Parachute ideas for all kinds of programs!

Stumped for ideas for using the parachute at storytime?

Think outside the picture books stacks!

Here are some great ideas for incorporating material from other areas of your collection.

Want to make your own clip art?

Here are a few tips and tricks to get you started!

Some easy ways to spice up your site!

Be sure to suggest your favorites in the comments!

Ideas for incorporating factual materials into storytime

There is lots of great nonfiction for kids out there. If I missed your favorite, leave a comment!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Trouble at the North Pole: A Christmas Draw and Tell Story

Here's another original Draw and Tell by yours truly! Today my fellow Flannel Friday-ers are all sharing holiday stories and I've decided to join them with "Trouble at the North Pole!" 

Trouble at the North Pole
By Anne Clark

It was Christmas Eve and all of Santa’s toys were ready to be packed up in the sleigh. They were in big piles like this.

The elves put all the piles into one big bag like this.

It was too heavy for the elves to carry, so Mrs. Claus and Santa each grabbed a side of the bag like this.

The bag was so heavy, the two of them struggled to carry it!  To make things worse, the snow was falling so thick at the North Pole that they kept getting lost! The Clauses kept taking the wrong path, so their tracks in the snow looked like this.

Finally they found the sleigh! “Good luck, Santa!” said Mrs. Claus and she gave him a kiss!  

Santa threw the bag in the sleigh, buckled his seatbelt, and yelled “Merry Christmas!” as he and his team took off into the night, flying all over the world like this.

And leading the reindeer team was…. RUDOLPH!

The End!

I'm providing a free PDF of Trouble at the North Pole with the words and drawing instructions. I'd love it if you included it in any of your programs or storytime plans, giving me credit, of course.

Last year I shared Rudolph, Rudolph.

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thinking Outside the Picture Book Stacks: Poetry at Storytime

I'd like to thank the person who suggested today's topic on my reader survey! It reminded me that I've been meaning to incorporate more poetry into storytimes I'm planning for our next session. I'm going to do a series of posts on using material from outside your picture book collection in storytime. This is the first one!

I love using poetry with this audience for a few reasons:
  • Richer language is used in poems as compared with some other genres
  • Preschoolers haven't learned to "hate" or be intimidated by poetry like many older kids (and adults) have
  • Poetry can make a quick transition between longer stories to regain the kids' attention or change the atmosphere of the storytime
  • A lot of parents don't read poetry to/with their kids
I've made some Flannel Friday posts about poems (and some of these are upcoming as well) 

Fifteen Animals by Sandra Boynton
Moose in Love by Diane Briggs
Recipe for a Hippopotamus Sandwich by Shel Silverstein upcoming
Shadow Wash by Shel Silverstein upcoming
Signals by Shel Silverstein upcoming

Storytimes All Year 'Round
Add some poetry to your school visits with "The Library Cheer" from Shout! Little Poems that Roar by Brod Bagert. (Chorus is: Books are good! Books are great! I want books! I WILL NOT WAIT!") Other good ones suitable for storytime from this collection are "Snack Time," My Shadow," "The Spice of Life" (an ode to every kid's favorite condiment--ketchup), "Teddy Bear" (twist ending!), and "Little Dipper."

PJ storytimers, rejoice! There is lots of fun to be had in Maybe I'll Sleep in the Bathtub Tonight and Other Funny Bedtime Poems by Debbie Levy. 

Celebrate seasonal changes with Sharing the Seasons edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins, Guyku: A Year of Haiku for Boys by Bob Raczka, Come to My Party: And Other Shape Poems by Heidi Roemer. 

Preschoolers love to talk about getting dressed! To go along with a storytime on that theme, try Button Up: Wrinkled Rhymes by Alice Schertle. "Joshua's Jammies" is one of the best, but I think "Wanda's Swimsuit" is my favorite. 

Brighten the dreariest month with colorful collections like National Geographic's Book of Animal Poetry and His Shoes Were Far Too Tight by Edward Lear.

