As I mentioned before, I like to start off my theme-less storytimes with some of my favorite books that just so happen to be a tad longer than the other books I pull for storytime. Below are some of my favorite first books!
Opening Rhyme: The More We Get Together (with ASL)
First Book: Chengdu Could Not, Would Not Fall Asleep by Barney Saltzberg
Activity: There’s Someone in My Garden
Song Book: If You’re Happy and You Know It by Jane Cabrera
Rhyme Cube: Itsy Bitsy Spider
Movement Book: I Got the Rhythm by Connie Schofield-Morrison
Short Book: This Book Just Ate My Dog by Richard Byrne
Activity: Spider on the Floor with Scarves
Calm Down Book: How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight by Jane Yolen
Closing Rhyme: Put Your Hands Up High
I just want to mention that as I was typing this, I realized that this storytime has a lot of similarities in it! It starts and ends with books about bedtime. The song book has a lot of movement involved, and the movement book has a song-like rhythm to it. And of course the rhyme cube landed on Itsy Bitsy Spider on the day that I was planning to do Spider on the Floor as an activity.
So in my last post, I talked about how I needed some sort of structure to my storytimes since I’m no longer doing themes. Today I’m going to talk about the method to my madness. Now, I don’t follow this outline rigidly, but my themeless storytimes tend to have:
Opening Song: I still use the same opening song. It’s an opening song that we use for all of our storytimes, and I kept it to keep some consistency. Plus everyone knows it by now. (Our opening song is The More We Get Together, but that’s irrelevant.)
First Book: Like so many other storytime providers, I tend to read the longest book first. These first books are usually in rhyme, or have some great illustrations, or a great story. But, most of all, they’re books that I absolutely 100% love!
First Activity: When planning storytimes, I just grab random activities that I really like. Usually these are flannelboards, but they can also be songs/puppets/STEM or any combination of those. Occasionally the activity will tie in with one of the books I’m reading, and if that’s the case, I’ll make sure to to the activity before or after that book. But most of the time it doesn’t matter when I do an activity, so I just grab whatever I’m in the mood for.
Song and/or Short Book: I really like singing books, so I try to have at least one book that can be sung in storytime. Pete the Cat is my favorite, but I’ll read/sing just about any book that has a good tune (bonus points if children sing along though). If I can’t find a good song book that appeals to me, then I will choose a short book that’s funny or has lift the flaps or something of interest.
Rhyme Cube: Another tradition that I brought over from my themed storytimes. The only difference is that I usually don’t have to roll the cube more than once anymore.
Movement Book: By this time in storytime, kids are getting antsy, so I always try to have a story that incorporates movement. Jan Thomas’s Can You Make a Scary Face is my absolute favorite. Other movement books that work well include From Head to Toe by Eric Carle, Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton, and Faster! Faster! by Leslie Patricelli.
Short Book: Since the movement book is kind of like an activity, I go right into another book. It’s usually a short one, and, like I mentioned before, it tends to be funny or have some sort of interactive element such as lift the flaps.
Second Activity: Then I do another activity. Again, not picky about what kind of activity. I usually just pick whatever I’m in the mood for and whatever is most appropriate for the crowd.
Calm Down Book: I like to end things with a book that’s very short and calming. Keith Baker’s stuff is good, and I also used Helen Frost’s Step Gently Out before. I’m sure kids probably think these calm books are kind of a let down after all of that movement and giggling, but I like to think that the parents appreciate it.
Closing Rhyme: We officially end things with the closing rhyme. Again this is consistent with how things have always been done.
Once storytime is officially over, I tell parents that they can check out any of the books that I’ve read or that are on display in the room (and I always feel very happy when the books get checked out). I also turn on some fun music while people are browsing books. If I used a puppet in storytime, I will wait with the puppet beside the storytime door so that children can say goodbye to the puppet. Once everyone is out, I turn off the music, clean up, and storytime is over.
*I also want to note that while I didn’t list a specific spot for early literacy tips, I tend to sprinkle those in as I’m reading or doing activities.
Welcome to Theme-less Storytimes Week! A few months ago, I gave up storytime themes in favor of making every storytime about my favorite books, rhymes, and activities. While I realize that this format isn’t for every storytime provider, I want to dedicate a week to theme-less storytimes in order to both spark some discussion and to critically analyze what’s working and what’s not working. To start us off, I’ll share some of the pros and cons of theme-less storytimes:
- FREEDOM! By giving up storytime themes, I’m able to choose whichever books, songs, activities, ect. that I want!
- Because I’m able to choose what I want, I’m able to choose things that I really love. Long gone are the ‘meh’ books and activities that I would throw in to stick with the theme. And by choosing things that I really love, my energy level and enthusiasm for the storytime increases, and it shows! Parents and children get excited simply because I’m excited.
