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!

STEAM-y Storytime 1: Things that Go! Go! Go!

Kids finish school towards the end of May here. In years past we have started our summer reading program the first week in June, leaving a gap. I have wondered if we lose kids this way, so this year we began the program the Monday after school gets out, turning the eight-week program into a ten-week extravaganza. So far so good.  More kids (and teens and adults) are registered and they are enthusiastic!

Another change, is better integration of the preschool storytime program that we offer every week of the year into the summer program. Instead of the habitual storytime that happens every week, I want them to be special and relevant and engaging and the Heavy Equipment Show and Tellhappenin’ place to be! Storytimes are generally well-attended, and during the summer its economical to use the well-established storytime venue to provide summer-related programming especially for young kids instead of adding programs to a very full schedule  that includes events for kids, teens, and adults.

As mentioned in previous posts, I decided to develop a series of STEAM-y Storytimes for June and July (our summer program ends August 3rd) to draw attention to storytime and to try highlighting valuable STEAM (STEM + Art) elements in the storytime setting. The Dig Into Reading theme we adopted for this year allows me to nicely connect storytime and the overall program.

Stories that go…

To go along with the Heavy Equipment Show and Tell we were hosting on the weekend, this week’s storytime was all about things that go. But first, I started storytime with the Rhyme Cube again. Kids really like the idea of choosing songs, and of course, the rhyming songs are great for kids’ phonological awareness!Photo Mar 08, 10 41 51 AM

To introduce the theme of the day, I brought out my portable flannelboard which was already set up with “things that go,” including the settings for each. The kids immediately called out that things weren’t as they should be. I had the things that go all mixed up! A boat was pulling a dogsled, a train in the clouds, and so forth. Together, we got them all sorted out in no time at all. Time for stories! Find the templates here ThingsThatGo1 and ThingsThatGo2.

We read just two books this week, since we were so busy giggling and talking about the two I selected. Two may not seem like very much, but I don’t set an absolute number of books to get don't let the pigeonthrough during storytime.  Instead I focus on how we read the books. Some weeks we read three or even four, and some we read less.

We were recently gifted a big book version of Mo Willems’ Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus (Hyperion Books for Children, 2003). It amazes me just how much kids enjoy this story, even if they have heard it a hundred times! With the large format pages, simple but expressive illustrations, and the interactive story, it’s ideal for reading together as a group. Thanks, Mo Willems! And if you haven’t seen the related app, Don’t Let the Pigeon Run This App, check it out.

Before the next story, it was time to jump up and get our legs going! When I unfurled this traffic light on the flannelboard, the kids pointed out that it was like the single traffic light in town! Despite the rarity of traffic signals, kids still knew what to do when we marched our way through this action rhyme.

Green Says Go!Photo Mar 08, 10 42 23 AM

Green Says, “Go!” (march fast in place)
Go! Go! Go!
Yellow says, “Slow.” (march slow)
Slow… slow… slow…
And Red says, “Stop!” (freeze stop)
GO! GO! GO! (march fast)
Slow… slow… slow (march slow)
STOP!!! (stop)

Credit: Sturdy for Common Things

Our last story was David Shannon’s Duck on a Bike (Blue Sky Press, 2002). As Duck rides a bike past the other farm animals they lots to say and think about Duck’s peculiar behavior. The repetitive text and easy duck on a biketo identify animals are a treat for kids, as is the second to last page which features all of the animals happily riding bikes unbeknownst to the child owners inside the farm house.

The STEAM-y Storytime format includes two or three activity stations after the traditional story segment. For this week, we included three stations and the average sized crowd moved from one to the other smoothly. Most children and their caregivers tried out each station. I didn’t set a time at each station, but designed the time as free exploration. With a teen volunteer on hand, the format worked very well.

Things That Go Activity Stations:

Photo May 28, 2 51 58 PMPaper Airplanes

I set up an area in the children’s library that was dedicated to paper airplane building. We have several Photo May 28, 2 54 15 PMpaper airplane design books including the Paper Airplanes series by Christopher Harbo (Capstone Press, 2011) which are written for various age levels, so I displayed those at the station along with paper in a variety of weights and colors. Paper clips, tape, and fasteners were also on hand so kids could experiment with weight distribution as they tested their planes.

Once their planes were engineered, kids had a chance to see how they flew. A long area between stacks offered a great spot to lay tape at various intervals so kids could measure how far their designs could fly. There was even a contest or two!

Car Color MatchingCar Color Matching Station 

Many of the younger kids were immediately attracted to the car color matching station. I placed a basket of toy cars and trucks in the middle of the table with colored construction paper in a circle around it. Kids quickly started placing cars on the sheets based on their body color. I encouraged caregivers to help the little ones count the matching vehicles and also find other ways of matching the cars based on the color of their wheels, windows, and racing numbers, for example.

Did kids play with the cars after they matched them? Of course!