Valentine's Day programs aren't complete without a sample or two from Bear Hugs: Romantically Ridiculous Animal Rhymes by Karma Wilson. Celebrate Presidents' Day with older kids by sharing a selection of two from The President's Stuck in the Bathtub: Poems About the Presidents

March is Women's History Month, so let's pay special attention to female poets. Some of the ones you'll find in this post are Karma Wilson, Alice Shertle, Betsy Franco (actor James Franco's mom!), Heidi Roemer, and Debbie Levy, among others. Be on the look out for more and drop me a comment below with women to add! 

It's National Poetry Month, so go nuts! My suggestion here is to hit up and coming poets as well as older favorites like Shel Silverstein, Jack Prelutskey, and Alan Katz. 

Let's not forget the mom's! Celebrate them with "Peace" from Someone Used My Toothbrush and Other Bathroom Poems,

June, July, and August
Fun poems for Father's Day: "Bellowing in the Bathroom" from Someone Used My Toothbrush and Other Bathroom Poems

Flicker Flash by Joan Bransfield Graham has some quick little poems on campfires and fireworks that would be fun to perk up summer storytimes. 

Kids' poets seem to love the theme of back to school. Look for Countdown to Summer and Messing Around on the Monkey Bars

This actually is a picture book, but I can't help but throw The Spider and The Fly on here because really, what is a better book? Other poems great for the spookiest time of the year: "Clyde's Costume" from Button Up; basically anything from Hallowilloween: Nefarious Silliness from Calef Brown; and for upper elementary students, The Creation of Sam McGee by Robert Service.      

Try adding some food-themed poetry into your Thanksgiving storytime! A favorite of mine is Food Hates You Too.

I'm not going to surprise you with this suggestion, but "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" by Clement C. Moore has about a zillion editions. Also How the Grinch Stole Christmas by an obscure writer named Dr. Seuss. Outside of Christmas, I'd do some of the winter-themed selections from the seasonal collections mentioned earlier. 

Poetry Collections to Share with the Teachers in your Life
My best friend is a teacher, so I'm always on the hunt for books she can share with her inner-city students. Here are some suggestions for various content areas: 

Art: Many kids' poetry collections are illustrated by famous artists like Chris Raschka. Also be on the lookout for collections of concrete poetry. Two of my favorites are Flicker Flash, A Dazzling Display of Dogs, and Come to My Party.  Different poetic forms can be introduced with A Kick in the Head by Paul Janeczko

Language Arts: Look for collections using onomatopoeia or exploring new poetic forms such as Mirror, Mirror by Marilyn Singer.

Music: Song lyrics are closely related to poems, so really anything could work. One to keep an eye out for is The Carnival of the Animals

Science: Science Verse by Jon Scieszka

Ask the readers: Do you use poems in storytime? Which ones? How have they been received? If not, will you try some now? 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

2012 So Tomorrow Reader Survey

Image courtesy of Open Clip Art
It's time for my annual blog reader survey! Last year your feedback was so helpful to me that I'm looking forward to seeing what you have to say now. I'd love to hear what you have to say this year! While I try to do a survey about every year, I'm always open to constructive comments here on the blog or you can email me anytime.

Friday, November 23, 2012


A favorite game at my old elementary school was Tic-Tac-Toe. Like many libraries, mine has a chess/checkers/backgammon(!) table. I thought it would be fun to make a reusable Tic-Tac-Toe game for the kids to play.

You could also play a group game of Tic-Tac-Toe at Storytime! Play everyone versus you or kids versus grownups. Or whatever combination your little heart desires. These would also make a cute gift for a kid (or kid at heart) in your life. I can imagine an adorable little stuffed and sewn version. 

To make, cut 4 thick lines out of felt. Cut (at least) 9 rectangles. Mark both sides of them with Xs and Os. I used puffy paint because it's much, much faster, but you could lovingly cut them out of felt or you could print some off in whatever font you want and hot glue them on.  I also hot-glued a piece of scrap felt in the bottom right corner to use as storage for the pieces. 

