Storytiming

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Write This Down: Story Dication and Vivian Gussin Paley, You’re My Hero!

This gorgeous image was created by our soon-to-be-former graphic designer, Colleen Kelly. We are all so sad, but happy for her. She's amazing!!

This gorgeous image was created by our soon-to-be-former graphic designer, Colleen Kelly. We are all so sad, but happy for her. She’s amazing!!

This summer I started a program at my library that is very close to my heart both professionally and personally. Little Authors is a story dictation program inspired by the work of the visionary preschool teacher and McArthur Genius Grant recipient Vivian Gussin Paley. If you have not read any of her books, you must immediately. Er, wait, I said that wrong… If you haven’t read ALL of her books, you must find them, and read them immediately. Her body of work covers a wide range of unconventional child development issues: from the peculiarities of three year-old behavior in Mollie is Three to moral philosophy of young children in the Kindness of Children.  Honestly, I don’t know how to describe her writing other than to say that each of her books is a dose of vital life-force.  They are all unique and unputdownable.

The focus of each book draws from Paley’s 35 years as a lower school teacher at the University of Chicago Laboratory School. Here’s where the “personal” connection comes in, Lab is my high school alma mater.

Let’s just say, transferring to Lab was the best thing that ever happened to me. My life changed the day I walked through the doors of that school. I was embraced by every student, teacher, and PTO member from day one. If you want to know what my experience was like at Lab, and what my classmates were like listen to this clip from This American Life. They are pretty amazing people, and a good chunk of my senior class had spent their early years in Mrs. Paley’s classroom. As I read her books, I picture little Mollie Stone, Patrick Sellers, Dima Khalidi, Kareem Saleh, etc; and I feel the dumb, gooey grin spread across my face. My classmates never outgrew Mrs. Paley’s awesomeness. I wholeheartedly believe, was a major influence on the people they grew up to be.

When I started at Lab, I quickly realized I would be at the bottom of the class. But this bottom was different than the one at my grammar school and junior high. My classmates were smart…scary smart. But more importantly, they were open, warm, inspiring, and supportive. After years of disapproval in school, for the first time in my life I held up as an example of a “great kid”. Lab is a progressive ed school. So there were no bells.  My classmates had never been tortured by spelling tests, multiplication tables, or sentence diagrams like I had in grade school. As a result they couldn’t spell, so they used spell check. They couldn’t add, so they used calculators to finish up their calculus problems. Every classroom was filled with stimulating debates, discussions, jokes, and imaginings. My sister used to joke, that the kids at my school “couldn’t spell worth a damn, but when a sociology professor presented his research findings to a group of high school juniors in a Lab assembly, they’d better prepare for tough questions.” In other words, it was nerd heaven.

And obviously, it took a lot of wonderful people to make Lab what it is.  But the more I read and re-read her books, I am convinced that the foundation of awesomeness was built in Vivian Paley’s early childhood classroom.

I’ve read many teacher-conducted interviews with Paley.  In each one, the interviewer inevitably asks something like “Your wonderful books on your classroom experiences with young children show what an excellent observer of children you are. Can you talk about the specifics of how you managed to do this while teaching?” Here’s her response from an interview that appears in Learning Landscapes:

I found out that observing, listening recording, re-observing, recommending, and writing it all down was the same thing as teaching.I found out that observing, listening, recording, re-observing, re-commenting, and I discovered that it was this ongoing narrative that in fact matched the child’s own discovery of an ongoing narrative—call it play, dramatic play. It was a very exciting realization for me. It meant that I was always in my own laboratory and the questions that I had would be answered eventually right there. All I needed to do was listen to the children while they played, and join the conversations engendered by play. 

In other words, there are no “specifics”. Listening to children, and interpreting the things children is a difficult process for adults to master. In fact, time and time again, Paley, herself reports that it is a process she finds perpetually challenging and humbling. One of my favorite examples comes from Paley’s second book, Wally’s Stories: 

Wally: People don’t feel the same as grown-ups.

