Thursday, August 22, 2013

Flannel Friday-Sock Puppets

Okay, I will admit it-I didn't make a new flannelboard for this week as I am heading out on vacation as of 5 p.m. on Thursday.  I have been working on a presentation that I will be doing with three of my colleagues (Alicia, Lisa, and Kara) in October at the Michigan Library Association Annual Conference called "50 Apps in 50 Minutes".  Since I have been living and breathing apps as I work on this, I thought I would show off one of the apps that works well in a story time environment.

Sock Puppets is a free app for iPads and iPhones.  When I use it with a story time group, I design my puppets and usually add in some silly features (mustaches!).  After I create my puppets, I record one of the songs that I will be using that day to make a video.  When I press "play", the puppets will then sing the song.  This works great for me as when I am up front singing, I want a cd, background music, or Sock Puppets playing along to accompany me.

If you do use this app in story time, I would recommend looking at the size of your group, then looking at your screen to make sure they can see the puppets.  If they can't or you have a larger group, you may want an Apple TV so everybody can see.  This is not something that I pull out every week, but it is a fun tool from my arsenal to make story time memorable.

While I haven't done it yet, I also see the potential in this app for a big kids' creation program.  Kids could create their puppets and content, then put on their shows for everybody in attendance.

This week's Flannel Friday round-up is hosted by Kathryn at Fun with Friends at Storytime.  If you work at a public library between Metro Detroit and Washington, D.C., you may see me popping in for a visit over the next week.

Don't Let the Pigeon Writing Center

This summer I have been having a lot of fun with trying out different worksheets for our early literacy center (new since February) and seeing what works.  I learned that writing about pet dinosaurs worked in a big way.  Almost everybody who took a worksheet turned one in.  On the other hand, I learned that writing about what "we dig" (in terms of cool stuff, not dirt) was not so popular.  All of the worksheets disappeared, but we didn't get many results other than scribbles.  While I agree that scribbling is working on an early literacy skill, when one child scribbles on 50 pages at a time, it is frustrating.  Our newest station, based on the Don't Let the Pigeon book series by Mo Willems, has been getting excellent results over the past week.  

We always start off by creating a sign.  Our signs include any directions and tells which early literacy skills we are practicing.  At this station, kids are filling in The Pigeon's word bubble on our worksheet.  When they finish writing, they "mail" their worksheet in our mailbox.  We have learned that the mailbox is extremely popular.  Even if you don't have paper out for the kids to "mail", they will find something.  We have found books, dvds, story time crafts, and much more that have been "mailed".

I haven't decided what we will do with our finished products yet.  We made binder books out of our dinosaur worksheets and we didn't do anything with our dig ones.  I am hoping to somehow tie it into our 100 Books to Read Before Kindergarten program as Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus is one of the books that we promote.

Below are some of our finished products.  I like to ask the kids only for their first name so they aren't identifiable.  This makes it easier for our community relations specialist to post pictures on Facebook.

This one is honestly my favorite so far.  It makes me smile every time I read it.

 I am impressed by this one because somebody is definitely familiar with the book series.

 I was sharing these with our community relations specialist and she pointed out that almost all of the word bubbles deal with food.  It is funny to see what kids are concerned with.

I like the note at the end.  It is like 2 people are having a conversation.

 This one is great because not only does it deal with food, but she adds in another popular Willems character-Elephant!

 More food.

These are just some of the results after one week of doing this topic.  I hope to have it out until mid-September when our fall story time schedule begins and our Post Office returns.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Flannel Friday-Old vs. New

One of the first flannelboards that I ever made out of felt was The Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown.  It is fun to pull out a flannelboard from the beginning of my career 12 years ago, because my technique has changed and the quality of my work has gone up.  The pieces on the left below are some of my original pieces.  The ones on the right are ones that I redid this week.

