CT and Early Literacy Activities: Making Music

Activity: Making Music with Makey Makeys

Ages: 4+

Materials/Equipment: Laptop computer (1/station), Makes Makey (1/station), 4 pieces of Play-doh, different colors (1 set/station), internet access for digital piano

CT Skill: Decomposition is the CT skill that involves breaking larger actions into smaller, easily completed steps. We do this when we sing and clap words to break then down into syllables.

In a music storytime, among other books, I shared I Got the Rhythm by Connie Schofield-Morrison and Frank Morrison which follows a young girl and her mother on a walk around their community. On the mini-adventure, the girl creates individual moves that become a dance accompanied by the music created by neighbors.

Afterwards, families visited stations that included: music-making with Makey Makeys, building rubberband kazoos or egg shakers, instrument exploration and mixing music with the app Loopimal on one of the library’s mounted iPads.

At the Makey Makey station, the computer was connected to the pieces of Play-doh with several wires, each going to a different clump of clay, via the Makey Makey. Young musicians touched a clump of Play-doh with one hand and held the “ground” with the other, creating an electrical circuit, and then a corresponding note was played on the digital piano. Once they figured out which Play-doh piece made which sound they created songs to their liking. (The Makey Makey tricks the computer into thinking the Play-doh clumps are keys and creates an electrical circuit. So if the Play-doh, which is conductive, is pressed or tapped, something happens on the screen. In this case a key on the digital piano is played.)

Both the book and making music with a Makey Makey exemplify breaking down (decomposing) music and dance into its components, but they also demonstrate how to build something back up, songs or dances, using other CT skills like pattern recognition and algorithm design.

Want to learn more about CT for you children? Paula Langsam and I will be talking more about the CT and early literacy connection at ALA Midwinter in Seattle.

Social and Emotional Skills Are On My Mind, part 1

Like many librarians and educators, I spend a lot of time focused on early literacy. Whether its in storytime, when I’m selecting materials, or in conversation with parents and caregivers I’m thinking about how fun activities, stories and tools can strengthen early literacy skills. Underneath the literacy layer, though, is a deep interest I have in the social and emotional development of little ones. I’ve been looking at books and digital media through this lens. With this post, I’m starting a mini-series about some of the books, literacy tools and apps I like for their overall high quality and the way they address the emotional and social side of growing kids that are creative, flexible, curious, caring, and ready for the dynamic world we live in. The recent release of Toca Boo was well-timed, so I’ll start there.

Photo credit: tocaboca.com

Photo credit: tocaboca.com

Toca Boo
Toca Boca
iOS (5.0+)
$2.99
3-5 years

This new app by the developers at Toca Boca is an interesting one. I’m a huge fan of Toca Boca’s apps so I was ready for the smooth navigation, the open-ended, noncompetitive play, inclusion of facial expressions and representation of emotions, multi-touch capability that encourages joint media engagement and the minimal language that makes the app universal. This app has all of the elements that I look for in an app to share in a program or recommend. Toca Boca knows their audience well.

What’s different about Toca Boo is that it deals with the illusive fear emotion, underrepresented in the world of apps for young children. Just in time for Halloween, Toca Boo features a a small ghost named Bonnie who happens to be a young girl who dons a white sheet for the scare games she instigates in the low-lit house at bedtime.  Inspired by the classic hide and scare game and Tove Jansson’s Moomin world, the open-ended game lets kids play with feelings of fear, tension and the element of surprise in a nonthreatening, kid-friendly experience.

Bonnie is the mischievous star in a cast of colorful characters who’s theatrical reactions to Bonnie’s scares spark instant giggles. The identical twins, the braces-clad, phone obsessed teen, the blanket-toting toddler, the old man with stilt-like spindly legs and the disco dancing rotund old woman wander the house with Bonnie in pursuit. When Bonnie is near, a tap on the unsuspecting victim causes a scare. Many of the rooms, like the bathroom and bedrooms feature hiding places highlighted by a subtle blue light.  Dragging Bonnie to the hiding place lets her sneak up behind her next victim more easily making his/her reaction more hilarious. The app player can tap lights and sounds to startle the family members, adding to the not-so-spooky atmosphere.