Teacher: Do you mean “Children don’t”?

W: Because grown-ups don’t remember when they were little. They’re already an old person. Only if you have a picture of you doing that. Then you could remember.

Eddie: But not thinking.

Wally: You never can take a picture of thinking. Of course not.

You can, however, write a book about thinking–by recording the conversations, stories , and playacting that take place as events and problems are encountered. A wide variety of thinking emerges, as morality, science, and society share the stage with fantasy. If magical thinking seems most conspicuous, it is because it is the common footpath from which new trails are explored. I have learned not to resist this magic but to seek it out as a legitimate part of “real” school.

Early on in her career, Paley decided to play the long game when it came to student performance.  And it led her to wildly profound insights into the follies of grown-up thinking. I love putting kids in the driver’s seat, and seeing where they take me. So of course, I love another thing Paley said later on in the Learning Landscapes interview:

Let’s go back to “peekaboo,” the beginning of story. The adult didn’t invent it—the adult merely added some more words…the infant not yet having gotten to that stage.  But it’s the infant who begins the story: “Where is that nice smiling person? Gone. Will she come back? I’m afraid. Ah here she is, back again. Peekaboo, peekaboo.” This is the beginning of the child as his own narrator. It is the child’s job in our cultural history of mankind—this is the learning tool, the job of asking her own question and then playing around and finding out the options. What we tend to do is bring the answers, the adult-established answers, to so many subjects earlier and earlier into a child’s life. Now, what is the task of early childhood? I would say, number one, to learn to listen to others—and you do want to listen to others when they’re telling you stories and to learn to express your own narrative. You want very much to give them back the gift that they have given you. And then, we play around with the combination of a half a dozen different narratives and see where they go: “What if the mother and baby do this? What if there’s noise at the door? What if there’s a big wind and it looks like a hurricane? What if the bad guy comes and where is Superman? Are the pirates good or bad? Are pirates always bad?” No end to it. It is the beginning of abstract thinking, of concentration, of focusing on a subject, and focusing on people.

Everyday, I strive to set a similar tone with the kids and caregivers who visit the library. Little Authors was motivated by this goal. And I want to get to that part of the post. So for now, I will get on to how the program worked…

Vivian Paley didn’t invent story dictation as an early childhood education practice. She did, however, innovate the hell out of it by making it the central focus around which all other classroom activities revolved.

Anyway, in the library story dictation is a deceptively simple early learning activity. In fact my library soul sister, Rebecca Zarazan Dunn, totally independent of me, experimented with it at Chattanooga Public Library. She had the brilliant idea to crash the Lego Club on the 2nd Floor for a little spontaneous story dictation. She wrote about it on Sturdy for Common Things. So it’s a very flexible activity. All you need is paper, pencils, and your undivided attention. Ask a child to describe an event, idea or person; and write down the words exactly as the child says them. Then read the story back to her, and watch her face light up in pride & triumph! I’m sure this sounds ridiculous, but it really is that simple. I tried to write out a program outline, but it looked like this:

Little Authors

Prep: 15 minutes

1) Set up a story dictation corner in one corner of the program room using floor pillows. Sharpen several pencils, and fill a clipboard with lined paper.

2) Set out lots of toys: puppets, dress-up stuff, blocks, picture books, play food, and anything else you can find that gets kids pretending. Also set up a drawing station with lots of blank paper, and mix in some coloring sheets. Dollars to donuts, the characters from both the books and coloring sheets will show up in the dictated stories.

3) If you want, you can also make a sign-up sheet. If a kid wants to tell a story they can write their name down. This will serve as your queue. Also, it’s a good idea to use name tags because names are important.

The Program

As the kids came in with their parents, I explained what we were going to do. A few parents asked, “Do I have to stay?” But when I explained what we were doing, I think they got curious. Only one parent out twenty from all three sessions stayed for the program. I even heard one parent say, “I’m so glad I stayed for this. What a fun thing to do in the library.” #yay

Next, I just explained what we were going to do. I said, “So most of the time, when we’re in this room, I do most of the storytelling. And I always get the feeling that kids want to tell the stories. Have you ever felt like that?”