My old technique was to cut out shapes based on clip art patterns and color them with Sharpie markers.  It worked, but I personally like the effect that puffy paint has on the finished pieces.  They are more vibrant and easier to see when working with a larger crowd.  We also have an AccuCut machine with many dies at our library and access to more through our local Intermediate School District.  I try to use dies whenever possible now as it is a time-saving device.  I can run the felt through the machine with a die, rather than pinning the pattern and cutting the shape out.

I also learned that it is sometimes a good idea to put a couple of parts of the story together.  For example, I used to pass out 11 separate eggs for this story that are each about 1 inch tall.  They tended to get lost.  Below is what I now do instead.

This is one of the few flannelboards where I pass out the pieces to the kids.  If you do something like this, you will want to set aside 10-15 minutes of your program as it really does take that long for them to get the pieces onto the flannelboard.  I have 28 pieces (plus the barn) in my set so each child in my story times gets one piece to add to the board.  There are places where you can add more animals, such as the red puppies or the bats, if you need more pieces.  By having the kids put the pieces on the flannelboard, this leaves my hands free to remove them for space as we go through the story.  Below are my pictures of The Big Red Barn.

Here is our big red barn.  I added a sunshine because the moon comes up later on.  My barn is also cool because the doors open, which makes it a fun guessing game if we sing Old MacDonald.

The pink pig, the great big horse, a very little horse, and the golden weather vane.  Note-for the weather vane, I cut the golden horse out of felt and mounted it on a blue circle.  The actual vane and direction parts are made out of puffy paint.

Big pile of hay, a little pile of hay, the sheep, the donkey, the goose, the goat, and a scarecrow

Field mouse and corn

The rooster, the pigeon, and the big white hen with one egg

The bantam rooster and the 10 eggs (the bantam hen is still drying).  To add some extra fun, I numbered the eggs.  For future reference, yellow is not a good color to use for numbers that you want to pop out.

Big brown cow and little brown cow

Black cat, tiger cat, big red dog, and little puppy dogs

The little black bats and the moon

Linda at Notes from the Story Room is hosting this week's Flannel Friday round-up.  Stop by for some great ideas!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Bookstore Displays

This morning I was out birthday present shopping at Barnes and Noble and had time to explore other areas of the store, other than my traditional children's book area.  I really think it is helpful for us as librarians to check out what stores are doing as they have paid marketing specialists whose only job it is to set up displays and shelving.  For us, it just gets lumped into the rest of our duties.  If something catches your eye, chances are that it will catch a customer's eye if you take the idea back and do it at your library.  I am a big fan of taking pictures with my iPhone of my favorite displays, from clothes to toys to books.  If it catches my eye, I snap a picture and look at it again later to see how it can possibly fit into my library.

One of the things that I really like about bookstores is that they do faceouts.  This means that they turn the books so you can see the cover art, rather than the spine labels.  While this isn't totally practical for a library setting, why can't you take the 10 copies of each Rick Riordan title and flip them to show the covers.  In addition to giving the section some interest, you will actually save shelf space.

If you are at your local Barnes and Noble, definitely take a walk through their teen section.  They have taken faceouts to a new level.

Almost the teen entire section is faceouts.  As we all know, cover art makes or breaks a book sale and the same is true in libraries.  This is great for a browser, but difficult for a person looking for a specific book.  It took me 10 minutes to find a copy of Divergent by Veronica Roth and I know what the cover looks like! 

Where we can put this into practice is to make each shelf on an empty range a different display.  In the picture above, each shelf sign gives a different category of popular titles.  The top shelf includes the bestsellers.  Another shelf includes great books for girls.  If you want to see what this looks like in a library setting, check out Storytime Katie's Tumblr post from May where she created a bunch of "If you liked, then try" shelves. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Where is the Green Sheep? Play to Learn

I am really excited about this Play to Learn based on Where is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox because it really made me go out and find early literacy ideas that would fit the program.  There are not a lot of activities online for Where is the Green Sheep?, but there is a lot that you can do with the book from an early literacy perspective.  This made it a good addition to our Play to Learn program.