Each family member reacts in a different comical way- the twins may bump into each other and see stars, the old woman’s hair might pops out of her tightly wrapped hairdo, the old man’s spindly, stilt-like legs sometimes wobble before he falls down. The teenager sometimes falls down and sometimes screams revealing a mouth full of braces just before his pants fall down. (Not to worry, a long shirt keeps things covered so nothing is exposed.)

To ease any anxiety, the developers have added a few special touches. They gave each character a light source which they can shine on Bonnie if the app player doesn’t hide her quickly enough. If she is spotted, the light bearer chuckles. They also provided some refreshments for Bonnie that customize her scare tactics and help lighten the mood. Bonnie farts to scare her victim after eating plums and breathes fire after eating peppers. The results are hilarious, helping to make this noncompetitive game easy to enjoy!

Over time the small number of rooms and characters may limit repeated play, but the developers may have plans for that. In the meantime, Toca Boo is a fun, not so scary app to explore together with young ones during the Halloween season.

Here are a couple more apps that help kids address fear and tension (and may be perfect for Halloween):
Go Away, Big Green Monster!
The Monster at the End of This Book…starring Grover!

What apps do you like for talking about fear and tension?

Day in the Life of a Children’s Librarian

Periodically I read blog posts by librarians like Amy over at the Show Me Librarian and others at the ALSC blog about their daily work as children’s librarians. I always read them with interest to see what my peers are up to around the country and across the world. I thought I’d offer a brief overview of how I spent a day recently for comparison.

Here is how a recent Wednesday went for me, a part-time youth services librarian.

9:00am It’s Wednesday, so I arrive ready to set up for preschool storytime. While I have already planned the program, I need to get the room ready for the 35-45 kids and caregivers that will arrive soon. I start by turning on all of the computers, except for the AWE early literacy stations which I leave off until after storytime to keep the focus on the group activities. I clear the display books and return them to the front desk so I can spread out supplies for today’s craft on the big table. I also go over the songs and rhymes I’ve picked to share this week, pull out the felt board and felt pieces I’ll need, and check that the iPad is ready for use. After a quick scan of the books I’ve chosen, I pull out the sit mats and put away any books left out from the night before.

10:00am The library opens and I welcome the kids and caregivers to storytime! For the first thirty minutes we read, sing, talk, and play together, strengthening early literacy skills. The second half of storytime is devoted to activities and crafts that extend what we learned or shared during the first half. It’s also a time when I help families find books, read to individual kids, and catch up with both kids and adults.

11:15am Everyone begins to leave so it’s clean up time. After putting away all of the craft supplies, it’s time to scrub the tables, shelve books, and create the new book display.

11:45am I grab fifteen minutes to check my email which includes messages about an upcoming outreach program, a meeting about early literacy, requests for book suggestions, and an ongoing discussion on a national listserv for children’s librarians.

12:00pm It’s time for lunch. I brought lunch so I eat in the back of the library and read one of the many kids and teens books I am reviewing for possible purchase to add to the library’s collection.

1:00pm I look over the book, props, and felts I’ll need for the toddler storytime tomorrow. I also get the books ready to bring to a local preschool as part of a bimonthly outreach visit.

1:30pm I work at the front desk checking in and out library materials, answering technology questions, helping people find books and audiobooks, organizing shelving carts, researching books, music, and audiobooks for possible purchase and visiting with families who stop by.

3:00pm I continue preparing an exhibit for the upcoming Rotary Health Fair. We’ll be participating for the first time so I collect the books, and toys I’ll need for my new Literacyland exhibit. They’ll go along with the puzzles, printed material, and iPad apps I’ve already gathered.

4:00pm I head to my desk and spend the rest of the day focusing on reading professional reviews and ordering, receiving, and cataloging (a new part of my job) new books and audiobooks for the children and teen areas. It’s not nearly enough time to make any significant head way, but I’ll have more time tomorrow. The process is intermingled with conversations by email and in person about tasks and projects I am working on with coworkers and other community members.

5:00pm I head home!

