Friday, September 30, 2011

Theme of the Week: "Mouse Apples"

It tickles me to name this theme as such, in honor of the many pithy equivalents of "bulls*it" employed by Colonel Potter on M*A*S*H. I have a fine salty vocabulary of my own when I'm not busy being a children's librarian......

I kept finding story after story involving mice and apples last week. One of them "A New House For Mouse", I set aside for a "house" theme, but the other two, along with some new "bells and whistles", turned into a nice little "apple" program:

The problem with "Little Mouse's BIG Secret" is that the pictures are SMALL!

I get the reason why it was done that way but still think the proportions  could have been better. Even sitting close up, it's hard to see the tiny little animals As a result, this story might be a good pick for a flannel/magnet board--a good option when a good story is too small for a large group to enjoy together.

But it worked all right. Little Mouse finds an apple, doesn't want to share it and "hides" it by burying it in the ground. The apple promptly sprouts into a tree which grows into a tree loaded with apples. By the time Little Mouse realizes what has happened, there are enough apples for all to share. I took the book around the story time circle so that all the kids could see the picture where the tree sprouts out of the ground. This is also the sort of book where some fill-in dialogue may be needed by the reader since the basic text is pretty much animals asking "What are you hiding?" and Mouse replying "It's my secret and I'll never tell".

I think Melissa of Mel's Desk spotted me on Twitter and I'm delighted that she did because I am finally starting to find librarians who like what they do as much as I do--work with really young children. There aren't any other librarians around me who really do, and it's lovely to be able to share and learn again. This book is out of print and our library doesn't have a copy, but when I spotted this on her last "Flannel Friday" I knew I wanted to try telling it. I ended up finding a YouTube clip of a lady reading this, so I had the full text, then promptly took it and did what I wanted with it :D    But the basic tale is of a little mouse who patiently waits under a tree for an apple to drop. Other animals come and wait too, but when the apple doesn't fall no matter what they do, they lose patience and finally leave. Mouse keeps waiting, and when the apple DOES finally fall has a sweet reward.
I told the story with puppets and used other animals I had on hand including my beloved sheep puppet "Lambert", who as usual misbehaved and wanted the kids to give him carrots instead. It was fun, and I am looking forward to trying it out with my older kids next week and mangling the story even more to suit them and me!


I work alone these days but in past years I was lucky to work with some incredibly creative people. Jason started working for us as a page (shelver), but we soon discovered he had awesome artistic talents. He worked for me until he graduated college and made me stuff I'm still using to this day, including some puppets that Jim Henson's people would have heartily approved of.

This great big guy used to be an amiable but not very bright Giant in "Jack and the Beanstalk", but I dressed him up in an old t-shirt of mine and a pair of overalls that SC (now, alas age 16!) used to wear when she was a toddler, and now he's Farmer Brown.  As such, he was perfect for singing "Five Red Apples", a song I'd learned long ago via Sharon,Lois & Bram as "Five Green Apples". I can't find their version on YouTube, and don't like others I've seen, so here's my version of it:


There is a big wall display area in my story room. When I first moved in here, we put a tree display there, and ever since the tree has changed with the seasons. I took 5 red fake apples (craft stores have them now) and hooked them loosely to the tree. "Farmer Brown" 's right hand works with mine in it, so he took the apples off one by one and pretended to eat them. Then I hid the apples behind him--his overalls made kind of pocket scrunched up against me, and we continued the countdown. The kids counted along on their fingers and I managed not to drop a single apple!

I was working on a little film of  a story I tell called "The Caterpillar Buys Shoes"--at some point I'll get it done and up here and on YouTube--and was looking for a caterpillar song to use with the credits. In searching Amazon, I came upon "Caterpillar,Caterpillar" by Kira Willey, a musician and children's yoga instructor. You may know her work--she did a song called "Colors" that was used in a Dell commercial and you can see a video for the song HERE.

