Friday, January 24, 2014

Saving an Unruly Storytime

Immediately upon starting the first book today, I knew this Storytime was in trouble. LOTS of squirrely kids, a few criers—This group was NOT WITH ME. It was glaringly obvious that the kids have been cooped up for days with our subzero temperatures. So I decided to blog the process of how I kept it together! 

Here was my plan: (Yes, I color code. It gives me a quick visual on the balance of storytime activities. I also normally only read three of four planned books).
Theme: Night

(Opening Song) 1, 2, 3
(Book) When Sheep Sleep by Numeroff
Letter of the day with Fergus (LINK)
Count People--Parent message about counting higher than three five or ten
(Song/chant) Twinkle Twinkle Little Star—twinkle fingers for first part, wave arms overhead for second part
(Action activity/fingerplay) Here is a cup (LINK)
(Book) Shhhhhh! Everybody’s Sleeping by Markes
(Flannel Story) Five in the Bed (LINK)
(Fingerplay) This is my right hand (LINK)
(Book) Cornelius P. Mud, Are You Ready for Bed by Saltzberg
(Action activity/fingerplay) Oliver Twist-stick out not touch tongue  (LINK) 
(Book) Who Said Coo? by Ruddell
Sleeping Sleeping All the Children Sleeping Learned from this page on Perpetual Preschool, and you can see Mel's version here
(Closing Song) Storytime is over now/See you later (tune of London Bridge)
Hand Stamp

And here’s what I did. The red indicates all the decisions I made on the fly.

(Opening Song) 1, 2, 3—
(Book) When Sheep Sleep by Numeroff

I tried to make the book more interactive by adding animal sounds or motions on each page, but that wasn’t enough. So I skipped a few pages to get to the end. 

Next, I knew that we’d have to get some serious wiggles out for this storytime to work. I needed to convince the kids that I was super fun and worth listening to for the next 25 minutes! I decided to just do directed movements so I could get a good gauge on the group. “Ok everybody stand up and reach waaaaay up high. Wiggle those fingers. Now stretch your arms way out to the side. Now clap them together in front of you. Now stretch them out to the side annnnnnnnd...CLAP. Stretch them out to the side annnnnnnnnnd…CLAP. Clap fast! Clap slooooow. Great. Now let your hands fall to the side and clap over your head. Again! I did lots of repeating here and different commands to get them focused on me and following along. I made it suspenseful and pretty soon they were giggling and listening well. 

Once I had them with me I did started the “Show me five” game I like to play before starting a fingerplay. “Show me five (hold out hand with fingers out). Hide them! (ball fist). Fiiiiiiiiive—hide them! FIVE! THREE! Did I fool you? Five!” I do this several times, varying fast and slow and how many fingers I want to see. They love it. I most often use this to move into “Five Fat Peas” which I do as a full body motion fingerplay. We did Five Fat Peas three times before moving on to the Letter of the Day. 
Letter of the day with Fergus
Count People—Parent message about counting higher than three five or ten
(Song/chant) Twinkle Twinkle—twinkle fingers for first part, wave arms overhead for second part
(Action activity/fingerplay) Here is a cup
(Book) Shhhhhh! Everybody’s Sleeping (On each spread we put our finger to our lips and said shhhhhh)
(Flannel Story) Five in the Bed
(Fingerplay) This is my right hand

We went as planned for a while, but by the time we finished the fingerplay above many of them were spontaneously standing, and I realized they had been sitting for a while and were definitely not ready for a book. So I added one of our regular action activities, “I Can Jump Jump Jump” but I expanded it this time to include fast/slow versions of each movement to expend more energy. THEN we were ready to listen to our next book.

(Book) Cornelius P. Mud  Who Said Coo?

I switched the book here to Who Said Coo? Since Cornelius is more of a ‘list’ type story similar to Shhhhhhhh! Everybody’s Sleeping and I knew that Who Said Coo’s more cohesive plot and repetitive refrain would draw the kids in more.

(Action activity/fingerplay) Oliver Twist
(Book) Who Said Coo? At this point we only had two minutes left so we went right into the imagination game I had planned.
Sleeping Sleeping: All the Children Sleeping—bumblebees, snowflakes, dogs, pigs, horses          
(Closing Song) Storytime is over now/See you later We are still practicing our skills at lining up, so we skipped the goodbye song.
Hand Stamps!

 And there it is. It turned out to be a very successful storytime with 58 attendees.


  1. Awesome job, Ms. Anna. I normally have a silent freak out, skip a few pages, and pray that they love the craft I have planned after the story. I need to up my arsenal of on-the-fly movement songs.

  2. One thing that might help is to have three or four "extra" movement songs or activities printed out and keep them with you when you do storytime. That way if things are going South you can just glance at your list and go from there. That's what I used to do before they were ingrained into my brain!

    Good luck!

  3. I loved this! Thank you so much for sharing your on-the-fly process for saving storytime. I'm excited to share this post.


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