- I’m able to gather a lot of books and activities for each storytime, which makes it easier for me to adjust storytime based on the crowd. I don’t know about your libraries, but preschool storytime is more like family storytime at my library. Most weeks we’ll get an equal number of preschool-aged children and toddlers with a few babies thrown into the mix. When I was doing themes, it was sometimes hard to find enough books and activities that were suited for a variety of ages, and I often found myself thinking on my feet to accommodate the various ages (which sometimes resulted in me doing the rhyme cube 3 or 4 times). But now I bring a whole big stack of books, flannelboards, songs, and activities into the storytime room. The ones I don’t use, I save for the next storytime. It’s amazing!
- It takes less time to plan (usually). The first day I decided to go themeless, I spent about a grand total of two minutes walking through the picture book section, pulling some of my favorite books. I then walked to my cubicle area, opened my flannelboard/activity drawer and picked out a few. The whole thing took about five minutes. Like I mentioned above, any books or activities that I don’t do in storytime go into the next storytime I do. So when storytime is over, I have half of my next storytime all ready to go. All I have to do is pull an extra few books and maybe an activity or two and voila!
- You have to be very cognizant of what books/activities you’ve used recently. I don’t know about you guys, but it’s easier for me to remember what themes I’ve done recently as opposed to which books/activities I’ve done. I’m lucky at my library because preschool storytime is split between myself and three other librarians. So I typically do one storytime a month (sometimes 2 a month if we have people out on vacation/sick time). Therefore, if I do end up doing a book or activity that I did the last time I did storytime, it’s usually not as big of a deal because that last storytime was most likely 3 or 4 weeks ago. Still, I often find myself looking at my past storytime plans and wondering, “Is it too soon for me to sing Pete the Cat again?”
- If you only do your favorite books and activities, your pool of things to choose from grows smaller. I’m lucky in the sense that I have a lot of favorite books and activities. This added on to the fact that I only do storytime once or twice a month means that it’ll be quite awhile before I run out of things that I love (and by then, enough time would have passed for me to start repeating things). But if I was doing storytime every week, I would probably have a problem.
- Lack of structure. While it’s freeing to not be limited to themes, after my second themeless storytime, I started grasping for some kind of structure. (If I were a character on Friends, I would be Monica. You might not have this structure problem if you’re a Rachel or a Phoebe.) I found myself creating some semblance of structure by the types of books I read (see the next post, The Method to My Madness). And so far it’s working out okay.
- The parents may not like it. This isn’t a problem that I’ve actually encountered yet, but I can see it happening if parents are used to themes. So many of us do storytime at my library, and we all have different styles, which means the parents are used to every storytime being a little bit different. And I know some of my coworkers occasionally do a themeless storytime just to liven things up (or because they have a cold and are in no mood to actually plan a themed storytime…we’ve all been there). So my storytime parents are used to this nonsense and just kind of go with the flow. But if you do themes every week and suddenly stop, I can see some parents reacting negatively to that. But they’ll get over it. Especially when they see how much fun their kids are having.
And that’s all I can think of right now. Do you do theme-less storytimes? If so, what are some of the pros or cons for you?
Okay, I know that it’s not fall right now, but I’ve had this favorite theme entry half planned since September. Why didn’t I post it then? Well, I didn’t have the books PDF ready. When I type up the book summaries, I like to have the books on hand so that I can refresh my memory about why I like them. Sadly, by September, most of our pumpkin books were checked out. So expect some more fall themes to be posted in winter, and winter themes and spring, and so on and so forth.
Pumpkin Books PDF:
Pumpkin Flannelboard Templates:
Here are two flannelboard templates that you can use with a pumpkin theme! The first one is the infamous Five Little Pumpkins rhyme from DLTK. The second one is a fall set from the talented Melissa Depper. Mel gives great ideas for what to do with this set! Click on the images below to be taken to the websites with the templates.
Pumpkin Activities, Crafts, and STEM:
- What I love most about Boy Mama Teacher Mama’s Pumpkin, Pumpkin: Stick and Rhyme is that it can be a craft that you do with your group after storytime. Or you can make the props ahead of time and hand them out to the group during storytime so that you can all do the rhyme together again and again!
- For this Pumpkin Number Matching Activity, I would have ten plates up at the front, and I would hand out numbered clothespins to the children. I would then call out, “Who has the number 1? Find the number 1 pumpkin”. And I would continue on until all the kids had a chance to come up and clip their clothespins on the pumpkins. What’s great about this is that it’s simple to put together, and you can have multiple clothespins for each pumpkin. Activity credit goes to Coffee Cups and Crayons.
- I love cut and tell stories, and this Surprise Pumpkin story from Not Just Cute is a great addition to any pumpkin storytime!
- I also love finger puppets! And Playing with Words 365 has not one, but two sets of finger puppets that look super cute and super easy to make! (You’ll have to scroll down a bit to find them.)
- Can’t take your storytime to a pumpkin patch? Teach Preschool has got you covered by this awesome Pumpkin Patch Scavenger Hunt activity that you can do in your own storytime room/library!
- I love this Five Giant Pumpkins rhyme and flannelboard from Read Rabbit Read!
- Miss Courtney Meets Bobo’s take on Go Away Big Green Monster is so clever! I’ll definitely be doing Go Away Big Orange Monster next fall!
