Flannel Friday: Groundhog's Shadow

Since next week is Groundhog's day I am planning a Shadow themed story time.  If you are not familiar with Groundhog's Day it is celebrated every year on Feb. 2nd in the US and Canada.  Those of us living in a cold, dreary climate watch to see if a groundhog - most notably Punxsutawney Phil of Pennsylvania - pops out of his hole to see his shadow.  If he sees his shadow he will be spooked back into his hole for another six weeks of winter.  If he does not see a shadow he will emerge from hibernation and winter will end in four weeks.

Anyway, I added it to the story time roster this winter.  The problem is that there are very few groundhog books that are appropriate for 2 and 3 year olds, so I generally modify the theme to shadows and shapes.  As part of the program I get out the overhead projector and put various shapes up to make shadows on the wall.  I have the kids guess what it is (they are generally whatever dye cuts we have, a duck, frog, heart, square, etc.)  They love this.  Once I have put up all the shapes I let the kids get up and dance around to make their own shadows on the wall.  Fun, fun, fun!  And then our craft is shapes that they glue onto popsicle sticks so that they can go home and make their own shadow puppets.  So easy to do and they always love it!

So, moving onto the Flannel Friday part of this, I decided that since books were lacking I would write my own groundhog story.  This was an easy one to do.  I made a groundhog out of craft foam and glued him to a paint stick.

I affixed some velcro to the stick and the back of the flannel board so that I could make the groundhog pop up and stick there while I put up his shadow.

I gave him a nice snowy hole, and hid him behind.
I may modify this a bit, I keep thinking it is a giant cupcake!  I was trying to go for a mound-ish look.

You can begin the story by explaining Groundhog's Day to the kids, making sure to note that if he sees his shadow he pops back down into his hole.  Then, the story goes:

Groundhog's day had finally arrive and little Groundhog was ready to pop out of his hold for the very first time.  The trouble was that he was afraid to pop put of his hole because EVERYTHING scared him.  His mother had told him that if he popped up and saw the shape of a groundhog he had to come back in and hurry back to bed.  So, little groundhog mustered his courage and stuck his little head out of the hole...

...Oh no!  Is that a groundhog? (Pause for the kids to reply, you can play this part up if you want.  My 3 year old is always asking for monster stories, so I called everything a monsterous ___)  Scared little groundhog dropped back into the hole.  It didn't look like a groundhog, maybe he should check again...

...Oh no!  Is that a groundhog? (Pause again...)  Little groundhog dropped back into his hole again.  That hadn't looked like a groundhog either, perhaps he should check again...

and again...

(I'm sure you get the picture here.  You can continue to have him pop up and down for as long as you want until...)

Little groundhog decided to try one last time.  He crouched down, got ready, and popped up as fast as he could and saw...

...a MONSTER!!!  Little groundhog was so scared he flew back down the hole and went back to bed - for another six weeks :)

Like I said, fairly simple.  You can make him see any weird shadows that you want.  If you have a dye-cut machine it makes things really easy.  I know that some libraries have an educator's center with some and I have also heard some Board of Education buildings have them for use if you do not already have one.  Cutting basic shapes would work too.  We are going to do this story along with the book It looked like spilt milk by Charles G. Shaw and an illustrated version of Robert Louis Stevenson's poem My shadow.

So, here's to hoping the groundhog does not see his shadow!  If you are looking for this week's round-up as well as past round-ups you can find them with Anne at SoTomorrow.  You can also click on the Flannel Friday button at the right to see all Flannel Friday posts visually arranged on Pinterest.

Penguins marching through story time

After last week's huge crowd our 54 on Thursday seemed small.  But, it was nice to have a little more elbow room at the craft table this week.  For the second week of story time our theme was Penguins featuring the letter P.

The first story that we read was Penguin by Polly Dunbar.  I really like this book, but I am sometimes worried about reading it as one one page a lion eats a boy.  Don't worry, the lion spits him out and the lion is rather friendly looking, you just never know how kids (or their parents) will react to that.  But, judging from the parental laughter it was not much of an issue - it is funny, the lion eats the little boy for being too noisy.  The little boy is noisy because his penguin will not say a word, even after being shot into space and offered to a passing lion.  This one was a crowd pleaser.

