STEAM-y Storytime: Construction!

Photo Jul 22, 10 46 38 AMThis storytime continued our week of construction.  During our Maker Monday event earlier in the week we used lots of natural materials to design and assemble elaborate gnome and fairy houses. We’ll end the building extravaganza with another Maker Monday in a few days. That one will offer LEGO challenges and free play in anticipation of next week’s 3rd Annual LEGO Contest.

This storytime was SO MUCH FUN! I can honestly say “you just had to be there.”  I’ll do my best to share the highlights. It’s worth repeating!

Today I was Carpenter Claudia! Dressed up in my safety vest and hard hat while carrying my toolbox, I introduced myself to the new Photo Jul 24, 12 00 52 PMfamilies.  The kids were instantly curious about the morning’s activities. While they piled they’re shoes by the coat rack and chose a yellow, blue, or green sit mat to bring along to the storytime area, I chatted with them about what kind of construction they have seen around town.

This is an interesting summer not just because of the incredibly sunny weather we’ve been having, but also because of the large amount of construction going on. There was lots to talk about including the vehicles being used, the people working on the jobsites, what they were doing, and why they were doing the jobs!  This storytime was a great opportunity for the kids to use and learn new vocabulary.  (We even talked about camping and campfires due to a couple of stream of consciousness comments…)

When everyone was settled, I brought out my toolbox and explained that I needed helping organizing the tools inside.  After all, I Photo Jul 24, 12 03 00 PMcan’t work with a messy tool box and I can’t share tools with my friends if we can’t find the right ones for the job.  I let everyone who wanted a tool choose a hammer, tape measure, wrench, pliers, or a screwdriver out of the box. Returning to the front of the group, I placed the laminated names of the tools on the floor. Meanwhile, the kids had the chance to test out their paper tools, complete with sound effects.

Then I held up a tool, said its name as I pointed to the letters on the laminated name, and invited kids with that tool to bring their tool to the front and match it.  We counted how many of each tool we had so I would know how many I could share at the jobsite.

Photo Jul 24, 12 02 16 PMWhile this activity could also work using a felt board, I decided the floor gave us more space to lay out and match all of the different tools from the box. During the second part of storytime, I left my toolbox out so kids could explore and sort the tools with each other or their caregivers.

To create the toolbox, I used an old lightweight tackle box from home that my kids use to store stamps. I then found the pictures in clipart, printed multiple copies, laminated them, and cut them out. I did the same with the tools names, but printed only single copies. (Credit: Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives resource page for construction storytime.)

This was the perfect time for a finger play! The kids love to count with their fingers and figure out rhymes, so this short rhyme worked perfectly.

Fingerplay: “Five Little Nails”

Five little nails, standing straight and steady
Here I come with my hammer ready!
Bam, bam, bam! That nail goes down.
Now there’s just four nails to pound.
(count down)

Credit: Mel’s Desk via Storytime Katie

Most of this group of 20-25 kids has been coming to storytime consistently throughout the summer, so I cajun pigsdecided to choose a longer than usual book. They are engaged and are comfortable with the format of storytime, so I thought it could work. Choosing to read this one was a bit of a gamble, but it was one of the only storytime appropriate construction books we had available. I discovered that our library doesn’t have many of the construction picture books which I found in other librarian’s storytime suggestions and living somewhat remotely makes obtaining them quickly out of the question. Several are now on the list for the next order…

I chose to read The Three Little Cajun Pigs by Mark Artell and Jim Harris (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2006). It’s a fun twist on the building theme. It’s definitely a book that should be practiced, not just read, before reading!

During storytime, I didn’t read every word, but instead kept my eye on kids to see how their attention span was doing. I incorporated dialogic reading, which was key, and asked timely questions, explained vocabulary, and commented on the expressive illustrations. Conclusion? It worked well for this group, but I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone. (Note: My favorite Cajun retelling of a traditional tale is Artell’s Petit Rouge: a Cajun Red Riding Hood which features even more colloquialisms and requires a Cajun accent throughout.)

Whenever I read a book with more text, I always let kids know they should get comfortable because the story is longer than the others. I took a moment here to tell them what activities we were going to do afterwards to help them appreciate what was ahead.

Before reading, I also explained that this story was the retelling of an old tale that they might know. We also talked about Louisiana, where this version of The Three Little Pigs comes from.  To help them anticipate the events in the story and be able to compare this version with the one they know, I had them tell the story of the three little pigs while I acted it out with my pig and wolf finger puppets. (I had my story basket on hand in case we wanted to use the other story props, but we were too busy.)

Activity Stations:

cardboard tomorrowAll this talk about construction got these kids hungry for building! I had just the thing.

For the last couple of months I have been stockpiling cardboard boxes in various shapes and sizes and storing them in the back of the library. I taped them all closed so they would stack flat. Then today I pulled them all out and let the kids construct (and deconstruct) with them!  Yes, you can still have fun with a cardboard box. (By the way, if you haven’t seen the video about Caine’s Arcade, check it out to see what a 9 year old can do with cardboard.)

While we didn’t create an arcade, we did build towers, houses, shopping malls, and auto shops, some of which were over ten feet tall. Kids used their budding math, engineering, design, and social skills to figure out what made the buildings stand tall or fall over, what shapes fit together, and what looked cool. They also learned how to work together even when someone wanted to build and someone else was ready to smash.

Kids who weren’t building worked on safety vests for their next pretend construction job. Our local grocery store IMG_0871donated a stack of paper shopping bags that each child and caregiver cut into the shape of a vest.  They then decorated the vest with strips of orange and yellow construction paper to look like reflective tape.

To make the vest, hold the bag flat with the open end down. Cut straight up the middle from the open end to the opposite edge. This forms the front of the vest. Open put the bag and cut a hole for the little carpenter’s head starting at the edge where you ended the first cut.  Next, cut two holes in the sides of the bag for arm holes. I also tapered the bottom edges of the vest.  You can find many versions of a paper bag vest on Pinterest, where I found this one.

For younger siblings who I enthusiastically welcome to storytime, I also had construction themed coloring sheets available. These sheets offer a great opportunity to practice their writing skills!

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