open in a couple of days once dry.  We also listed the contents of our egg mixture as at least one kid tends to eat our projects and this way the parents wouldn't worry too much (plus, there are all kinds of allergies now).  We attached our stickers to plastic lunch bags and put the finished dino eggs inside the lunch bag so they were transportable and my boss didn't wonder why there were globs of mud all over the building. We also set up a dish tub filled with soapy water so the kids who did put their dinosaurs in the dirt mixture could wash their hand.

As always, we got a lot of compliments on the program.  There is nothing cooler than seeing the kids wearing their dino hats and feet while sitting in the children's room reading books.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Dinosaur Feet

When shopping for summer reading this winter, I saw this great product from Discount School Supply.  We have a lot of active programs during the summer and a large meeting room to put it in.  I just didn't know how to tie it all together.  So the product came in and sat under my desk til today when I had inspiration.

Above is Dino Stomp Line Activity Mat from Discount School Supply.  It is 20 feet long.  While you can't totally see it, along the right side is a ruler with the inches and feet marked off.  There are 20 numbered dino footprints.

In addition, there are 20 dinosaur egg circles that can correspond with each of the footprints.  While you can match the circles and work on your early childhood math skills, I personally have been using it as a hopscotch-like mat.  In addition to being fun, this works on gross motor skills.

All of our programs are held in a large meeting room that seats 100 people.  This includes outside performers, story times, etc.  The sides of the room have large metallic doors which I have adopted as display space since we really don't have any in the library.  Above is the completed dino feet display so you can see the whole thing.

I made a giant T-Rex foot.  Yes, the size is accurate.  There is a nearby label that says "A T-Rex foot was 3.3 feet long."

Then I traced my foot on purple.  I added another sign that says, "Mrs. Lisa's foot is 9 inches long."  To get the kids (and their parents) thinking, I made a couple more signs:
  • How big is your foot?
  • Which foot is the biggest?  The littlest?
  • You can fit about 20 of Mrs. Lisa's feet in T-Rex's footprint. 
With the Dino Stomp Number Activity Line, kids can measure their feet.  Then they can answer the questions.  Check it out-we're doing math!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Selling of Summer Reading

Before I show you what we do, let me tell you about our library.
  • Summer reading is our largest kids' initiative of the year.  We start planning 9 months ahead of time for a 10-week program.  It takes many people a lot of time to put together the program.
  • We run programs from 0-adult, broken up in 3 age groups-kids (baby-grade 5), teen (grade 6-12), and adults (ages 19+).
  • We do set goals, both in terms of registration numbers and completion rates.  We are rewarded for hitting the goals, but there is no punishment involved (it doesn't show up as a bad thing on our reviews).  Last year our ys staff received gift cards to the local outdoor mall.  This year, we have expanded to the entire staff and will have a donut party and pizza party for hitting our half-way and final goals. 
  • We are a relatively new public library system.  We opened our first location in 1999 and have added 2 branches and a large main library since then.  Everything we have built has been from the ground up.
  • We have a very busy reference desk at our branch.  It is always staffed by a librarian, but we rotate (so you may have an adult librarian working or a children's librarian).  Everybody has to be able to handle everything.
  • Through numerous community surveys, we have found that there are a significant amount of our customers who do not know that we have a summer reading program.  We also get a lot of people telling us that they read in the summer and isn't that summer reading?
Our biggest way to increase summer reading participation is to stand next to our self-check machines with a stack of forms and ask people who are checking out books if they are participating.  We don't hold them up and we aren't pushy.  This does give us the chance, though, to show them our gameboards and explain the program on a one-to-one basis.  I don't think that I have ever had anybody actually tell me "No" after I have explained the program.  I get a lot of "Oh, I didn't know that my baby could participate" and other reasons why they have never done summer reading.  Why do you think that stores have people out in the aisles selling things or that kids fundraise outside of grocery stores?  It works.

Our second favorite way to increase summer reading participation is to promote it in our programs.  You have a built-in audience who don't mind giving you 5 minutes of their time before a magician or story time parents who will listen and ask questions before story time starts.  I really like showing our summer reading program off to our story time kids because these are kids who come every week.  They are your kids who will most likely finish the program.  They are also your kids who will do the program every year once you get them started.

The rest of our promotional ideas I refer to as the "extras".  They make us look a fun and nice place to be.  They help to promote the Rule of Seven (people need to see or hear about something 7 times before it will sink in).  We have a giant window display that you can see from the road with the dates listed.