Our second story was Keith Faulkner's pop-up book The puzzled penguin.  This is a cute book with great animal pop-ups.  The little penguin isn't sure that he really is a penguin so he goes around asking the other arctic creatures if he is.  So, they point out all of the things that make him a penguin.  And, it is fun to read because this little penguin is cold, so he stutters some.  Plus there is a whale, walrus, and polar bear that you can do a nice booming voice for.

I read the book If you were a penguin by Wendell and Florence Minor instead of Penguin to my Monday group because of the boy-eating-lion scene.  I don't know if it was the first week and they were a little more wiggly or what, but this book kind of flopped.  It seems to be a great book for a toddler story time.  There are great, bold illustrations with only a sentence or two per page.  The book talks about all of the things a penguin can do and how they look and the various funny names that they have.  Whatever it was, the book fell flat, so for the rest of the week we read Penguin.

My flannel story this week was a version of Pippa's Penguins.  I first saw the story on the Rovingfiddlehead Kidlit blog, but it was originally written by Susan M. Daily and can be found on her website along with templates for the penguins.  I changed my story a little from Susan's story to better fit my style of story telling.  I started be asking who has seen the penguins at the zoo (our local zoo has a great penguin exhibit right at the front, so most kids have seen them).  For those who had not seen them at the zoo, we had penguins on our name tags so all of the kids could tell me what colors the penguins are.  So then I told them that our story was about a little girl who went to the zoo and love the penguins so much she asked grandma to draw her a picture of them when they got home.  First, grandma got the colors wrong...

Then she gave the penguins some odd patterns...

So, the little girl told grandma that a penguin looks like he is wearing a suit...
No grandma!  Not a bathing suit, a fancy suit...
Well, maybe not that fancy.  At this point I had the kids describe the penguins again for grandma, who finally got the picture right.

We actually had a decent selection of penguin songs this week.  Carole Peterson has the Penguin song that is a good, cumulative movement song.  You start by moving one arm and end up moving tow arms, two legs, and nodding your head.  A few of the combinations were hard for some of the 2 year olds, but many of the kids did a good job of keeping up.

Linda Arnold had a song call It's a penguin party that has really fun music.  I passed out scarves to wave along with the Caribbean-esque music.  The kids also waddle, swim, and dabble (we stepped from side to side).  I did stop this one a little before the end, but it was fun.  And she sings in English and Spanish throughout the song.

We also sang If I was a bird from the album Wiggleworms love you.  There aren't any penguins in this one, but we got to fly like a bird, swing our elephant trunks, hop like a kangaroo, slither like a snake, and run (in place) like a cheetah.

In addition we sang If you're a penguin and you know it.  Just like If you are happy and you know it but change 'happy' to 'a penguin' and then flap your wings, stomp your feet, and waddle around.
Finally, for our craft we made a penguin out of the letter P.  I saw something similar on Pinterest, you can see it here.  I modified mine some so that I could use our dye cuts more.  I discovered that the inside part of the P that gets punched out made a great little wing!


Flannel Friday: Mailing Letters

This week's Flannel Friday post actually features flannel, a rarity for me.  This is a really easy one that I have used with a letter/mail theme but could also work with a Valentine theme.

I think my letters need a little ironing!
 Very simple, I made several envelopes and addressed them to family members (ie. Mom, Dad, Brother, Grandma, the dog, whom ever) and we sang the song A Tisket A Tasket.  If you are not familiar with the song it goes:
(Same tune as It's raining, it's pouring)
A tisket, a tasket, a green and yellow basket.
I wrote a letter to my mom, and on the way I dropped it.
I dropped it, I dropped it, on the way I dropped it,
A little girl picked it up and put in in her pocket.

To spice things up a little, I hid an animal flannel piece under each letter and when we sang 'I dropped it' I pulled the letter away to reveal the animal.  Then, instead of singing 'a little girl picked it up' we would sing the animal's name, ie. 'a little kitty picked it up, meow, meow, meow.'

You can find the rest of this week's round-up with Melissa over at Mel's Desk, you can see past round-ups at Anne's blog So Tomorrow, or you can click the button to the right to see Flannel Friday on Pinterest.