If you are unfamiliar with our Play to Learn program, it is a station-based early literacy program where children and parents can interact together.  It is not librarian-driven.  While I create the stations and set everything up, I am not in front of the room reading the story or telling people what to do.  They can spend as long or as little as they want at a particular station.  Each station has a sign that explains the activity and why that activity is important to early literacy.  By running this type of program, we hope to give parents the tools to take home and use with their children.

We register 25 kids, ages 2-4, for each session of Play to Learn and we open the room up for one hour.  If it is a really popular program, we will register additional kids and start them 30 minutes into the program.  We want each parent and child to be able to spend time at each station and you can't do that in a crowded room.

Station 1: Make a Nametag
We used an AccuCut die to cut sheep in various colors to use as nametags.  The kids then can choose their sheep and write their name on it. To help those kids who are not quite ready to write their name, I type out all of the first names in list form so they can see the letters.  We also have brown craft paper down on the table so parents can practice writing with their child.  At this station, as you may have guessed, we are working on the writing skill.

Station 2: Read the Book
Since we are a library, I feel that the book is the most important part of the program.  I pull just about every copy from all of our locations that I can get and we put them out for parents to read to their child.   At this station children are practicing reading, which encourages them to learn how to read on their own.  By sharing reading with their child, parents are helping them to develop vocabulary and comprehension, nurturing a love of reading, and motivating their child to want to learn to read.

As an added bonus, I had the green sheep from MerryMakers out for the kids to play with.  The younger children especially liked this.  Its wool is really soft so this added a sensory aspect to our play.

Station 3: Mary Has a Little Lamb Flannelboard
I always put stations 2 and 3 together because they have a lot in common.  Many of our attendees are used to seeing books and flannelboards at story time when they are sitting on our story time carpet.  Normally I will do flannel parts to the story, but there were 29 separate parts for Where is the Green Sheep?  That is too many for me to keep track of and for little people to be able to tell the story.  Instead, I found this great flannelboard that I made for Flannel Friday a couple of weeks ago.  I made four sets so multiple kids could do it at once as the flannelboard tends to be one of the most popular stations.

This station works on the singing skill as we are encouraging the parents and children to sing our rhyme as they put the sheep on the board.  Singing slows down language so kids can hear the parts of words and encourages listening skills.  This helps them to learn new words and information.

Station 4: Pom Pom Sorting
This station was the winner of the day.  I bought 4 mini tongs from a party supply store, along with plastic dessert plates.  Then I found a package of 1 inch multicolored pom poms at Michaels.  I colored and laminated some sheep to match the pom poms and glued them onto the plates.  The goal of this station is for the kids to pick up pom poms with the tongs and move them to the correct colored sheep plate.

This is the full station set up for 4 kids.

This is what one of the plates looks like.

There are a lot of positive benefits associated with this type of activity.  First, by using the tongs and moving the pom poms, kids are working on their fine motor skills.  This helps to make their hands strong enough to hold pencils and write letters, which is an important component of early literacy.  By coloring the sheep and writing the color name out in that color, kids are learning that words have meaning (or comprehension).  Green written as green shows what that word means.  I like using colors for this type of activity as the kids will get hints from the color to see what the word actually means.  We are reinforcing this idea with the colored sheep and pom poms.

Station 5: Which Sheep Go Together?
I used the sheep pieces from the Kidzclub flannelboard and glued each onto a card telling what it is.  For example, next to the picture of the brave sheep, I wrote out "brave sheep".  I used 12 of the most obvious pairs so we didn't have too many for the kids to match.  If you are familiar with Where is the Green Sheep? you will know that some of the sheep go together (moon and star), while some are opposites (near and far).  Our goal at this station is to work on the talking skill as they decide which cards go together.  Children learn about language as they talk and listen to others.  Because we have a lot of metal doors, we attached magnet tape to the back of each card for them to pair them on the wall.

These are opposites.

These are both vehicles.

