Tuesday, July 31, 2012


In an upcoming week during preschool and toddler storytimes, we're learning about shapes.  The books we'll read for preschool storytime are:

Circle Dogs by Kevin Henkes

Circus Shapes by Stuart J. Murphy and

Lots of Dots by Craig Frazier

In honor of shapes, after the first book we'll do a circle song, "Bluebird, Bluebird."  If you've never done this one before, you can find some demos on YouTube.  We'll do ours somewhat like this one.

After the second book, we'll build a picture with flannel shapes, an idea from a Flannel Friday post from Mel's Desk. I'll give a couple of pieces to each child, we'll decide what to build, and each child will contribute her/his shapes to the picture where they make the most sense. 

After the third book, we'll play another circle song game I saw on Everything Preschool.  The shapes are just cut out of construction paper and laminated.  We'll sit in a circle with the shapes in the center, and the child who is "it" will walk around our circle as we sing, [to the tune of "Skip to My Lou"]
Lost my circle, what do I do?
Lost my circle, what do I do?
Lost my circle, what do I do?
What do I do, my darling?
Then the child will find the shape we've been singing about.  We'll repeat, substituting the names of the other shapes until we've found all of them, and for each verse a different child will be "it."

There will be a take-home sheet for parents for more fun with shapes at home.

For the craft this week, we'll be making quilt squares with wallpaper samples.  One of the youth staff made the quilt templates, and we'll provide children with the wallpaper shapes that they'll glue onto the templates to make a design. 

For toddler storytime, the books will be Shape by Shape by Suze MacDonald, Circus Shapes by Stuart Murphy, and One Sunny Day by Tammi Salzano.  In place of the building blocks flannel activity, we'll do a flannel shape matching activity from Piper Loves the Library. I made triangles and squares in addition to circles, and I'll keep a set for myself, distribute one from the matching set to each child, and sing this song, to the tune of "Happy Birthday to You."

Which circles are the same? 
Which circles are the same? 
Can you tell me, can you tell me,
Which circles are the same?

Children with the matching shapes will come to the flannel board during the song and put theirs together.  Then we'll repeat the verse, substituting the other shapes when appropriate. 

Other books considered that were displayed for check-out after storytime:
Apes Find Shapes/ Jane Belk Moncure
Circle/ Sophie Schrey
Not a Box/ Antoinette Portis
Perfect Square/ Michael Hall
Pond Circle/ Betsy Franco
Rectangle/ Bryony Jones
Shape Capers/ Cathryn Falwell
Shapes, Shapes, Shapes/ Tana Hoban
So Many Circles, So Many Squares/ Tana Hoban
Square/ Bryony Jones
Triangle/ Bryony Jones


Our preschool and toddler storytimes for an upcoming week will have us counting up a storm.  As children are arriving, I'll ask their grownups to write their children's names on a grid I made on a large sheet of bulletin board paper, one letter per space.  It looks something like this:






I'll refer to our grid later in the storytime.

We always begin with the same hello song and end with the same goodbye song.

There are so many great counting books that choosing three was difficult, but I finally settled on

                                                   Doggone Dogs! by Karen Beaumont

One Drowsy Dragon by Ethan Long and

One Duck Stuck by Phyllis Root.

Although there are lots and lots of counting books, not all of them make good storytime reads, so I looked for books that tell a story, too.

After the first book, we'll sing "Over in the Meadow,"  The Wiggles' version.   After the second book, we'll play a game called Count & Move (Virtual Pre-K! Ready for Math [kit], Chicago Public Schools and PBS Kids, 2011).  For this game, I made two sets of cards.  One set includes numbers and the other includes actions (jump, clap, twirl, etc.).  I'll draw one card from each deck and we'll perform that move the number of times the card shows. 

After the last book, we'll do a number of things with our name grid: count the number of letters in the first name, find other names that are the same length (easy to see on a grid), look at the second name and decide whether it has more or fewer letters than the first name, identify the longest and shortest names on the grid, and note who has the same number of letters in their names. 

I'll give each parent a take-home sheet of counting activities, but so that they wouldn't feel as if it is homework, I'll say something like, "If you had fun counting today, here are some things you can do at home to practice counting."   The take-home sheet comes directly from the Virtual Pre-K kit mentioned above.

Our craft this week is a circus train with animals to count:

For the toddler storytime counterpart, the activities are the same, but for books I'll use One Pup's Up by Marsha Wilson Chall, Ducking for Apples by Lynne Berry, and Ten Little Caterpillars by Bill Martin Jr.  For our toddler storytimes, the hello and goodbye songs are slightly different, and we always play "Ring Around the Rosy," which was a part of the toddler storytime routine at this library long before I was hired.  (During one of the first storytimes I did when I accidentally forgot to play "Ring Around the Rosy," one of my storytime friends reminded me that we couldn't leave storytime without doing that first!)