Snow fun at Story Time

This week we got back into the swing of things with Winter story times and boy was it swinging!  I had 26 kids registered for the class and then we had some drop in or tag along with the others.  I didn't get a good count, but 29 crafts were made so there were probably over 60 people packed into that story time room today!  Boy did it get hot, which is a little ironic as our books were all about snow.
The past few sessions I have some over arching theme from which I planned all of my story times.  Last fall we did colors, in winter and spring we had nursery rhymes, and just this fall each week featured a book from the New York Public Library list of 100 books everyone should know.  These broad themes really helped with planning for story times.  They gave me ideas for each week.  They weren't anything really new, ie. with the nursery rhyme Old Mother Hubbard we did books about dogs, but it helped me to pick the themes and plan for each week.  This session, we are just going week by week.  I had wanted a big theme, but when I sat down I found that I already had enough themes that I wanted to use.
 So, this week our theme was Snow featuring the letter S.  A nice, versatile theme to get us going again.  The first week of a session is always hard because some kids and parents are new and getting used to the format.  So, it tends to be a little crazy and wiggly.  This is also the week where I go over my 'guidelines' or rules so that takes a little extra time.  These are the guidelines that I give to the parents:
Welcome to Read to Me for 2’s and 3’s
This program is specifically designed for children 2 and 3 years old along with a caregiver.  Typically sessions last 25 minutes and are followed by a simple craft. 
Some guidelines to keep in mind:
·        -Please try to arrive on time.  If you are late, please enter the room as quietly as possible.
·        -Be a role-model for your child – they watch what you do, so please save all side conversations for craft time or in the play area after story time.  Your participation in songs and rhymes will encourage your child to join in too.
·        -Children this age are active and that is what we plan for, but please be mindful of others if your child is standing in front of other children or running disruptively around the room.  You are welcome to leave the room and return as needed.
·        -Please try to avoid giving your toddler food as this can be a big distraction for all the others.
·        -We like to do crafts and they can be messy.  We will try to provide you with notice if we will be using paint, but many other crafts may use glue, markers, or stamps.  Please keep this in mind when dressing for story time.

I very much stress that parents are a model for the kids.  I remind them that their children watch everything that they do and like to copy them, so if they sings songs and listen to the books the kids will see that and if they are chatting with friends their kids will copy that too :)  Anyway, after that little spiel, we did the Hello songs and Sparky (my dragon puppet) revealed the letter of the day.

Our first book was Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner.  This is a great book with rhyming text about why your snowman looks droopy after a day.  The story shows the snowmen enjoying all kinds of winter activities such as sledding, snowball fights, ice skating, and even baseball.  As usual, this was a crowd pleaser as the kids enjoyed seeing the snowmen do things that they do in winter.

The other book we read was Lois Ehlert's Snowballs.  This is another snowman book.   In classic Ehlert collage she shows a creative snow family, pets included!  I like to show the last few pages where she spreads out the items she uses so we can talk about how the pictures were made.

This weeks flannel was another favorite of mine, 5 snowmen fat.  This had the Family night kids in fits of giggles because each time you say the word fat you puff out your cheeks and then push the air out with your hands.  I made a flannel board with 'melting snowmen' that you can read about here.  The rhyme goes:
Five snowmen fat.
Each with a black top hat.
Out came the sun and melted one,
Down, down, down.
Four snowmen fat!

Then repeat with 4, 3, 2, 1 until there are 'no snowmen fat!'
 We also did a quick puppet story.  We have a snowman puppet with a removable nose and a rabbit puppet.  I like to get the snowman out without his nose and ask the kids what might make a good nose.  One day I would like to make him some other options, like a celery stick, button, etc, just for fun.  After we get his nose on, the bunny comes along and we do the rhyme:
A chubby little snowman had a carrot nose.
Along came a bunny and what do you suppose?
The hungry little bunny, looking for some lunch,
Ate the snowman's carrot nose, nibble, nibble, crunch!
 The bunny takes the nose and then we talk about how it is not nice to take things from others and we nicely ask the bunny to put it back (he won't even try until you say please).  Then, the silly bunny doesn't know where the nose goes and tries it on the snowman's head, arm, toes, etc.  I do this for as long as the kids seem entertained.  Then, to show the bunny they all point to their own nose and he finally gets it right.

Our songs this week were semi winter themed.  We got out the bells for Carole Peterson's Ring those bells.  You ring the bells and turn around, stomp your feet, jump up and down for winter.  We also did another Carole Peterson song, Tommy Thumb is up.  This is a good fingerplay song and you can do it sitting as a settle down activity.

Our final song of the day was Laurie Berkner's I feel crazy so I jump in my soup.  Not quite winter, but soup is a nice warm treat in the winter.  We jumped, swam, splashed, and sat in our soup to end story time.