I didn't realize until later that I had seen reviews for the album "Caterpillar" is on and had bought it for the library!. I always do a lot of movement related stuff with the kids, so turning "Making Apple Pie" into an activity for my groups worked beautifully.  We crouched down small like seeds, "grew" tall into a tree, reached up high to pick apples, then sat down to knead our dough, roll our dough, bake our pie, blow on our pie, and ate it with our choice of ice cream. I used Kira's song, which is beautiful and was easy for me to sing, but adjusted the lyrics here and there and added a few bits of my own. The kids LOVED this, and I am now planning how I am going to use her "Big Brown Bear" song.

Next week, it's back into the trees, but this time with the squirrels and the owls!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Theme Of the Week: ABC/123:Loud, Active & NOISY!

Fall programs can be tough to plan. I look at past years and see the same themes cropping up over and over--you know. Apples. Fall. Pumpkins. Stuff like that.

And I love those themes. I have lots of cool things for them. I want to do them, I just don't want to bore myself--or the parents/nannies that have come with more than one child!

So I try to mix things up. Use some of the same stuff, but in a new version of the theme, with new stuff added.
Which was what happened to what otherwise might have been a basic ABC/123 kickoff program.

BOOKS:I was inspired by this book, in which a bunch of kids "do the alphabet", count, name colors, animals and vehicles. And each time, they are urged to "Shout! Shout It Out!"

Just my kind of book since I am apparently the descendent of generations of subversive, anarchistic types. You think a library story hour should be tame and quiet? HECK NO!!
Besides, I wanted any new families to know that this is NOT the sort of story hour where the kids are going to sit quietly with their hands in their lap while the librarian reads 3 dear little stories and does a limp fingerplay or two. What a patron of mine who attended story hour at another branch described as a "drive thru story hour" (!)
Nope. At MY story hours kids get to talk back to me. They get to make animal noises. They get to sing. And they get to MOVE!

So we started with this book. The kids had a blast with it. Instead of naming the animals, we made animal noises and on the last page, we just did the alphabet and the numbers again. Loved it.

The "usual" theme I built this around was what I call "ABC/123". So since we'd done the alphabet, the natural follow up book was "Chicka Chicka", as a "Big Book".

Followed, of course, by singing the "ABC" song.

Maurice Sendak's "Nutshell Library" books, sung to their Carole King "Really Rosie" tunes, have been a staple in my house and at my programs for years. The books are too small to use in programming, but years ago we enlarged the illustrations for this book with a color copier, cut them out, covered them with contact paper and added magnets.  One of my favorite number books, and a nice loud one!

I pulled this paperback book from a batch of stuff in my "reading room" and was glad to see that it still may be available as it was a perfect way to end the programs. This is not a sit down book--except when the text tells you to do so! Instead you will be doing everything from roaring like a lion to blowing a kiss to telling a secret to hopping on one foot! And finally, you "wave bye-bye".

I DID omit the line about "turning a somersault", which probably wouldn't have been a great idea. My preschool kids LOVED the "I'll tickle you if you tickle me" and used it as a chance to take turns tickling ME. How come the teachers got off so easily?

I play various dance/movement games with the kids as fillers. This week two were "Shake Your Sillies Out" and "If You're Happy And You Know It".  When I did this program for some of my favorite kids from a preschool this morning, we also did the Nancy Stewart "Hopping Like A Bunny" game with my slide whistle!

It was a great first week back. And not boring. Not one bit!!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Mother Goose Monday: The Gift Of Mother Goose Time

 "Mother Goose Time" resumes at my library tomorrow. It's a program for 12-24 month olds, and I look on it as a teaching program. It's intended to teach parents and nannies (lots of those) rhymes and games to play with their children to increase language development.

Of course, a lot of parents use it as a free program to add to the "schedule" of events their children attend weekly either with them or with the nanny, and I really feel sorry for those of them who miss the point. Because you don't, don't, DON'T need a formal program to use these rhymes, and they were made for life on the go.

These are the rhymes and games I played with my daughters when they were little. They were rhymes that we played and songs that we sung in the car, in the bathtub, at the doctor's office, in a restaurant and above all, at night before bedtime.

It wasn't an earnest attempt to "increase language development", or turn my kids into little geniuses.
It was play. It was FUN!