Preschool Storytime: Farm Animals

With the upcoming state fair, I decided to focus on farm animals this week. Kids love farm animals and many of the families in my storytime crowd have chickens or farm animals at home. There are so many great books, songs, puppets, and apps about animals, animal sounds, and farm animals, in particular, so I couldn’t miss!

We began story time with the song cube. The experienced kids demonstrated how the game works and the new-to-storytime kids sang along.

What is a farm? After a couple of songs, we came up with animals and plants (vegetables and fruits) that might belong on a farm, big or small, and who lives and works on a farm. We also told each other about our favorite sites at the local farmer’s market

barnyard banterWhile I had several books ready to read, I started with Barnyard Banter by Denise Fleming (Holt, 1994). This is one of those wonderful books where the images (handmade paper illustrations) are as energetic as the playful sounds created by the text. The book follows a goose who has wandered off in pursuit of a dragonfly (or butterfly according to the storytime kids). Each page features animals and their sounds. While all of the other animals are where they should be (“The cows in the pasture, moo moo moo…”), goose is not. Where is he?

Before turning to the first page of the story, we learned the meaning of a new word! None of the kids knew the definition of banter so I explained it and we all said it aloud.

Song: Farm Sounds 
(Tune: Wheels on the Bus)
The cows in the barn go moo, moo, moo,
Moo, moo, moo, moo, moo, moo.
The cows in the barn go moo, moo, moo,
All around the farm.
Other verses:
… pigs in the pen go oink, oink, oink
… hens in the coop go cluck, cluck, cluck
… rooster on the fence goes cock-a-doodle-do
… ducks in the pond go quack, quack, quack
… lambs on the hill go baa, baa, baa
Credit: The Learning Pad

As we sang the Farm Sounds song, I introduced my farm animal puppets which are always a hit with the kids.  Many of them wander off after I used them for the appropriate verse in this song to be loved and cuddled in the arms of a storytime child.  They always make it back before craft time, so it works out.

Next we played the Animal Sounds game! This game uses an app for the iPad (Animal Sounds-Fun Toddler Game by Innovative Mobile Apps) animal sounds appthat is designed in a flashcard style. Photo images of animals and recorded sounds are used to connect kids with the image of an animal, the sound it makes, and the written name for each animal. The way we used this app is similar to the method used by Anne Hicks at Anne’s Library Life and other librarians incorporating new media into storytime.

To play this game, I held the iPad in front of the group of kids. (We don’t have a large screen or monitor in our children’s library, so I only use apps in story time that are easy to see on the iPad screen.) I explained the game and then turned the screen towards me. I tapped on one of the animals which played the animal’s sound. We guessed which animal would make the sound we just heard and then I turned the screen to the group and we decided if we were correct. As I showed the image of the animal I pointed to the text and read the animal name. There are two images for each animal so sometimes I would show them the second image which was often a group of the animal (herd of cows vs. one cow). We talked about tricky animal names like sheep that refer to one and more than one while we played.

The animals are organized alphabetically, so before story time I went through and found all of the farm animals I could use to make them easier to select during the game. There are a variety of animals included and the additional in-app purchase of animals is worthwhile.

This is a game that is made better by joint media engagement. Playing together and the mystery generated by our guessing game left us all in giggles and made for a positive experience for a variety of age groups.

After the app game, we read Sakes Alive! A Cattle Drive written by Karma Wilson and illustrated by Karla Firehammer (Little, Brown, 2005).

Sakes Alive! A Cattle Drive

This rhyming story about two cows that take off with the farm’s truck for a drive through town ends well and is a silly story featuring many of the animals we saw in earlier parts of storytime. It’s not riveting, but it makes for a nice last book in storytime as kids become tired and attention wains.

To round out the story portion, we sang a couple of verses of Baa, Baa Black Sheep using my different colored sheep. I had intended to also read Where is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox and Judy Horacek, but alas, we ran out of time.

Activity

Barn craftWe made barns and farm animal puppets (plus a tractor) so families could extend storytime and use the craft to create farm stories of their own at home.

To create the barn for kids I took a red sheet of 12″x18″ paper and pre-cut two corners off the top which became the roof. I then drew a t-shape in the center of the bottom of the page that kids would cut along to form the opening barn doors. I used a box cutter to also pre-cut a door near the top for the hay loft.