This week's craft was a super cute snowman that I found on Pinterest (a very addictive website but great for craft, recipe, decor, DIY ideas, or any other thing you can think of).  Here is a link to the one I saw, and below is a picture of the one that I made.


Flannel Friday: Two Shoes in One

Somehow I missed the fact that this week everyone else is posting mushy love flannels - oops!  But, bonus with a theme about something that I do love ... I have two shoe themed story times in one post!  One thing that I try to do whenever possible is to re-use my foamie pieces for other stories.  So, here is an example of where that works well.

The first story is one that I found a few years ago.  The story is called The case of the missing shoe by Jean Feldman.  This is an easy one to remember since you have all of the pieces there to look at.  Basically, you got up in the morning and wanted to wear your blue shoes, but alas, you can only find one.  So, you begin to search.  You look under the sink, nope, it is a shoe of pink.  Under the bed?  No, a shoe of red.  This is good for rhyming if the kids are old enough to guess what color the shoe will be.  Or the little ones can shout out the color as you reveal it.  You can find the whole poem/story here or in Jean Feldman's book Transition tips and tricks for teachers.
As you can see I made a card with a picture of what the shoe was hiding under and then put the appropriate colored shoe behind the card.  All have velcro on the back so they stay up.  I have the cards on the board in order of the poem, so no need to memorize or use a cheat sheet :)
My second shoe story is from a book that I LOVE LOVE LOVE (one of the best story time books - at least in my humble opinion).  I have seen Pete the Cat by Eric Litwin on Flannel Friday many times, but here is my version anyway.  I re-used the shoes from the previous story for this flannel, so there was less to make.  I printed off pictures of what Pete was stepping in so the kids could help me tell the story.  I even extended it once and had Pete step in oranges, jello, etc. to get shoes of orange, yellow, green, whatever else we felt like.  I love this book.  We have used it for shoes, colors, even a USA theme since Pete is so Rock 'n Roll.  One of these days I'm going to do an all singing story time ... someday...


Advice for the Newbies

I realized today that I have now been doing story times for 5 years.  Thankfully, in that 5 years my story time skills have much improved.  I remember my first story time, I read 4 books and had hardly any songs.  I'm opretty sure that it was awful for anyone in attendance.  Luckily, I have learned quite a bit since then and I felt that I should share some of those things.

First, observe many different story times.  I only saw 2 people do story times, and while that hepled I think I could really have benefitted by seeing more.  When I did my first story time I held a degree in marketing, had coached middle school track and had limited work experience outside of the restaurant industry.  Not much of that perpared me for planning and perfroming story times for preschoolers.  Before my first story time I felt like I was being thrown off a dock and told to swim with no lessons.  (I should mention that my co-workers were really helpful with anything that I needed, but having never done anything like a story time before I was terrified.)  But, also know that everyone has a different style and it may take a few tries to find yours.  Copying something you see but aren't comforatable doing (ie. using a puppet, or doing character voices) will not go well.  You need to be yourself (they hired you for a reason).

Second, be over prepared.  Make sure that you have read your books several times so you know the story.  This will help you be able to look away from the book and at your audience from time to time.  Also, if you are doing a flannel story do not memorize it word for word.  That makes it difficult if you miss something.  Just know the story very well so that you can retell it in your own words.  Know the songs that you plan to sing and be comfortable with the motions for fingerplays.  Have an extra song, fingerplay, or flannel story on hand so that if you need to fill some time you are ready.  Or, if you notice that your audience is getting too fidgety, you can ditch the last book and do a few songs instead.  And, songs like Head, shoulders, knees and toes are always great to pull out if you have to.  I use an ipod for songs during story time and I usually add at least one extra just in case we have a wiggly day.

Third, pick books that you enjoy reading.  If you are reading something that you aren't really into, the kids pick up on that.  But, if you like the story you will read with more enthusiasm and the kids will be more interested.

Fourth, don't be afraid of those parents!  I'll admit, I was.  I was terrified of looking silly to the parents that came.  But, you know what, they are there for their kids and they totally understand that acting silly entertains kids.  I try to involve the parents as much as possible.  If we have a book that repeats a phrase I will have the audience help me with it (since 2 year olds aren't the best at this the parents have to help them.)  For many of the songs I will print out the words so they can sing along.  I even hand out a sheet with all the songs and any words they can join in with.

