Last week, Kathy’s “Stories By Hand” blog featured an interview with Dawn Babb Prochovnic, author of the “Story Time with Signs and Rhymes” series. Click here for the interview.
We were so excited to learn that Dawn has a great series of “Start to Finish Story Time” posts on her blog. Each of these lesson plans centers around one of her books, and includes suggested songs, rhymes, signing games, and reading activities to use with kids, all in a modular format that allows educators and librarians to select the materials that work best for their groups.
As Dawn says, “Each lesson plan incorporates ideas that are suitable for infant/toddler, preschool and/or school age audiences, and each program incorporates activities that promote literacy/early literacy and one or more of the six keys skills recommended by the National Research Council for preparing children to become readers when they enter school. Programs can last from 20 – 45 minutes, depending on what you include and who your audience is.”
There are 4 available so far, with the promise of more to come:
A to Z, Sign with Me
You may also want to bookmark this Summary Post, where Dawn will link to future installments.
With the leaves falling in your backyard, it’s a wonderful time to integrate a math activity into your Fall or Leaf storytime.
- Collect a variety of leaves from your yard or neighborhood a week or two prior to the storytime. Make sure they vary in color, size, and type of tree (oak, maple, etc.).
- Dry the leaves by laying them flat between pages of newspaper. Placing books on them will help the leaves dry flat. The dried leaves should keep their color.
- Once leaves are dry, place an assortment in a baggie, making sure that there are some of the same color, size, and variety in each bag. Make sure you have enough bags for each child in the storytime.
- Pass out bags of leaves to the children. Ask the children to do a variety of tasks: count the leaves, group them by color, group them by type, create a pattern (red, brown, yellow, green). This will reinforce many of the early skills needed for children to succeed in math in school.
- When you are done with the leaves, give each child a blank piece of paper and glue stick, and have them create a leaf man or other picture using their leaves.
A recent sweep of the web reveals lots of enthusiastic programmers making use of rhymes, flannelboards, and story ideas from storytimestuff.net, Storytime Magic, Kindergarten Magic, and Multicultural Storytime Magic! Check out the links below to see how they put our ideas into action!
My Family/Mi Familia Storytime at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission/Texas Reading Club, featuring “Some Families” from Storytime Magic.
Dinosaurs Roar! Storytime at Falling Flannelboards, featuring “Dinosaur Romp” and “I’m a T-Rex” from Kindergarten Magic.
“Five Toothbrushes” at What Happens in Storytime…, from Storytime Magic and Children’s Programming Monthly 1:5.
Colors of My World Storytime at Sunflower Storytime, featuring “Dog’s Colorful Day” Flannelboard from Storytime Magic.
Hats! Hats! Hats! Storytime at What Happens in Storytime…, featuring “Milo’s Hats” flannelboard from Storytime Magic.
Have you used our rhymes, flannelboard patterns, or other storytime ideas in your storytimes? Tell us about it! Comment on this post to share, or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Everyone who shares will be entered into a drawing for a free copy of one of our books (winner’s choice!). And if you send us a picture of how you used the item in your programs, we’ll put your name in the drawing twice!
There are many advantages to using sign language with young children: it reduces frustration, stimulates language development, addresses multiple learning styles, and recent research even suggests it can reduce symptoms of ADHD! But for your programs, you just need to know two benefits: it makes your programs instantly participative, and it’s FUN! Here are six super ways to get started using sign language in your program; for more great ideas, see Try Your Hand at This!: Easy Ways to Incorporate Sign Language Into Your Programs by Kathy MacMillan (Scarecrow Press, 2005).
1) Teach a Seasonal Sign:
The Sign for Snow
(This rhyme teaches how to say SNOW in American Sign Language.)
When the weather is cold and the icy wind blows
And you feel a shiver right down to your toes.
Wiggle your fingers from the sky to the ground.
That’s the sign for SNOW you have found!
2) Take a poll without losing your mind:
Teach the children the signs for YES and NO. Then ask yes/no questions about the story you are reading (“Do you think the fox will catch the sheep this time?”) and invite the children to respond using only their signs. It’s a quick and easy way to get children to participate without making a lot of noise.