And how I miss it!
It never fails to surprise me how many people don't seem to understand this sort of play with their kids. Way before I was doing "Mother Goose Time" I was sitting with SC on my lap as the two of us poured over the pages of  the Rosemary Wells illustrations in this book.
BTW, this is still my favorite Mother Goose book because it has big clear UNFUSSY pictures with well chosen versions of the rhymes. The Jan Brett/Mary Englebreit sort of school of art is fine for grown-ups and bigger kids, but it's too cluttered and complex for toddlers!

As we read the rhymes, I often found myself bouncing SC in time to a riding rhyme, or tickling her fingers or toes to a counting rhyme. And without knowing it, I was following 4 good rules for using Mother Goose with infants and toddlers:
  1. If it mentions a body part, touch it, shake it, wiggle it, tickle it, ...
  2. If you see a picture of the word you are saying, point it out.
  3. If there is an action mentioned, mimic it.
  4. Sing whenever possible.
That book is still in our house, though it is worn and shabby after going through both SC and her little sister JR. SC will not part from it and one day (in the far, far future, I trust!) I think it will pass on to the next generation.

And I have the gift of  wonderful memories of time spent with my girls that I try to pass down to my families at Mother Goose Time.

Hopefully, some of them get that!

Monday, September 12, 2011

"Magnet Monday": Whooose Missing?

As I posted, I generally don't use flannel boards, but I do occasionally use magnet boards. So since Melissa does "Flannel Fridays", I thought I might offer an occasional "Magnet Monday" and here's a fall favorite.

The original pattern for this goes back to "Kidstuff", a nifty little 'zine for teachers/librarians that was around in the late 80s and early 90s. Each issue had a story theme, complete with books, reproducible patterns and other neat stuff. We got it at the library and I still have 5 out of 6 volumes worth in notebooks in my office. I still occasionally find useful tidbits in it.

You could play a "who's missing" game with any kind of animal, but the "whooos" makes owls perfect for this and the kids love it. You could easily make the owls from flannel or paper and could add on more if wanted, though I think 6 is plenty for the preschool set.  My two year olds tend to be more challenged by this, but there's always one extra observant one in the bunch, and my older kids would gladly play this for the full story time!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Flannel Board Free

When I started working in NYC I didn't even know what a flannel board WAS. I don't know if anyone in NY Public Library was using them back then.

Thinking back in fact, I'd say that as good as the training at NYPL was for children's librarians--and it was--it was sadly lacking in terms of story hour training. We were taught to storytell in a very traditional way (more about that sometime)but aside from that and learning how to select books, most of what I learned I learned on my own.

And I am very, very, grateful to have worked with the children's librarian who did story hours at the library I came to work at down here in Virginia. As much of a pain in the ass as "Guitar Lady" was as a coworker (and she WAS!)she was and is a marvelous, creative storyteller. By the time she resigned and I had to start doing ALL the story programs, I had really learned the basics and was ready to branch out.
"Guitar Lady" is now a freelance performer and does much better at that than she did working in an office environment, where she regularly pissed off the staff. I hire her each summer to do some programs 
with me and thoroughly enjoy it.

But back to flannel boards. What "Guitar Lady" used and I soon caught onto were not flannel boards, but  MAGNET boards. Instead of cutting objects from flannel and getting them to stick onto flannel, we made our shapes from paper, covered them with clear Contact paper, and added stick on magnet tape to the back. Then we used them on a blackboard easel.

Magnetboard shapes have a lot of advantages over flannel. Making them is much easier since you don't need to make patterns and cut flannel. Back then, we had designs in books and we would just copy them and color them. Later, Print Shop software helped as well. Nowadays, with the Internet  I can get patterns right off websites, or get pictures from sites like Google Images.  A color printer does the work, or I can always use magic markets, fabric paints and glitter glue to augment the designs.

But their biggest advantage is that they stick and don't fall off of the board, as I've seen flannel boards do. I remember going to a "sharing" program for a batch of local library systems and watching with sympathy as a pair of librarians struggled with a lovely flannel set that kept tumbling off the board. "Guitar Lady" and I just looked at each other and were glad that we used magnetboards!

Over the years though, I've found myself using them less and less, because flannel/magnet boards are basically flat objects on a board. I've found that props or puppets are much more creative and hold the kids attention far better than board stories.

Plus, you don't have kids rushing up trying to pull items off the board. Because they DO........
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