Town CollagePhoto Mar 08, 10 52 24 AM

The art station was all about creating a collage which I found over at Sturdy for Common Things. For this station, I set out large pieces of blue construction paper for the backdrop along with wavy black paper strips to represent a curvy road. Kids used the magazine scraps, other construction paper, and cotton balls to create buildings, trees and clouds/fog. I cut out small cars and glued them to popsicle sticks so kids could drive them on their newly crafted roads, turning their artwork into something interactive.

Another station idea…

At other “Things That Go” storytimes, I have also provided materials to make toy cars for racing on a race track made out of blue tape on the carpeted floor. Creating the cars and racing them offered great DSC02389opportunities for language development and using their budding narrative and social skills as kids raced around the track together.

toilet rolls
brass fasteners
black paper circles
markers or crayons
any other items for decorating the cars

Image Credits: Neat Solutions, Little Big Shots

Summer Reading Program 2013: part 2

Phew! Planning season seems to have come and gone while I wasn’t looking. School is finished in just two weeks and the summer reading program begins right after Memorial Day. I have the STEAM-y Storytime line-up ready to go and posted for all to see. While some of the multiple stations that I am cooking up for each week are still in the works, I thought I’d share the themes. Maybe you even have a suggestion or two! I’ll post the details as we do the programs.

Our library offers two storytimes each week, year round. I plan and lead both of them most of the time (we have two community members who visit for the preschool storytime also).  One is a preschool storytime and the other is a mostly toddler group. For the summer, we’ll be focusing on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) in the preschool program. Since we are using the Dig Into Reading theme, many of the storytime themes fit nicely. I even have a teen volunteer this year excited to help with the storytime activities. The preschoolers will love him!

This summer’s storytime themes:

Things That Go! I have used a vehicle related theme for storytime before, but not for awhile. It is a hit with everyone! There are lots of great books to read on vehicles, bikes, and anything that moves. We’ll make cars for a race track, have a car matching station, and make paper airplanes.

This one will go nicely with the Heavy Equipment Show and Tell we have planned for the beginning of the summer program. We’ll be closing off the side street near the library so four construction vehicles can park where families can get a closer look. A new excavator owned by the city a nd a dump truck will be among the vehicles on display. We’ll hand out cards with stats for each vehicle to provide a kind of self-guided tour since we’ll only have a couple of staff and volunteers on hand. It will also be a great time to sign up families who haven’t had a chance to get involved.

Under the Sea, Matey! We are a coastal community so an ocean theme, with a few pirates thrown in, is a perfect fit. We’ll include a sink or float experiment station among other fun activities. This is a great time to share Mango Languages, a digital language learning tool, with families since our library provides free access to the site and app. Mango offers pirate in their list of languages to learn and it is a kid favorite.

We All Dig Dinosaurs! What schedule of storytimes would be complete without dinosaurs? I purchased some small plastic dinosaur skeletons for reading prizes this year as well as a handful to use in an excavation station. We also took the opportunity to dig up some new-to-us dino books for the collection. What do you have planned?

Plants: How Does Your Garden Grow? In June, we’ll still be planting here and the greening of Alaska will be just getting underway.  Gardens are a big part of many families’ summertime  activities, so we’ll celebrate at storytime with matching games and fruit and vegetable crafts.

Let’s Mix It Up With Colors! I’ve been looking forward to using some of the great suggestions from Amy Koester’s Color Science for Preschoolers ALSC blog post. I thought I would add it to the schedule and get kids mixing, painting, and experimenting!

Independence Day! Preschool storytime will happen on July 3rd this year, so we’ll be celebrating the national holiday a day early. Last Fall, I heard about a great picture book ideal for sharing at storytime, and I’ll use it this year. The title? Betsy Ross by Becky White and Megan Lloyd (Holiday House, 2011). Activities for this one are still being cultured in the petri dish of storytime planning….

Digging Up Trouble With Trickster Tales Trickster tales are some of my favorite books to read aloud. When done respectfully, the stories shared from other cultures can be a great teaching opportunity. Alaska has many such tales and we’ll be including some of them in this storytime. Activities still in the works, so stay tuned!

Creepy Crawly Bugs! Local naturalists will be bringing local downed Spruce logs for scientific exploration during this storytime.  We’ll investigate, deconstruct, and identify the creepy crawlies inside. Bringing the outdoors in will be a blast!

Under Construction! We sponsor a LEGO® contest every summer, and this year will be no different. We’ll even bring LEGO®s to storytime to let kids build towers, castles, bridges, and more while they also build their literacy skills! It is amazing what narrative skills and vocabulary can be developed while playing with these building blocks.

What’s Under Our Feet? Rocks and Caves Several years ago, I stumbled on a great layers earthearth activity in a Montessori book. (I’m still looking for that book….) It is a play doh model of the Earth and all of its layers wrapped inside. Once the ball is made with the layers inside, the ball is cut down the middle and each layer is visible. My kids loved it and I know my young friends at the library will too!