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, February 28, 2014

Flannel Friday: The Noisy Counting Book

One of my favorite storytime books is The Noisy Counting Book by Susan Schade. It's only available as a board book currently, which makes it too small for the audience to see the illustrations at storytime. So I decided to adapt it as a flannel board.

The animals are Ellison cut outs onto felt, so it was a quick one to make.The bees are very delicate and I had a couple lose an antennae. I've since added some puffy paint details like eyes for the fish and frog and stripes on the bee. I may try this story using a frog puppet instead of the frog felt piece too.

I dropped the crickets from my version because I didn't have a die that looked like a cricket. The original story has 6 animals and my version has 5. On the other hand, I may go back and add more animals or mix in other animals someday to be silly. Maybe there are dinosaurs at the pond? Or tigers?

If you're unfamiliar with this story, Betsy Bird filmed a video of it for her blog, Fuse 8, a few years ago. As you can see, the words are simple but the kids have great fun making the animal noises. Especially the nice loud GADUNGS. It's pretty much the perfect toddler storytime selection. I like this book so much that I have even purchased a copy for our personal library at home.

This week's host for Flannel Friday is Jenna from Stories with Ms. Jenna.

In case you missed it, Rebecca Z Dunn interviewed me for In the Field, a blog series featuring interviews with working youth services librarians. Check it out!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

We Did It!: Michigan KidLib Unconference 2014 Wrap-up

The first-ever Michigan KidLib Unconference was held Friday at the Main branch of Clinton-Macomb Public Library in Metro Detroit. In my completely biased opinion, it was a fabulous first time event! We had some minor hiccups but it was still a great day. In this post, I'd like to write a little bit about the behind the scenes work that went into putting MIKidLib together that I did, in the hopes of inspiring more states to put on a similar event. Please also make sure you read (our host) Lisa Mulvenna's thoughts on the day. I know this topic isn't going to be of interest to everyone, so feel free to skip it (and any other follow-ups I may do). If you are putting on a similar event and would like to pick my brain, please get in touch. You can leave a comment below or my email address is available on the about/contact page.

Where the idea came from
Let's go back in time to August 2013. In the Flannel Friday Facebook community, Lisa and I were discussing putting together some sort of professional development event. She had suggested a break out session at Spring Institute (The Michigan Library Association's annual 2-day conference for youth services) and I pitched an unconference instead. A little bit later in the thread, Andrea Vernola offered to help plan and the rest is history. Thanks to Darien Library in Connecticut for inspiring us! 

Over the course of the next few months we made some big decisions like where and when. Since Spring Institute is going to be on the western side of Michigan (Battle Creek) in 2014, we decided to do our first unconference on the east side. We picked a date that was at least one month away from that event and also other big conferences like the Michigan Library Association's Annual Conference, The Small and Rural Libraries Conference, Public Library Association Conference, etc. We wound up with the month of February left and picked the Friday date that worked best for us. 

Splitting up the work
Since there were three of us, we split up the work. Andrea offered to handle arrangements for people interested in carpooling, I built the website, and Lisa was in charge of local and day-of arrangements (food, paper, all that good stuff). Our official budget was $0! We were able to do this because we were meeting in a public library instead of a hotel or conference center, there were no keynote speakers, and we charged attendees for their food ($3 for pizza, $6 for Jimmy John's) although they had the option of bringing lunch from home. CMPL's costs were low too--mostly copier paper and room setup costs. 
I did a bunch of research on how unconferences ran, as well as emailed people who had put them together or attended them to get their thoughts on things like registration, break out sessions, and other details. 

Building the website
I built our website in Google Sites, which was my first time using it. I found it pretty easy to use and would recommend it. Another option would be to use Blogger or Wordpress. I was able to find a template on Google Sites that made everything extremely easy. I used a piece of clip art from Open Clip Art to create the conference logo and added the event's date and city in Paint. 