Fifth, don't be afraid to abandon a book.  Sometimes a book you think will really go over well just flops.  It happens.  If that happens, just say something like, 'it seems like this book is not one of your favorites.  Why don't we move on, and those of you who are interested can check it out and find out what happens at home.'  I have also done this with a video.  (For my family story times we end with a Scholastic video of an animated book.)

Finally, learn to be flexible.  When you are working with preschoolers ANYTHING can happen.  I have had kids pee on the floor, fire alarms go off, babies crying, toddlers steal my flannel pieces, you just have to go with the flow.  The most common thing is kids interuppting, but that is probably because they are paying attention to you.  Whatever you read sparked something in them and thry just can't contain it.  I have found that it is best to listen and then steer eveyone back to the story.

And very lastly, never be afraid to ask for help or ideas.  There are lots of resources out there and plenty of Children's librarians eager to share what has worked well for them.  Two of my favorite resources are PUBYAC - an e-mail list serv for children's librarians to share ideas and post questions (visit PUBYAC.org to sign-up) and Flannel Friday - a group of Children's librarians that post flannel stories on Fridays (visit the Pinterest page for a listing of all the post or the group's Facebook page here


Sick Day

Since I have been sick  the last day or so I feel it is appropriate to finally post my Sick Day story time.  Our letter of the day was S for Sick Day and the featured NYPL list book was The Napping House.  I have to say, when you ask kids if they have been sick you get some interesting stories.  Of course, when I ask them about being sick I mention they probably aren't sick today because then they would not be at story time :)  This year, I had one lovely little girl talk about how she got sick and puked all over.  I have to admit that this child was my daughter and after story time one mother (who knew she was my daughter) told me she was impressed with how straight faced I was when I replied 'that must have been awful.'  Because, of course all I could think of was how awful it was to deal with!  Sickening, huh?

Anyway, our first story of the day was initially Llama llama home with mama by Anna Dewdney.  I thought that this was such a sweet story and I always love Llama books.  Little red nosed llama is so adorable with his tissue pile.  The kids however were not so keen on the story.  I think it just got a little long.

Our featured book was Audrey Wood's The Napping House.  I love the pictures in this book.  I had thought about making it a flannel story, but then you would lose the great expressions of the animals and child as they are woken up.  Since this one can get a little long as well, I had everyone whisper 'shhhhh' after the phrase 'in a napping house.'  This worked really well and kept both the kids and the adults quietly listening.

The final story was Karen Winnick's Barn Sneeze.  This is always a fun story with animal sound sneezes.  It is a good one to involve the audience as you can have them guess how different animals will sneeze.  Plus, it is simple and fairly short, with great illustrations so you don't lose those little ones with short attention spans.

We had a few songs about being sick.  One was If you are sick and you know it.  This goes along to If you are happy and you know it.

If you are sick and you know it give a cough,

If you are sick and you know it give a cough,

If you are sick and you know then you really want to show it,

If you are sick and you know it give a cough.

Repeat with:

Give a sneeze
Take a nap
Cry a lot

I also made a flannel board to go along with the song 5 in the bed.  The song goes:

There were 5 in the bed and the little one said,

‘Roll over, roll over’

So they all rolled over and one fell out…

Repeat with: There were 4, 3, 2,

There was 1 in the bed and that little one said,

‘I’m lonely!’

I designed the flannel board so that the bears would move over.  You can read more about it hereThey didn't fall out as I had hoped, but they at least moved.

We also had some other songs.  We sang Hap Palmer's Head, shoulders, knees, and toes.  This is a good versoin as it is fairly slow so those just learning it can keep up.  Hap even has it broken up so you are only doig a few motions at a time.

I like my hat by Carole Peterson had little to do with being sick, other than the fact that you may get sick if you don't wear your hat (big stretch, but I like the song!)  We use the scarves as our hats and this song always gets some giggles.

In addition we sang Hap Palmer's Five little monkeys.  This is a great movement song and that mama has to call the doctor a few times, so it related nicely enough.

Our craft was a boat made from soap.  I couldn't find much I liked for being sick, so I decided to promote hand washing to avoid being sick.  I found the idea at CraftyNoodle.  This was a really easy craft.  I gave all the kids a small skewer and that slid right into a bar of Ivory soap (supposedly the only one that floats).  Then, they taped a cardstock sail that they could color onto the stick and that was it!