- For more pumpkin flannelboards, be sure to visit the Flannel Friday Fall Board on Pinterest!
- Speaking of Pinterest, if you need some more pumpkin craft ideas, here’s a whole board full of them!
Halfway through my shift today, I returned to my little desk cubicle area in the Children’s Staff Workroom, looked at the to do list that I had scribbled onto a post-it, and realized….that I hadn’t accomplished anything. Now, this isn’t an unusual occurrence for me. Librarianship is just one of those careers where, sometimes, you just don’t get anything done that you had planned to do. And that’s okay! But as I was looking at my post-it to do list, I decided that I wanted to get SOMETHING accomplished. So I decided to plan next week’s preschool storytime.
Earlier in the day, I had considered doing an elephant theme for storytime. I had pulled two books, and was thinking about that 5 Elephants Came Out to Play song, but, really, my heart wasn’t into it. I tried to think of some book that would get me excited about an elephant theme, or an activity that would make the whole theme worth it, but nothing really stood out for me.
So I thought, “Okay, so you don’t want to do an elephant theme. Choose a different theme.” So I sat down, opened up my Evernote account, browsed the themes, and said, “Eh.” And then it hit me: I want to take a break from themes.
Now, if you had told me in 2012 that I would want to do away with storytime themes, I would have clutched my pearls and possibly fainted from the shock of it. I loved themes! I loved doing leaves and pumpkins and friendly monsters in the fall. I loved polar animals and snow in the winter. And rain and flowers in the spring. And, honestly, I still love those things and will probably return to them someday, but for right now, I’d rather have every storytime theme be: BOOKS AND SONGS AND ACTIVITIES THAT I LOVE!!!
And as soon as I decided to do away with themes, I suddenly felt excited for storytime again. The books that I pulled for next week’s storytime don’t have too much in common, but I love them all, and I know that that’s going to show as I’m reading them. The activities have nothing to do with the books. But they’re fun! And while I’m still keeping the same opening and closing rhymes, as well as my trusty old rhyme cube, I am feeling pretty darn rejuvenated about this whole storytime thing.
Fall themes are my absolute favorite themes, so I’m hoping I can post a couple of these within the coming months. However, seeing as I have little to no time to work on blog stuff at work (and my life outside of work is pretty busy too), I honestly think that I’ll be lucky to post more than 1 favorite theme this season. But we’ll see… Maybe the stars will align or something.
I’m also changing up how I do favorite themes. I’ll still post a PDF of my favorite books like usual, but I’ll also be posting PDFs of any flannelboard templates I make. As for crafts, STEM, and other storytime activities (including rhymes), I’ll be providing links to those at the end of the post. I want to be sure to credit others, and I think providing links is the best way to do that.
So, here we go:
Apple Books PDF:
Apple Flannelboard Templates:
Click the images to be taken to the PDFs of the flannelboard templates. The first image is for the flannelboard rhyme, “Five Little Apples” (Credit). The second image is for the “A-P-P-L-E” flannelboard song (Credit). The second image will take you to a previous post of mine — scroll down to the bottom of the page to find the PDFs of the apple images. To make the flannelboard, print out the apple images, tape or glue them to construction paper, and then tape or glue the letters to the other side.
Apple Crafts, STEM, and Other Activities
- Everyone knows that worms like to live in apples, so introducing an activity that focuses on worms can add a nice variety to your storytime. This Wiggle Worms game by Little Family Fun is one of my favorite activities to do in storytime! It works well with almost any age group, and it’s a good way to change up your regular storytime.
- If you don’t mind a little mess in your storytimes, try this super cute Apple Prints craft from Make and Takes. While they used Popsicle sticks as handles for the apples, you can also use those nifty corn on the cob holders too. Or do without handles and let the kids pick the apples up and stamp away.
- Want a cute apple craft, but not a big mess? I don’t blame you! This Tissue Paper Apple Craft from Storytime Katie is super cute and doesn’t require any paint!
- Looking to add some STEM to your storytime? Here’s a whole Pinterest board dedicated to Apple Science! (I couldn’t just choose one activity, when there are so many great ones on there!)
- You can’t have an apple storytime without talking about apple picking! This Apple Picking/Finding Game from So Tomorrow is not only a great way for kids to stretch their legs and get their wiggles out, but it also gives the storyteller a breather.
- This Picking Up the Fruits rhyme from What Happens In Storytime is a great sorting activity! If you want to keep it limited to apples only, you can change it to picking up red apples, green apples, yellow apples, etc.
- A storytime roundup would not be complete without a five little whats-its rhyme. My favorite is Five Apples in a Basket by Future Librarian Superhero.
- Like to use props in storytime? 1234 More Storytimes has a great prop to use for the 2 Red Apples rhyme.
- And, just in case you missed them, here are the rhymes for the flannelboard templates from above: Busy Crafting Mommy’s Five Little Apples rhyme (there are many great versions of this rhyme which are linked in her post). And A-P-P-L-E by RovingFiddlehead Kidlit.