Promoting the Unconference
Primarily, we promoted the unconference through our blogs (mine and Lisa's), social media accounts, and listservs. Early attendee feedback has been that the listservs and our blogs were the primary places people learned about our event. 

I made the online registration form with Google Forms. One change I will make for next year is to have attendees put their first and last names into separate blanks so we can sort the information more easily in Excel as we are putting together the check-in table. I did take the online registration form down a few days before the event so Lisa had time to clean up the information and put it in alphabetical order. In addition to the fields people could see, I added an additional column on the "staff-side" to make a check mark of who had been sent a confirmation email. I originally did not plan on sending out confirmation emails but so many people emailed me to ask if we'd gotten their information that I sent them out in batches. BCC is your friend for this. 

I had originally hoped that we would get 30 people to register and 20 people to show on the day of. We had about 100 people register and 95 attend. There were numerous cancellations for various reasons in the 2 weeks before the event, one reason we went with pizza or Jimmy John's for lunch. Both places allowed us to order the food on the same day of the event as opposed to other places that wanted 1-2 weeks' notice and pre-payment. 

Breakout Sessions and Voting
The thing I was most worried about was breakout sessions and voting. I had read a bunch of articles about hosting unconferences but I had not seen anyone break down how they handled voting for topics. I did not want to tally these by paper or count hands. I went with yet another Google form for voting. Lisa, Andrea, and I had decided that there would be three break out times, with 4 rooms available during each time. That meant we could have 12 sessions that day. Lisa and I decided to stick the three session topics that received the most votes in the auditorium, the biggest room. Conference room B got sessions 4-6, Conference Room C sessions 7-9, and the Storytime Room (the smallest) sessions 10-12.  You can see the final tally of session votes here (if anyone were to vote now, after the event, it would change these values, just FYI). The feedback we have received so far on our survey has indicated that people would prefer 4 time slots for break out sessions of about 45 minutes and fewer choices in each slot (so use three rooms or even two, if they are big enough). 

I built the Google Form for voting based on proposed topics. It was difficult at first to get people to add topics, but many did after receiving the confirmation email which had a paragraph politely worded to nudge people into doing that. This was really helpful to us since it gave us an idea of how many people might want to talk about certain topics so we knew how many rooms Lisa needed to reserve. I put the topics in a few days before the unconference. We had talked about letting people make last-minute additions but made the executive decision the morning of not to do that. People were able to vote on CMPL iPads that we placed on the registration table. I used a computer to check the tally of votes and assign the rooms and times for the sessions. That's my handwriting in the picture above! I posted this picture to my Twitter account and it was really handy to refer back to through the day, since there were only 2 paper copies of the break out schedules. In the future, I would probably make 4-5. 

Another piece of feedback that attendees gave us is that it would have been nice to have something for the early birds to do while they were waiting for others to arrive. CMPL and registration both opened at 9 and many people were there right on time. I'm often the last person to arrive for conferences so it didn't occur to me that would happen. In the future, we will probably have someone giving library tours to interested parties at this time. We could also have board games or something on the tables for people to break the ice informally. 

Session Notes
I have started posting session notes from the Unconference at our website, if you'd like to read them. I also made a Storify of unconference tweets. This was my first ever attempt at making a Storify and it is trickier than I thought (I assumed it was more automated--nope!) 

Survey and Attendee Feedback
We are interested in hearing from people who were able and unable to attend MI KidLib this year. If you'd like to give us our feedback, please fill out our survey. I will share some more of our feedback once more has been received. There is an opportunity to have a say in when the 2015 event will be held as well as volunteer to help out with planning or day-of work. If you write a blog post about MI KidLib, let me know. I'm compiling a list of them for the website. 