3) Spice up a song or rhyme that doesn’t have built-in actions:
There’s nothing worse than putting on music and then just standing around to it. Use American Sign Language to create participative movement. For example, you could teach the kids signs for farm animals to make an old favorite like “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” instantly hands-on!
4) Play a color game:
Extend a flannelboard rhyme into a fun interactive game with this activity. This can be used with any flannelboard that has items of different colors (Five Little Leaves, Five Funny Clowns, etc.). Teach the children the signs for the colors, then invite them to look carefully at the objects. Count to three, then have them close their eyes. Remove one of the objects. Then have the children open their eyes and identify which object is gone, using only their signs. Confirm which object was taken away by showing where it was on the flannelboard. Repeat until all the objects are gone. This activity is appropriate for toddlers and up, and enhances visual acuity, attention, and memory – all important pre-reading skills.
5) Use signs for group management:
Sometimes a sign can get kids’ attention in a way no nagging reminder can! Introduce the signs below by signing them along with the words on the first few reminders, then let your voice fall away and do only the sign. Kids will get the message (and you may find them using these signs to police each other!) Even elementary and middle school age students will respond to signed prompts without complaining and eye-rolling. Try it!
6) Use signs for a story refrain:
Teach the kids a few simple signs that they can repeat throughout the story. This will give them something active to do as they say the words, and will keep them engaged by stimulating multiple senses. For example, when reading Karma Wilson’s The Cow Loves Cookies (Simon and Schuster, 2010), ask children to sign the refrain with you each time.
Ribbons and streamers are fun to incorporate into storytime and can be used in a variety of ways, all of which promote development of gross motor skills. You can use sturdy pre-made ribbons from a school and library supply company (our favorites are Lakeshore Learning’s Wrist Ribbons, which are just the right size for young children), or you can make your own using lengths of ribbon tied to dowel rods. For a less sturdy take-away streamer, tape a length of crêpe streamer to a straw.
Here are some ideas for using your streamers in storytime:
1. Share an ancient tradition:
The Ribbon Dance is a two thousand year old Chinese folk dance. Dancers use long ribbons attached to sticks to represent clouds and are supposed to bring rain and plentiful crops. Invite the children to move their ribbons in different ways as you show the sun, rain, wind, and clouds.
2. Catch a Wave:
Ribbons and streamers make wonderful waves. Make waves to your favorite Beach Boys tune, or go under the sea with a Calypso rhythm. Invite the children to stand in two rows, waving their streamers up high. Let the children take turns “swimming” between the rows so they feel they are under the sea!
3. Make a Rainbow:
Pass out streamers in a rainbow of colors. Wave them above your head when practicing your colors, singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, or during a book when a rainbow is mentioned. Or share the rhyme below to reinforce color knowledge.
If your streamer is red, wave it over your head!
If your streamer is blue, shake it by your shoe!
If your stream is yellow, wave it at a fellow!
If your streamer is green, shake it while you lean!
If your streamer is pink, shake it however you think!
4. Share a Star:
Sing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” as you gently wave your streamers to show the shimmering starlight, or share the shooting star rhyme below:
There once was a star who lived up in the sky (wave streamer above head)
He twinkled and twinkled at all who came by (move streamer in small movements to represent twinkling)
He twinkled left and he twinkled right (move streamer left, then right)
He twinkled through the day and he twinkled through the night (continue twinkling)
He twinkled down at the earth and he twinkled at me (point streamer down and keep twinkling)
Until he decided Earth was where he wanted to be.
So one day he twinkled as brightly as could be (move streamer in large back and forth movements)
And became a shooting star who came down…to..me! (slowly make streamer descend to the ground)
5. Race a Rocket:
Mark off a “course” on the floor using plastic cones or masking tape. Let the children take turns becoming “rockets” with the streamers as the fire coming out of their engines, as they skip or dance along the course.
Rocket Song (to the tune of “Pop Goes the Weasel”)
(Name) is blasting off into space
In a big red rocket
First we count and then we blast off
(5, 4, 3, 2, 1! Blast off!) (slowly raise streamer during countdown)
ROAR! Goes the rocket. (go along course with streamer behind you)
6. Fly a Kite:
Play “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” from Mary Poppins and pretend your streamer is a kite in the sky.