Here's a printable version you can laminate. Don't forget to make extra pieces! 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Quick Tip: Use poster tubes to keep items on the shelf neatly

If there's one thing that drives me crazy, it's a messy DVD shelf. I can forgive unruly fiction and nonfiction shelves because the books are all different shapes and sizes. BUT there is NO EXCUSE (and yes, I am yelling at you) for anything but the straightest line of DVDs. I am a laid-back person in general but militant about this. 
So, how can busy librarians keep their DVD shelves nice and tidy? A little recycling of poster tubes is how. We are constantly getting promotional posters from publishers via our book distributor. Like any children's librarian, I am a hoarder of things that may be useful in the future. The big tubes I use individually behind the DVD cases and the smaller ones I tape together in a bundle. Anyone else out there do this? It saves us so much time! 

Business in the front
Party in the back

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Making of a Flannel Friday Post

I get tons of emails asking for help getting involved with Flannel Friday (YAY! Keep them coming!), but since I'm a visual learner, I thought I'd show you step-by-step what goes into one of my Flannel Friday posts. This is my process, but I'm sure the other bloggers involved have (probably better) other ways of doing theirs.  This is the behind-the-scenes version of today's Flannel Friday post "Nobody Likes Me."

Let's get started! First we need an idea. Ideas can come from anywhere, but I was reminded of this summer camp singalong classic from the 2013 summer reading manual when I received it months ago. Instantly I knew I had to flannelize it. I had a vision of a black silhouette face and fun colored worms. 

Step 1: Create a pattern. Some patterns I can draw (on paper or in Microsoft Paint). Human faces are beyond my drawing skills. So the first place I turned to was Open Clip Art. I searched "silhouette" and Score! Someone had posted a plain man's face in silhouette. I also searched "worm" and that was a little trickier. Most of the worm images also included apples or other icons that I'd have to edit out to use. I thought it would be easier to use this earthworm and stretch and distort him into the appropriate size for templates. I copied my worm and silhouette images and pasted them into Microsoft Publisher* (where I make all my patterns). At this point, my project looked like this: 

Next, I cropped and resized the head until I got it exactly how I wanted it. I like to make the main piece in a flannel as big as possible so everyone can see. You also get the best yield out of pre-cut felt sheets that way (slightly smaller than a normal sheet of paper). 

Next, I added a second page to start creating my worms. I was able to distort the original worm into several different worms by stretching the image's corners. Here's what they looked like at that point (the original worm was the top one): 

At this point, I was happy with how the pattern was looking, so it was time to print it out and test it. 

Step 2: Test the pattern. After printing my pattern, I cut it out. Then I picked a new sheet of black for the face and bright scraps for my worms, like so:  

I taped each template piece to the felt. I like to use lots of tape loops on the back to minimize the possibility of the pieces shifting for the best cuts. On smaller cuts, such as the worms, I place the tape like this: 

I get the best results when I cut the trickiest parts of the piece first, before it begins to shift from the tape being cut through. In the case of the worm, that would be the tail and with the silhouette, the face itself. Another tip when trying to cut a straight line (not relevant with this template), is to keep your scissors on the table instead of picking them up to cut. I learned that tidbit from a sewing book and it has changed my life. 

Then I grabbed my fabric scissors and cut out the pieces. The mouth is a little small on the template, so I just cut a little triangle into it, so it would be wider. After all, the whole song is about eating worms, so you're going to want to see the mouth! 

Here's what the head looked like when done: 

And here's the worms and the head together: 

Now I knew that the templates worked. So I could move on to the next step. 

Step 3: Decoration. I wasn't sure at the beginning how much decorating I wanted to do, but the worms didn't look finished just yet. So I had got to bust out the puffy paint! I dabbed some on to the worm faces to make eyes. After that dried, I used a permanent marker to finish the eyes and draw on a smile:

Now my pieces were done, but since this was for a Flannel Friday post I still had a few more steps to make. 

Step 4: Take photos and write the blog post. Self-explanatory, I hope. I use all Google products** because they integrate so nicely. The blog itself is written and hosted by Blogger. Photos are uploaded to Picasa, then edited in Creative Kit (also the step where I write "So Tomorrow" on the photos as a watermark). 