The Unconference Team: Lisa, Andrea, and me
Thank Yous
I'd like to thank the following people and organizations for their work on the Unconference: 
  • Our 72 attendees for taking a chance on a first time event and having awesome ideas to share during the discussions and Guerilla Storytime, as well as their libraries for sending them. Extra thanks to the librarians who were game to facillitate discussions, take official notes, and/or live-tweet the proceedings using our official hashtag-- #mikidlib14. 
  • Andrea Vernola and Lisa Mulvenna for their hard work planning
  • Clinton-Macomb Public Library for the use of their glorious building
  • Melissa Depper and Anna Hancock for being our out of state attendees (Colorado and Ohio, respectively) and everyone put aside all hockey and football rivalries for one day
  • Megan Goedge for working the registration table
  • My administration at Bay County Library System for giving me release time to attend this event
  • And of course my family for their support and love.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Flannel Friday: 5 Hearts, 3 Ways

I will be the first person to admit that Valentine's Day is not my favorite holiday, but I knew my storytime families were excited to celebrate it, so we did! I never would have been able to pull it off this week without some help from the Flannel Friday community, so thank you so much. To partially repay my debt, here are 3 ways to use the same 5 hearts all ideas from the bloggers credited below. These hearts were cut out on our Ellison machine. I had grand plans to decorate them but as you can see--that didn't happen. In a way, it worked out because they are much more versatile not being decorated as valentines.

Put the hearts on the board
I put the hearts on the boards with "Red Heart, Red Heart, What Do You See?" which I discovered via a link on Brooke's blog. You go "Red Heart, Red Heart, What Do You See?" "I see a blue heart looking at me!" And so on. You could end with "I see a Valentine looking at me and decorate one special heart.

Flip the hearts over to reveal the word "heart" 
If you used puffy paint to write H-E-A-R-T on the reverse sides of the hearts, then you could sing "H-E-A-R-T" to the tune of "BINGO." This is a bit much for my toddlers, so we skipped this. A couple children's librarians had blogged this song, and I can't remember which one I saw at from first. I like to listen to the songs so I'm linking to a YouTube version. You will then be able to flip one heart each verse (to the blank side) so everyone knows when to clap.

Take the hearts off the board
I took the hearts off the board with the Valentine's Day themed version of "Down Around the Corner" from Mel's blog.

The books I read this week were:
Guess Who: A Foldout Valentine's Adventure by Lola Schaefer
Be Mine, Be Mine, Sweet Valentine by Sarah Weeks
The I Love You Book by Todd Parr
A Kiss Like This by Mary Murphy (I think next time I'll do I Kissed The Baby though)

We also did "If You Love Me & You Know It" (via Mollie) as a Valentine's themed version of our regular opening song, "If You're Happy & You Know It," as well as "Two Little Lovebirds" (via Tara).

This week's host for Flannel Friday is Meg from Miss Meg's Storytime.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Mother Goose Games!

To celebrate the Winter Olympics, I decided to do a nursery rhyme based track and field day for little kids. I was inspired primarily by the Westerville Library's Nursery Rhyme Olympics, and also paired in ideas from The Preschool Calendar teacher reference book, which had a suggestion for a Preschool Olympics. From there, I took the egg on a spoon race and turned it into a game based on Humpty Dumpty.

The first thing we did is go around the room and say all the nursery rhymes together to reinforce the rhymes for everyone. Nursery rhymes are a wonderful way to develop early literacy skills.

Jack Be Nimble Hurdles: I made candlesticks out of paper towel tubes saved by the maintenance staff and Christmas light Ellison die cuts. The die cuts are taped inside the tube using double stick tape.

 Wee Willie Winkie Town Tour (Pillowsack Race): I brought some spare pillowcases from home and the kids hopped from one side of the room to the other.

Humpty Dumpty's Challenge (Egg on a Spoon Race):  We used egg shakers and plastic spoons.  Again, from one side of the room to the other.

Jack and Jill Basketball: I used sand pails and these little Earth-shaped balls that we had in storage.

Ring Around the Rosy: I used traffic cones and discus-things we had already.