7. Share a Shape:
Use your streamer to create shapes in the air as you sing this song.
Shape Song (to the tune of “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain”)
Can you draw a square, draw a square?
Oh can you draw a square, draw a square?
Draw a line and then three more
They are all the same for sure
Oh can you draw a square, draw a square?
Can you draw a circle, draw a circle.
Oh, can you draw a circle, draw a circle?
A circle is round
With no corners to be found
Oh, can you draw a circle, draw a circle?
Can you draw a triangle, draw a triangle?
Oh, can you draw a triangle, draw a triangle?
Make one side and then make two,
Then make a third, that’s all you do,
Oh, can you draw a triangle, draw a triangle?
8. Write a Word:
Use the streamer to write words or letters in the air. Encourage the children to make their letters as large as possible. This activity encourages letter knowledge, gross motor skills, and prewriting skills. As you lead the letters, describe exactly how to move the streamer to create them. For example: “Let’s make a letter A. We start at the top, then make a slanted line down to the bottom. Now back up to the top, and make a slanted line going the other way. Now make a little bridge to connect the lines. We made an A!”
1) Use yourself as a flannelboard:
Put on an apron with pockets to hold the flannel pieces and tell a story on your belly.
2) Use a story-appropriate object instead of a board:
Telling a story about cooking or food? Use a pot, flat pan or spatula with magnetized pieces. How about a metal music stand for a music-related story? Repurpose an old pet carrier or aquarium to help you tell an animal story. You could even raid your local junkyard for part of an old car to use for a transportation-related story!
3) Group storytelling:
Create pockets on the bottom of a freestanding flannelboard and fill them with a variety of pieces from your favorite flannelboards. Let each child have a turn to pull a piece out and add it to the board and telling part of a story. For example: Child 1 pulls out a dog and says one sentence about the dog, then Child 2 pulls out a sun and says a sentence about the sun that relates to the first… The dog went out to play, and the sun was shining…
4) Flannelboard hide and seek:
Hide flannel pieces (apple, balloon, car…) around the room, then give each child a letter of the alphabet and ask him or her to find the item that starts with that letter. If you want to work on counting, have each child find a certain number of items around the room.
5) Make your own flannelboard:
Pass out a carpet square and a set of simple pieces to each child so the children can tell the story along with you. (This is especially great for tangrams, an ancient puzzle/storytelling form from Asia! Find easy tangram patterns here.)
6) Color match:
Make multiple pieces of a flannelboard in different colors. Pass the pieces out to each child and ask them to come up and place their pieces on the board when you call their color. Some suggestions to use with this idea:
- “The Little Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe”: cut simple child shapes to pass out (There was an old lady who lived in a shoe, and she had so many green children she didn’t know what to do…)
- “Baa Baa Black Sheep”: cut sheep shapes to pass out and repeat the song several times, replacing “black” with other colors
- “The Wheels on the Bus”: pass out animal shapes and sing the song with various animal sounds (The cows on the bus say moo, moo, moo…)
7) Mix and match forms:
Try using a flannelboard to preview a book, or to have the children help you retell a book after reading. Sing a song like “I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly”, then use the flannelboard to review the story/song sequence with the children. Doing so reinforces narrative and sequencing, which are important pre-reading skills
8) Play a memory game:
After telling a story, song, or rhyme with the flannelboard, play a visual memory game. Ask the children to close their eyes, then take one item away. Tell the children to open their eyes, and see if they can identify which item is missing. (Once they do, place the item back on the board to show where it was.) Repeat until all the items are gone. You can even take this activity one step further by teaching Spanish, American Sign Language, or other vocabulary for the flannelboard items, and asking the children to identify the missing item using their new vocabulary.
We posed this question to our newsletter readers:
With math and science benchmarks playing an ever-more important role in early childhood education, librarians are often expected to incorporate these concepts in conscious way into storytimes. How do you incorporate meaningful math and science concepts into your storytime activities?