Station 6: Make a Book
I used clip art sheep to make a concept book for kids to color and assemble.  With this type of activity, we are working on fine motor skills again.  This works to strengthen hands so kids will be able to write.  Comprehension is also being practiced as the pictures match the words.  Here are some of the pages from our book:

The title page is important.  It helps the parents/child to remember what we were practicing at this program when they sit down to read their book at home.  It also allows us space to practice writing our names.

One sheep and many sheep are opposites.

Big sheep and little sheep are opposites too.

The green sheep and the blue sheep are both colored sheep.  To give a hint as to how to color, I typed out the color word in that color.

This page adds in some of the writing skill as we write out our colors.

Station 7: Sheep Color Craft
The pattern and idea for this craft came from The Mailbox Preschool (February 2009 edition).

I precut "wool" in various colors.  The kids glued their wool onto the paper, then added a head and legs with crayon.  We wrote what color each of our sheep were in the top blank and what the sheep was doing in the bottom blank.  I had a list of color words written out for the kids to follow.  If you do an activity such as this where you write out words for young children, write at least one set in all capital letters.  Young children tend to learn their capital letters first and their lowercase letters as they go to school. This activity practices multiple skills, including writing, reading, and comprehension.

You know you have a success when kids are still working and playing 75 minutes after the program started.  The pom pom sorting game was the most popular and often had kids waiting to play.  They were all pretty good at taking turns at this station.  The coloring book took the longest to work on.  Luckily, I set up 16 spaces for the kids to work so this was our largest station.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Flannel Friday-A Hole in the Bottom of the Sea

There are those days when I am walking by one of our reshelving carts and a book sticks out as a great flannelboard addition.  A Hole in the Bottom of the Sea adapted by Jessica Law is one such book.  The title has a lot going for it that would make it a great addition to story time-bright illustrations, a cumulative and catchy song (with cd included), and it deals with science in a sneaky way.  How can you beat all that?  Plus, in honor of Shark Week, it includes a shark.

 We start off with a hole at the bottom of the sea.

Then, we add in some animals who live in the hole at the bottom of the sea-a shark, an eel, a squid, a crab, and a snail.  (In science terms, it is a food chain.)
 The sun feeds the weed, which feeds the snail...

As an added bonus, we throw in some number practice by counting the animals.

If I had unlimited time and money for felt, I would have created the animals so they would fit on top of each other in size order as they get eaten.  Instead, my animals are all cut out of felt with puffy painted details.  For the snail, I painted on orange glitter glue to make it shiny.  The numbers are cut with an AccuCut machine.

If I were performing this book, I would use the cd to sing the words and sing along with it.  This would add in the singing early literacy component.  Plus, I like using books in different ways than just reading them.  With my older kids I would pass out the felt parts for them to put on the boar as there are 13 of them.  With the 2 year olds, I would add the parts myself.

This week's Flannel Friday round-up is hosted by Brooke at Reading with Red.  Stop by to check out all of the flannel fun!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Flannel Friday-Squirrels!

We are starting to prep here for our fall story times and one of our themes will be squirrels.  To add a little fun to the program, I made squirrel finger puppets for this week's Flannel Friday post.

I really like how he turned out.  Mine is made out of felt and sewn together. You could also glue the edges and use puffy paint for the details.  The pattern is included here.  I just made 2 of them, but you could make 5 if you are doing some "5 little" rhymes.  Here are some rhymes you can do with 2 squirrels:

This little squirrel said,"Let's run and play."
This little squirrel said,"Let's hunt nuts today."
This little squirrel said,"Yes, nuts are good."
This little squirrel said,"Yes, they are our best food."
This little squirrel said,"Come climb a tree." 
 I just alternate back and forth with this one since we aren't actually counting.

I also like to redo "Two Little Blackbirds" to fit my themes.
Two little squirrels sitting on a hill.
One named Fred and one named Phil.
Run away Fred.  Run away Phil.
Come back Fred.  Come back Phil.

Kay at Storytime ABC's is hosting this week's Flannel Friday round-up.  Stop on by for some great ideas! 
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