One idea that I did not do at this particular program, but that I do love from The Preschool Calendar was a Walking Backwards race, which would pair really excellently with Silly Sally and would be great fun to end a storytime. I also think it would be fun to do one of these games to end every storytime in a session (our sessions are 7 weeks, so I'd need 2 more games), but what a fun way to bring early literacy to life, right?

We did not have great attendance (around 10 kids) for this program, but it's hard to say why. Whether it didn't appeal to people particularly or because it was in a bad time of year for programming (winter in Michigan), I don't know. One thing I think of a parent of a young child myself, is that it is better to do this type of program once a week and give it a play-group type atmosphere. When programs are weekly, parents know when to expect something and work it in to their routine. If you have 4 weeks in a month: you could concentrate on different skills each week: art, music, literacy, and maybe large motor skills development. This could be a good combination of literacy and large motor skills (throwing, jumping, hopping, etc.)

This is a good program to demonstrate that you can put on a decent program just by using things that you have at home or at the library already, or that are readily and cheaply available. It's also a good example of how everything looks more professional if you take the time to whip up a quick sign in Publisher and stick it in a clear sign holder. All the clip art used for these signs is from Microsoft Office.

These Nursery Rhyme Printable Books from the State Library of Louisiana are really cute and would make a good take-home activity for families too. 

Monday, February 03, 2014

Tween Book Club: Storm Runners by Roland Smith

Last week was our book club meeting and the book of the hour was Storm Runners by Roland Smith. This is a quick read and everyone really seemed to enjoy the fast-paced plot. Michigan has been experiencing some pretty severe winter weather (even for us) so the kids could relate to extreme weather conditions even though none of us had ever been in a hurricane like this story. Some of the kids lamented the lack of character development in the first book, but one astutely observed that it might be because Chase (the main character) himself doesn't know these kids that well. Maybe we get to know them better in the second and third books as Chase learns more about them?

I experimented with two new (to this book club anyway) activities this time around and the kids responded really well. The first was a rip-off of our Minute to Win It program from the week earlier. One of the girls had actually been at the program and she was especially excited. We played "Breakfast Scramble" with the book cover, so I guess we should call it "Book Scramble." Each of the kids got a baggie with 16 pieces of the book's front cover and they raced to see who could put it back together again the fastest. I thought this was a good way to cross-promote our Minute to Win It programs, which we will definitely be doing again either during or shortly before our summer reading program.

The second activity was a "vote with your feet" type thing. I had the kids stand up and walk over to signs labeled "Yes," "No," and "Maybe" in response to the following questions:

  1. Did you like the book? 
  2. Do you want to read the next book(s) in the series? This book is the first in a trilogy. 
  3. Do you know someone who has moved around a lot like Chase? 
  4. Have you been to the circus? 
  5. Do you think the kids would have been safer staying at the school like Chase suggested? 
  6. Do you believe there is such a thing as fate like Chase's dad does? 
  7. Do you believe that some people can see the future like Mama Rossi?
  8. Do you know anyone who has been on the new like Chase's dad? Or in the paper? 
  9. Have you lived through a really bad storm like Hurricane Emily? 
  10. Do you think all of the kids are going to be OK in the next two books? 
I would definitely do that again, because they really liked moving around to answer the questions and not having to verbalize their opinions. I told them these were mostly questions about their opinions and there aren't right or wrong answers necessarily. I just wish I had thought of more questions ahead of time as it went really fast. The kids did come up with some of their own to ask though so that was great. 

I also showed them a news article from January in Florida where a lioness escaped from a sanctuary. I had the kids predict whether she was captured alive (they all thought she would have been killed but she was returned safely, no worries!) and what the punishment for an escaped animal might be. 

Our next book is The 100-Year-Old Secret, the first book in The Sherlock Files, by Tracy Barrett. We ended our book club meeting by watching a fan-made trailer