“Introduce simple graphing…..when doing colors, have bags of M and M’s available. Have a simple graph with the colors listed available (we have one we found online sometime back). Have participants count the numbers of each color and record on the graph. Or do this in front of the whole group and have small bags for participants to eat. Graph other things….do you like red, yellow, or green apples? Do you like snow or not? What Easter/Halloweencandy is your favorite?” -Barbara S.
“I started a monthly program that is history or science based for kids 7 to 14. We offer programs for babies, preschool kids and teens but there was nothing for the in-between ages. The mummy program has been the biggest hit so far. There was a slideshow of actual mummies and artifacts, an online game that showed how Egyptians embalmed their dead, and the kids got to dissect a mummy that I made. I have kids that talk to me about it months later.” -Elizabeth L.
Kathy and Christine say:
Incorporating math and science into your regular storytimes is easier than you think! Here are some simple ideas:
- Invite children to count the objects placed on the flannelboard. With preschoolers, pose simple math problems, such as, “If I take away one apple, how many will be left?” Use the tangible objects to make the math come alive.
- Graph the objects. Create columns of like objects then count them. Ask the children which object had the most?
- When doing crafts, count how many objects you’re gluing on or how many colors you’re using.
- You have to count your storytime attendees for your statistics, so why not make it part of the program? Invite the kids to count along with you as you count attendees. For family programs, count how many kids and how many adults, then ask the kids to compare the numbers – were there more children or adults? Write the number on a whiteboard or chalkboard so children can connect the written and spoken forms of the numbers.
- In a color storytime, discuss the primary colors and how to mix them to create secondary colors.
- In a weather storytime, practice blowing bubbles or scarves and discuss wind and what makes a windy day. Is it snowing? Talk about what the temperature needs to be to snow.
If you’ve got a stack of paper plates, you’ve got a creative storytime prop! Go beyond mask crafts with these fun ideas.
1) Stick Puppet Theater:
Fold plate in half and cut a slit in the center of the fold. Then open the plate and decorate your stage. Poke the stick of your stick puppet down through the fold and manipulate the puppet from the back.
2) Peek-a-Boo Plates:
Use the plate to hide your face throughout this rhyme.
Peek-a-boo, I see you
Now I don’t, and now I do.
I slip behind and there I hide.
Now I pop up grinning wide.
Now I’m gone and now I’m here.
One side, other side, far and near.
I love to hide and so do you
But I love most to say PEEK-A-BOO!
After reading Hats Hats Hats by Ann Morris (Mulberry, 1993), discuss how people around the world carry things on their heads. Then say the following rhyme. Invite a child to the front to help you act it out. Place a paper plate on the child’s head and fill it with plastic food as you say the rhyme. Or get everyone in on the fun by passing out plates to each child, along with a packet of pictures of the food. Ask the children to place the plates on their heads, then add the correct food when it is said in the rhyme.
Going to the Market
I’m going to the market, I’m going just like that.
I will buy potatoes and put them in my hat.
(Repeat with tomatoes, apples, mangos, grapes, bananas, cheese, bread and other foods as desired.)
4) Steering Wheels:
Pass out a paper plate to each child, then have the kids line up and hold their paper plates like steering wheels. Play “Car Car” from Travelin’ Magic by Joanie Bartels (BMG, 1989) and let the kids act out driving, honking their horns, and the other verses of the song.
5) Find that Plate:
Mark the plates with animals, letters, or colors and when you say the animal sound, word (beginning letter sound), or color, invite the children to find the appropriate plate.
Spice up a summertime or ocean-themed program by inviting the kids to climb aboard their carpet squares and surf along with your favorite Beach Boys tune!
2) Color Action Game:
If you have carpet squares of different colors, use them to play a color recognition action game. (If all your carpet squares are the same color, put processing dots of different colors in the corners.) Then sing the song below and invite the kids to perform the actions:
(to the tune of “If You’re Happy and You Know It”)
If your carpet square is red, pat your head.
If your carpet square is red, pat your head.
If your carper square is red, then go ahead and show it.
If your carpet square is red, pat your head.