This is our summer reading table that holds the various forms.  We also like to include booklists to promote our collections.  If you don't have one prepared, definitely check out the ALSC summer booklists that they put out a couple of months ago.  I like having a table out because anybody on staff can refer customers to the table.  It is right next to the reference desk so if we are in between questions, we can explain the program to people walking by.  It is also easily accessible for those savvy customers who know what they want and don't require any staff interaction.

As you can see from the above picture, we list the program name and the ages right on the sign.  We have out the gameboards/forms, booklists, and a small slip with the web address if people want to do the whole program online.

We added in some fun decor.  Oriental Trading sold us construction cones and inflatable dinosaurs that we scattered throughout the children's area.

 They are even on the ceiling!

For those who have missed that we have a summer reading club, we have 25 stars scattered through the library.  I use magnet tape to attach them to our metallic endcaps.  As you can see, they list the dates, the ages, and where to get more information.  These are especially useful in our adult and nonfiction areas as many of the summer reading decorations don't make it that far.  

If you have missed every sign of summer reading so far, we have one last sign on the security gates as you exit.  Did you get your form?

These are just a couple of ideas to get you going with your program.  Once you get your customers in, then you can explain why summer reading is important for their kids.  Unfortunately, you can't get the message across if you don't have the people to talk to.  How do you promote your program in-house?

Saturday, June 15, 2013

If I Had a Pet Dinosaur Early Literacy Station

I was looking for something fun to change up our early literacy station, when I saw this great activity on the Deceptively Educational blog.  It is simple, fun, and promotes early literacy!  Plus, she offers a pdf that you can download.  Here's how we turned her worksheet into an early literacy station.

 We took away our post office sorter and put out the worksheet (although I changed the graphic to the one we are using for summer reading).  I am crossing my fingers that one kid doesn't scribble on the whole stack at a time.

 Our sign explains what to do and tells what skills we are working on.

I left the mailbox out to collect the worksheets.  I think that there would be mutiny if I got rid of the mailbox, as the kids LOVE IT!

Completed worksheets will be added to our "book"The kids are actually reading our post office book that we made so I have high hopes for this one too.  Plus, the answers are funny!

To start us off, both of the children's librarians at our branch told about our dinosaurs.  Mine is named George.

Our much-loved post office will be back in the fall, but this gives us a chance to clean and fix up the station as it gets a lot of use.  With how busy summer reading is at our location, this summer station will require minimal staff time, but still provide a quality experience for the kids.  Personally, I can't wait to read what they come up with!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Flannel Friday-5 Frogs

A couple of years ago, we had a fantastic intern named Lynn.  Before she left us, she made us a bunch of flannelboards.  These five frogs are one of those that she made.  I love it when other people make me flannelboards, because they tend to do things in a totally different way than I would.  This gives me variety and sparks my imagination in other ways.

Personally, I never would have thought to make my frogs out of circles.  I now wonder how many other animals I can make out of simple shapes!

The base circle (dark green) is made out of a stiff felt to give the frog some stability.  The other parts are all cut out of normal felt.  He has velcro on the back to help hold him to the board due to his weight.

You can use these frogs for a many frog rhymes/songs, including Five Little Speckled Frogs or Five Little Frogs.  This would also make a good craft for preschoolers out of construction paper and you can send them home with a copy of the rhyme.

Kathryn is hosting her first ever Flannel Friday round-up this week at Fun with Friends at Storytime!  Stop by and check it out.

Summer Reading Window Display

Okay, I will admit that I was really procrastinating on decorating our front window as I had no idea what to use.  It is an important space as it is our one creative space in the library to decorate for summer reading.  My idea of Dig into Reading tends to veer towards dinosaurs and construction, rather than moles and other underground animals.  I also knew that whatever we designed had to be big and bright enough to fill the front window so you can see it from the road.  My partner-in-crime, Kara, and I put our heads together and came up with...

Since our front window also is one wall of our lobby, we like to make our pictures double-sided.  The kids love being able to see things up close (and we love the bright colors).  The large flowers helped to fill up the window space and provide bright colors and shapes that you can see from the road.

Since I am not really an underground animal type of person (moles do make me shudder), we ended up with 2 big ant hills.

The hills are cut freeform.  To get a pattern for the ants, I put 3 large circles together on a piece of 11x17 paper.  There are sticker eyes on both sides (outside and lobby) of the ants.  The legs are strips of paper cut down to be the same size.

Green grass runs along most of the window.  I like it because it gives the window a 3-D effect.  To make your own, cut strips about 1 inch wide along the top of a piece of paper.  I used scotch tape every 3-4 strips to help hold the grass up and to give it some dimension (after all, you don't want all of the grass curled over).