Step 5: Create and upload the template PDF. When last we saw the template, it was sitting around in Microsoft Publisher as a regular .pub file. It's easy enough to save it as a PDF, like so: 

Once it's a PDF, I was able to upload it to my Google Drive account. Here's how to do that: 

Click upload button on top left and choose Files from the menu: 

Find the file to be uploaded and click upload:

Click Change (to edit sharing settings):

Change to "Anyone with the link": 

And click save! Then I copy the link and go back to my blog post to put it in.

Step 6: Schedule the post! I tend to write several Flannel Friday posts in advance and then schedule them to post automatically. (This post was written in October!)  I aim to post Flannel Fridays every other week and tend to write them in batches of 2 or 3 a day. I try to be about a month ahead of schedule. I write down the dates my post will be going up in my desk calendar, so I remember to watch for the round-up link to submit my posts.

That's it! PHEW! 

*Why Publisher and not Word? Mostly because I find it much easier to get the image exactly where I want it on the page in Publisher. But Word would work too if I didn't have access to Publisher. 

**I like to use all Google products so I only have to remember one username and password, but I am going to be in serious trouble if they ever have a system-wide failure.

"Nobody Likes Me" Flannel Song

Getting way ahead of myself again, today I'm sharing a song that will be just perfect for those of you using the collaborative summer reading program's theme of "Dig Into Reading." It's "Nobody Likes Me," also known as "Guess I'll Go Eat Worms." This is a summer camp classic perfect for acting out at silly storytimes.

Nobody Likes Me
Nobody likes me,
Everybody hates me,
Guess I'll go eat worms,

Long, thin, slimy ones,
Short, fat, juicy ones,
Itsy, bitsy, fuzzy wuzzy worms.

Down goes the first one, 
Down goes the second one,
Oh how they wiggle and squirm.

Up comes the first one,
Up comes the second one,
Oh how they wiggle and squirm.

Download my pattern (adapted from Open Clip Art images).

In a pinch, you could cut strands of thick yarn to give the kids if you wanted to act the story out. Make a bunch and get the audience to play along. I'd do the felt board version once to teach it to people as it's not as commonly known as some other storytime classics.

I'll be doing a worm storytime this summer, and plan to pair this with the fingerplay "Little Worm," which now that I'm reading it almost sounds like it could be done to the tune of "Itsy Bitsy Spider."

Little Worm
The little tiny wiggly worm Move index finger
Went crawling through the ground.
Down came the rain Wiggle all fingers downward.
It was muddy all around.

Rain filled the tunnels Make slow fist
And out came the little worm. Push index finger of other hand through fist. 
So the puddles on the ground
Were the only place to squirm. Move index finger. 
Source: Creative Resources for the Early Childhood Classroom

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Perks of the Job

One of the perks of my job is that my LEGO mini-fig collection is coming along swimmingly. We don't circulate the little dudes (and yes, they are always dudes--no girls with the LEGO books, I observe) so I keep them in my desk. I left Han Solo in the carbonite plastic he came in. It just seemed appropriate. I'm not sure why Harry Potter is bald, maybe Voldemort was feeling petty. Or I just lost his toupee. No way of knowing, really. 

Friday, November 09, 2012

Jane's Garden Draw and Tell Story

Here's another draw-and-tell story! This one, "Jane's Garden," I wrote for summer reading 2013. The theme will be "Dig Into Reading." I hope you like it! 

Jane loved to plant seeds in the spring. She would walk all around her garden gently placing them in the ground. When she was finished, she went back into her house. 

Three times, she watered the ground where she had planted in the seeds. 

Then all she could do was wait. But that didn’t stop her from walking back and forth, up and down the garden, to check on the seeds.

One day Jane’s patience paid off! She saw that a flower had begun to bloom where she had planted the seeds.

Do you know what kind of flower it was?

A rose! Good job!

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

A Succinct Argument for Ditching Dewey?

It's just a little excessive for a nearly-wordless book about drawing, don't you think? 