Blue…touch your shoe…
Yellow…wave to a fellow…
Brown…jump up and down…
White…curl up tight…
Green…do a forward lean…
Black…scratch your friend’s back…
Any color…give a holler!…
3) Play a life-sized board game:
Set up a path of carpet squares around the room, randomly mixing up colors. (Again, if your carpet squares are all one color, mark the corners with different colored processing dots.) Designate a starting and ending square. Create cards of each color by cutting up pieces of construction paper (or put dots on index cards if you are using the dot method. If desired, mark some squares with pictures relating to your theme and make cards to match. (For example, a Fall storytime might include a pumpkin, apple, leaf, and tree.) Have the children line up at the starting square and then take turns drawing a card from the pile. If a child draws a red card, he or she goes to the first red square. If a child draws a picture card, he or she must go to that square, even if that means going backwards. Keep playing (reshuffling cards as needed) until everyone gets to the end.Literacy variations:
- Alphabet matching: Mark the squares with letters of the alphabet and make cards to match. (Or use a set of magnetic alphabet letters and have each child draw one out of a bag on his or her turn.) Be sure to ask the child to identify the letter and match it to the correct square.
- What’s that sound?: Mark the squares with letters of the alphabet as above, but make cards with simple words that begin with different letters of the alphabet. On each child’s turn, read a word aloud without showing it to the child, and see if the children can guess the first letter by sound. If they have trouble, show them the card and help them identify the first letter and its sound before moving to the correct square. (Make sure that the letters on your cards and squares are consistently uppercase or consistently lowercase to avoid confusion.)
- Big and Little Matching: Mark the squares with uppercase letters of the alphabet, and make cards showing the lowercase letters. The children must match the letters to find the correct square.
4) Make Your Own Flannelboard:
Give each child a carpet square and a set of simple felt shapes, and invite them to tell the story along with you as you use the large flannelboard. This is a great activity for baby storytimes, as it encourages one-on-one interaction between parent and child, and gives parents a useful model for storytelling with their little ones at home. A simple flannelboard story such “Dog’s Colorful Day”, based on the book by Emma Dodd, is ideal for this activity. (Download a free flannelboard pattern by artist Melanie Fitz here.)
For older children, consider using this activity with a tangram story. Tangrams, a traditional Chinese puzzle and storytelling form, are easy to make and can yield thousands of different shapes. Check out one of the books below for stories and instructions on how to make a tangram set:
- Grandfather Tang’s Story: A Tale Told With Tangrams by Ann Tompert. New York: Crown, 1990.
- Grandfather’s Shape Story by Brian Sargent. New York: Scholastic, 2007.
Liven up a froggy storytime with this rhyme, performed on carpet square lilypads. Follow up by inviting the kids to hop from lilypad to lilypad around the room while you play a frog song such as “Jumping Frog” from Pretend by Hap Palmer (Freeport, NY: Educational Activities, Inc., 1998).
I am a frog, lovely and green
I sit on my lilypad, calm and serene
Until a fly comes whizzing by
Then I LEAP in the air so high!
I stick out my tongue and SLURP.
Down goes the fly and out comes a burp.
I like being a frog, so I don’t think I’ll stop
Because it’s so much fun to hop!
There goes another fly, I really must dash.
I hop into the water with a great big SPLASH!
Invite the kids to imagine that they are Miss Muffet sitting on her tuffet and act out the silly rhyme below.
Miss Muffet’s Tuffet
Little Miss Muffet sat on her tuffet
Eating her curds and whey
Along came a spider and sat down beside her
And frightened Miss Muffet away.
But she came back around and sat back down
And continued then to eat.
Her toes got cold, so she was told
To put the tuffet on her feet!
Miss Muffet was done, she’d eaten a ton
But she didn’t care.
The spider came back and jumped on her back
So she waved her tuffet in the air!
It started to rain, she said, “What a pain!
I don’t want my hair to get wet!”
So she lifted her hands like that, and made up a hat
She put the tuffet on her head!
The rain started to slow, and the spider had to go
So she said, “I’ll see you around!”
She put the tuffet on the floor, and then once more
She sat herself back down!