For my sample, I then glued a 81/2″x11″ sheet of heavy paper on the back covering the door to make the barn stiffer and to allow space for kids to glue the tractor or other animals in the doorway. I also glued a 1/8 page of the same heavy paper behind the loft door for a chicken and some green raffia (a nest). I found farm animal images in clipart and compiled them on one sheet so each child could take a sheet, color the pictures, and cut out the farm animals they wanted to add to their barn or glue on to popsicle sticks to use as puppets. Kids decorated their barn in a variety of ways, some of which resembled barns from one of the books we shared.

STEAM-y Storytime 2: Under the Sea, Matey!

Wow! STEAM-y Storytime 2 was part fabulous, part controlled chaos. With almost 70 kids and caregivers, we managed to read, sing, experiment, and create!

A storytime friend returned to the library to read this week. I provided him with a few pirate and sea books that he brought to life between songs on his guitar. This volunteer is a great addition and I love introducing storytellers to the library families.

Under the Sea books...

Lots of rhyming in this week’s books! All were kid-pleasers.

sheep on a ship

~POUT-POUT 10x10 jkt-P1.tif

pirate-princess

Sheep on a Ship by Nancy Shaw and Margot Apple (Houghton Mifflin, 1989).

Pirate Princess by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen and Jill McElmurry (Harper Collins, 2012).

The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen and Dan Hanna (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2008).

Under the Sea activities…

I was a little worried when I looked out on the crowd before me and explained what was happening at the three activity stations we were offering. There were a lot of kids! I quickly described the stations and how caregivers could help their little ones explore. Not to worry. With the help of great caregivers, the kids dove right in discovered new ideas and tools at the multiple stations. Storytime lasted longer than the usual hour, but I was happy to let kids experiment. Here is what we did for the latter part of storytime:

Sink and Float

sink float Sink and Float is a classic preschool activity, but it was a first for storytime at our library, perhaps because of the water that ended up all around the station! Clean was pretty easy though, thanks to plastic table covers.Photo Jun 05, 4 27 48 PM

I had four tubs of water with a variety of objects and a laminated sink-float chart alongside. Caregivers were instructed to help kids predict if each object would sink or float and why. They placed the object on the chart under sink or float based on their decision. Then they tested their prediction.

The best moment at this station was watching a little one’s face when we made an aluminum foil boat that floats and placed an object that sunk on top of it…and it floated. His mind was blown!

Squiggle Fish

This station was a hit! It allowed kids to do what they do best: create and explore across media. Using fish drawn on 1/4 page white cardstock and the Squiggle Fish app on an iPad, we turned over twenty-five fish into a digital sea swimming with creatures!

squiggle fish2

The trick with this app is having kids draw and color fish on the white paper and outline the fish with a thick black pen. I had kids write their names inside the black outline so we could easily identify the fish on-screen.

Once the fish were finished, I held the iPad over the drawings and the picture of the fish, minus the white background, was digitized and animated on screen. We had everything from a family of fish to an octopus. While the finished sea of creatures isn’t shareable (maybe in an update?), I took screenshots of different views of our sea and posted one on our library’s Facebook page for families to download.

Are you looking for other apps to integrate into storytime? Check out the field-tested apps for toddlers, preschoolers, and elementary age kids pinned on Little eLit’s Pinterest boards. Each pin includes technical information and suggested storytime use.

Fish in the Sea

fish craft At the last minute I added this simple craft station, fortunately. This one was most popular with younger kids and allowed almost every kid to find something that captured their interest. I found the idea on Pinterest. The minimal materials made it affordable and easy to put together.

A sheet of cardstock folded on each of the short edges and down the middle was cut horizontally (to the side folds). Small fish were cut out of 1/8 page scrap construction paper and stapled on to the slats. I had several fish already cut out as samples, but kids and caregivers cut out many more. Some paper was cut in wavy lines making the scene look even more sea-like. This craft was perfect because it was self-explanatory and the teen volunteer and I could focus on the other two stations.

images: Macmillan, Nerdy Chicks Rule