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

How to Draw (A Giraffe) in Microsoft Paint

A reader requested a tutorial on drawing in Microsoft Paint. I'm going to confess that I am far, far from a talented artist. Like seriously far. I took drawing as an art elective in high school and it was so awful. I am still traumatized by trying to draw still portraits in perspective. And it was a bottle tableau, not anything with crazy lines. So I do not even bother trying to draw with paper or pencil because it is incredibly frustrating to me.

BUT it turns out that I may be semi-decent at illustration in the simplest of software programs: Microsoft Paint. I like Paint because every PC has it. And I am extremely overwhelmed by PhotoShop. So Paint it is! No worries, because it has all the function I need for clip-art type projects.

I start all my drawings by having something to copy. That's right! When it comes to artwork, I am a straight-up plagarist. I cannot draw anything from memory. So I'll pull up a Google Image* search on penguins (or whatever) and study the shapes. I try to reduce it to the simplest shapes of circles, rectangles, triangles, etc. This will give a cartoonish effect rather than a more realistic one, but since I'm creating stuff for kids that's fine.

I'm going to let you in on a little secret to drawing animals: they look cuter with ginormous eyes. And one of the reasons I love Mo Willems' artwork, is because the technique is (deceptively) simple. Look at the shapes that make up his Pigeon character: circles, lines, and triangles. You can draw that easily! I am not saying that Mr. Willems doesn't deserve his Caldecott Honors and I think it's a crime the man hasn't won an outright Medal yet. But his genius is in tweaking the simple shapes to make the Pigeon so expressive.

If you've never used Paint before, here's what the screen looks like when you open it:

Mainly I use these functions:

So, here's how to draw a giraffe in Microsoft Paint. 
1) Find an image of a giraffe. Here's a really cute one from Open Clip Art, except that I don't think they've made the neck long enough to exaggerate the giraffe's most famous feature! But we can fix that if we're drawing our own version.
2) Take note of the shapes in the image. I just eyeball them normally, but I marked up a copy so you can see. The pink is for the two straight lines, and almost everything else in the image is circles!
3) Time to put mouse to screen to try our own version. Open Paint. I do almost everything with the auto-shapes. So first, let's draw the body. I draw one big circle and then save the file as "giraffe1.png" Every element that I add will be saved as a different file. That way if I get on the wrong path and want to start fresh, I will just go back a few versions.

Next I draw a smaller circle for the head.

The neck is just two straight lines. I accidentally drew mine too long, but I'll fix it later.

The feet can be made with two ovals. To get them the same, I create one with the circle shape and then copy and paste it for the other side.
The rectangular selection tool inadvertently erases some of the body so I go back and draw it in, using the zoom function. While I'm zoomed in, I shorten the neck line where I drew it too long.

Time for the ears, again they can be drawn as ovals.

The horns can either be circles on top of short rectangles or just circles. Time to add some color to our giraffe before we add the finishing details. I use the bucket function to paint all the areas we've drawn already yellow.

More circles for the eyes and spots! I also use the pencil tool to draw some spots so they are not all circular. Use the bucket tool again to fill in the eye balls and spots. 
Even more circles for the giraffe's pupils and nostrils. 

Use the paint bucket again to fill in the pupils and I like to add a single fleck of white for where the light would hit the pupils. 

So that's it! You can stop there or you can try and erase the black lines with the paint bucket tool. You will be left with some gaps between the spots and where the black outlines were, so I filled them in with the brush tool. You can also draw a tail, if you'd like. Or more spots on the face. 

Here are the final versions: 

Verdict: I love him. I shall name him Gadget. And he shall be my giraffe.

*I used an open source image for this example so I didn't have to feel guilty about showing you how to copy a piece of art. 

Monday, November 05, 2012

"Dig Into Reading" Ideas

Truth: When you're a childen's librarian, summer is always on your mind. Alas, not the many hours you'll be logging at the beach, but the dread of summer reading program approaching. I've already started writing Flannel Friday posts to fit the "Dig Into Reading" collaborative summer reading program theme and I thought I would link them into one place for easy sharing. To make it easier on myself, I linked upcoming posts so if you try to go to one marked with an upcoming date, you will be disappointed! The Flannel Friday crew will be having a SRP Extravaganza roundup sometime in March, so watch for that (exact date TBD). 