We had some leftover paper and window space so we added a few bugs.  To make the shape of the bee, I set up a 11x17 page in Microsoft Publisher and made two circles.  One I stretched long to make the body and the other I left normal for the head.  Our bee has sticker eyes (to tie him together with the ants).   We used a Sharpie marker to color in the stripes and add a mustache.  We have a lot of mustache-themed prizes this year and wanted to tie the mustache into the display.  It also gives it a bit of whimsy.  The wings are cut out of wax paper and are teardrop-shaped.

Our other bug was a ladybug.  It uses the same shape as the bee and is cut out of a dark pinkish-red paper.  He has sticker eyes (like the ant and the bee) and his spots and details are colored with permanent marker.  His antennae are made out of black pipe cleaners and have curled ends.

I couldn't resist adding a bit of construction to our display.  We just changed to words to read "Summer Reading Zone".  It is a yellow diamond and a brown rectangle with the lettering done with permanent markers.

Our entire display took about 4 hours to put together and cost a grand total of $3.96.  We were able to buy the paper from our local ISD Teacher's Workshop, which sells giant roll paper by the foot.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Color Zoo Play to Learn

This week's Play to Learn program was another collaborative (credit will be given below).  Color Zoo by Lois Ehlert is one of those early childhood classic books that every child should read.  Between the shapes and colors, there is a lot of good stuff here.  The hard part comes when you are brainstorming ideas to go along with the book.  Below is what we came up with.

Station 1-Make Nametags
Instead of staff making nametags, we have the children and/or their parents make them for this program.  We put out a fun shape, some yarn or tape, and child pencils.  In addition, I write out all of the children's names so they can trace them from a list.  A colleague (Deb) had a sheet of nametags with the cute borders and shapes so I only had to copy, cut, and punch them out.

Station 2-Read the Book
I pulled out all of the copies of Color Zoo that I could find for this station.  To add some additional fun, I pulled out 3 pizza box flannelboards.  Each box contained 1/3 of the story (otherwise, there were just too many parts in one box).  

The kids liked to make the animals in the book out of felt shapes.  Then, they began to experiment and make their own creatures.  This was good for their imagination.

To give a little more shape practice, I also pulled out my large flannelboard and my copy of Baa, Baa, Shape Sheep from Making Learning Fun.

Station 3-Make Shape Puppets
I found this idea on Pinterest and thought it would work perfectly.  I cut out a wide variety of shapes with our AccuCut dies.  I scattered them across the table, along with glue sticks and crayons, although I did try to put one large shape at everyone's place to get them started.  To make the popsicle stick easily stick to the shapes, we used a glue dot on the end. (This I could prepare ahead of time, leaving the backing on one side of the glue dot and attaching it to the stick.)  I will admit, I am not super creative when it comes to things like puppets (as seen below), but the kids came up with some great things.  I had one who folded a triangle in half to make a beak.  Another decided that their puppet needed a body and kept building.

Station 4-Button Sorting Station
I love when you can reuse a great station!  This one we had purchased from Lakeshore Learning for our Pete the Cat Play to Learn program.  The buttons have a wide variety of shapes and colors that you can sort on various labelled mats.

How does button sorting promote early literacy?  With our button sorting station, the mats each had a characteristic printed across the top, such as triangles or purple.  The goal of the station is to add buttons with that characteristic to the mat.  This reinforces the comprehension skill.  The child is seeing the word and learning that it has meaning.  Then they are using that meaning as they work at the station.  A secondary skill here is the sorting skill that promotes early childhood math.

Station 5-Shapes
This was, by far, the most popular station.  We purchased the Color & Shapes Activity Mats through Lakeshore Learning as we expect this set to get heavy traffic.  You could also make some using colored paper and laminating them.  Set-up was easy as I just scattered them across the floor.  On our sign, I gave a list of directions to get them started, such as "Jump on the red star."  They had no problems once they got going.  In fact, most of them took their puppets (from station 3) and would hold them as they jumped to the different shapes.  In addition to the gross motor skills that they kids were working on, they did a lot of talking as they played on the shapes.  We found green squares, orange stars, etc.  Colors and shapes are a great way to practice talking with kids as they can see "red" at the same time you are talking about red. 

While it wasn't expected, the kids also worked on the early childhood skill of sorting as they liked to move the shapes around by shape or color.  Luckily the shapes are a little heavy so they weren't dragged all around the room.

Station 6-Make a Book
I love to include a book activity in all of our Play to Learn programs.  Since our focus is early literacy, the children can work on their book in the program, then take it home and read it with their family.  This book was created by Deb again.  I like it because there is a lot of shape tracing.  The shapes are all labelled so kids can see the words that match the shapes.  Some of the pages had a picture made out of shapes, such as a sailboat, and the kids counted the triangles.

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