Books that I also considered that will be displayed for check-out after storytime:
10 Little Hot Dogs/ John Himmelman
10 Little Rubber Ducks/ Eric Carle
At the Edge of the Woods: A Counting Book/ Cynthia Cotten
Bunny Party/ Rosemary Wells
Chicka Chicka 1 2 3/ Bill Martin, Jr.
Double the Ducks/ Stuart J. Murphy
Look Whooo's Counting/ Suse MacDonald
One Little Chicken: A Counting Book/ David Elliott
One More Bunny: Adding from One to Ten/ Rick Walton
Seven Hungry Babies/ Candace Fleming
Ten Red Apples/ Pat Hutchins

Ready to Learn: How I'm involved

Early this spring, I was asked to participate in Iowa Public Television's Ready to Learn grant program at one of my libraries.  In a nutshell, for this strand of Ready to Learn, PBS has created new programs and games for children ages 2-8 to boost their math skills. (Be sure to check out Peg + Cat on PBS when it premieres during the fall of 2013--it is absolutely adorable!)  Many of the games are available for iPads and iPhones, and they are every bit as engaging as games that weren't designed to boost math skills.

As a public librarian, I was asked to think about how I could introduce children and their parents to these resources.  After several planning sessions with the grant coordinator from IPTV and others in the community who were participating--our local school district, the YWCA, and some daycare providers--we decided that the major focus at the library would be two things: gaming sessions at the library for children and their parents to introduce them to the games, (IPTV provided coupons for the families for the apps. that are not free) and incorporating some of the Ready to Learn math concepts into our preschool and toddler storytimes.  We were already incorporating these concepts into our storytimes, but not with any particular scheme in mind, so we decided to make these concepts the focus of a series of storytimes.  We were provided with Virtual Pre-K kits, developed by the Chicago Public Schools and PBS Kids, which contain activities that parents can do with their children at home to teach math skills using ordinary household items.  Each segment of the kit focuses on a specific set of math skills: counting, understanding the connection between a group of things and a number, identifying and naming shapes, etc.  After each of the storytimes, parents will leave with a list of activities from the Virtual Pre-K kit that they can do at home to extend the concepts beyond storytime.

This was the jumping off point for our Ready to Learn-inspired storytimes.  You can see my plans for these storytimes, including book lists and crafts, by clicking on the tag for Virtual Pre-K on the right side menu of this blog.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Learning from Researchers

In July I was visited by a team of researchers investigating the Ready to Learn programs in which one of my libraries is participating.  As a graduate student, I learned to do "big girl research," so their methods and questions did not come as any surprise to me.  What was a surprise, though, was how much food for thought their questions left for me. 

As we were talking about the PBS Kids Lab games, I mentioned that based on my observations of children in my library, the Kids Lab games are every bit as engaging as games that aren't educational.  Of course, they followed up with, "Can you give us an example of some games that aren't educational?" Now I'm not new to gaming.  In fact, games based on books were a research interest of mine not too, too many years ago, so I've done a fair bit of reading, playing, and writing about games--video games, board games, card games...you name it.  But asked that question, I was hard-pressed to think of games that aren't educational, except maybe shooting games, to which one of the researchers replied that maybe they teach hand-eye coordination, but that might be a stretch. 

James Gee, noted scholar of video games, writes about video games as perfect literacy environments that require complex problem-solving (What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy, 2nd ed., 2007), perhaps even the shooting games I had in mind.  But what I was trying to express goes to the intent of a game--in my observation, games with an obvious educational purpose often feel more like lessons than play.  And I'm not implying that lessons can't be fun--I'm just saying that most of the intentionally-educational games I've played and seen have a different sort of feel to them, and to some children, those overtly educational games are not appealing. There are some children I couldn't pay to play such games.  So I have been pleased to see that there are children and families who visit our library on gaming days specifically for the Kids Lab.  Above all, the Kids Lab games are fun...they just also happen to be designed with math objectives.  And I'm not getting paid to say any of this, by the way.

So getting back to that food for thought...designing storytimes that have specific math objectives driving them have proven to be difficult for me to plan while preserving that spirit of play that we think our storytimes have, so although I have them drafted, I'm hoping for a burst of creative inspiration before September so that the number one thought in the minds of our storytime friends is, "That was fun!"