Eating (as in Dig Into That Pizza)
Five Little Apples Flannel Board Rhyme
Lunch by Denise Fleming Flannel Board Story
Recipe for a Hippopotamus Sandwich by Shel Silverstein Prop Story Coming 2/8/13
A Soup Opera by Jim Gill Puppet Story Coming 2/15/13
Tina's Tasty Treat Draw and Tell Story
Yummy Watermelons
Five Little Flowers
The Field of Boliauns Flannel Board Story
The Great, Big, Enormous Turnip Flannel Board Story
Jane's Garden Draw and Tell Story 
Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary Puppet Coming 2/1/13
Nobody Likes Me Flannel Board Song 

Hide and Seek
I Have a Little Pocket Game
Little Moon Flannel Board Game
Little Mouse, Little Mouse Flannel Board Game
Snowball, Snowball Flannel Board Game

The Ant and the Grasshopper Shadow Puppets Coming 1/25/13
Gnome Game Coming 1/14/13
Little Worm Hide and Seek Flannel Board Game
Nobody Likes Me Flannel Board Song 
The Rat's Daughter

Friday, November 02, 2012

Six Silly Sharks

An embarrassingly long time ago, I was the lucky recipent of an email from the great Judy Sierra. After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I was delighted to read it. Apparently Ms. Sierra (I cannot bring myself to call her Judy although I am sure she would not mind, benevolent soul that she is) stumbled upon my lowly blog and offered to share a preview of the new, third edition of her classic The Flannel Board Storytelling Book.

All youth librarians should be familiar with this book. I first heard of it in a children's literature class in library school and I have been turning to it ever since. The third edition is available as a PDF download on Etsy for $9.95. I think it's wonderful to be able to see her work in color and love that the price is so affordable, unlike many professional reference books. I love the fabric collage technique Sierra recommends, so that's what I've chosen to share with you in this week's Flannel Friday post. 

I already have made flannel versions of many of the stories in the third edition, so the one I chose to make is "Six Silly Sharks." I did adapt the technique to save myself a little time. I think Sierra's method of ironing stabilizer onto fabric choices is going to hold up a lot better in the long run. I simply cut the shapes out of fabric samples because I am a cheaty-mccheaterson. 

The gist of this story is that two rabbit friends are separated by a body of water and trick a bunch of sharks into lining up so the rabbits can be reunited. I did find the rabbit patterns to be too small for me to cut easily so I reused the rabbits from The Rabbit Who Wanted Red Wings. I hope that explains the incredible disproportional-ness of the resulting figures. 

Turkey Tale: A Thanksgiving Draw and Tell

Soon it will be Thanksgiving in the U.S. of A! The Flannel Friday crew is having one of our famous Extravaganzas today (hosted by Amanda) and I'm sharing a favorite draw-and-tell story called "Turkey Tale." You can find it in Twenty Tellable Tales by Margaret Read McDonald.
The story begins: 
Once there was an old man and an old woman who lived in a round sod house by the side of a large round lake...

It ends with you having drawn a turkey! I promise that all the shapes in this are very simple.

Last year I shared my Turkey Feathers magnet board. If you're looking for Thanksgiving fingerplays, there are some really cute ones in Creative Resources for the Early Childhood Classroom

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Article Published

I'm thrilled to announce that an article I wrote was published in the November/December 2012 issue of Library Media Connection which hit the streets officially today. The article is called "Pinterest for Librarians," and I'd love to hear your feedback if you read it. I had a great time working with the LMC editors on this and want to thank them for giving me the opportunity! I hope I can write for print again in the future.

Thanksgiving Display

I forgot to snap a picture of my Halloween display. Maybe next year I'll get to it. Anyway, since we just put up my Thanksgiving display, I'm able to share that one at least.

I don't do anything elaborate for holiday displays because they just get torn through almost immediately anyway. It is a feeding frenzy to rival actual Thankgiving parties. I'm able to share my sign because I used OpenClipArt, as always. The sign looks pixelated on my screen but it printed just fine, so I think you'll be OK.