They responded with lots of nodding. And Joey, whose story you will read later, piped in, “I tell you lots of stories, Ms Cate, remember my stories?”

“I do, Joe! You tell lots of good stories. Today, I’d like to write them down, so we can read and reread them over and over, and remember them forever. Who wants to do that with me today?” They were all fired up and ready to go.

One by one, they joined me in the story corner. When a child sat down, I showed him a blank sheet of paper. I wrote his name at the top. I said, “Your story can be about anything you want. It can as long as one whole page. Or it can be as short as one word. Oh, and I need to talk kinda slowly, because I need to write down every word. And you can talk a lot faster than I can write. So if I need to catch up to what you’re saying I’ll say, ‘hold on, dude-man!’ I might also ask you some questions about some of the interesting details. That’s just because I’m curious, and I want to know more about what you are telling me. But you can just say that doesn’t matter, if it doesn’t matter.”

And we were off. It was super simple and fun. And the stories were mind-blowing. At the end of the session we all got together and I read one story from each kid (a few kids told me two or three stories). Enjoy!

Anna

First was a caterpillar. Then it eat lot of fruit and lots of vegetables and sweets. Then it turns to a cocoon. Ten days it stays in the cocoon. Then it opens and turns into a butterfly.

Austin, 5

So once upon a time there was a place. Well it was some kind of fun house, but some evil person named The Joker lived there. But one day the dynamic duo came and they knock the Joker out of the fun house. And the Joker went to jail. The Joker didn’t like jail at all.

Bella, 8

Once upon a time there was a fish named Fisher. He loved to play all day. He loved his parents, but they had to go away, now. And now he lives with his big brother and sister and small brother and sister. He had a neighbor, and he thought he could play with her but she was busy because she was moving far away. They just started today though. So she had a little time to play but after they play her parents call her and all they have left to do is move a mattress through a door. The door is ginormous. It was one foot bigger than the mattress. His big sister though they should go to the beach. The beach was a perfect place to hang out. The big sister had to go somewhere really quick. So after the beach she took her brothers and sister back home. So she could go to do her job. “It was so much fin hanging out with my family.” One day their parents came back and they had a celebration. There were games, cake, and food. It’s fun hanging out with my whole family.

Colette, 4

The man cracked the stairs. And then he cleaned and fixed the stairs. There was a little a little girl named Goldilocks. She lived with her mommy and daddy. There’s two bears: sister bear and brother bear. Daddy bear said, “Who squooshed the porch?” Goldilocks did! There’s a bad danger. Goldilocks saw the fierce, bad danger and she runned away!

Farhan, 4

The cat ate an apple. Then the dinosaur needed to eat an apple too. Then the dog wanted to eat an apple. And the elephant wanted to eat an apple.

The bunny wanted to eat a pear. The monkey wanted to eat a banana. The bird wanted to eat a pear. A frog wanted to eat an apple. Then a mouse wanted to eat a cheese. A kangaroo wanted to eat an apple.

A deer ate an apple. A cat ate a pear. The duck ate an apple. The octopus ate an apple. The cat ate a pear.

Joey, 5

Once upon a time there was a dinosaur. He’s a meat eater. And he eats meat. And a good dinosaur came up to him, and a bad dinosaur snapped the prey.

Maeve, 6, The Dancing Tooth

I want to tell about when I got my first tooth out. I went to Mommy. I went and got a tissue. Then Mommy pulled it out. It was bloody. I got a tissue and put it in my mouth.

I want to tell about my second tooth. Me and Daddy were watching TV in the bed and I just bended it and it comed out. I went  downstairs in Mommy’s office and I told her about it. Actually we were at Grandpa’s house.

Prisha, 4

One day the Little Red Riding Hood went to the Grandma’s house. But the big wolf chased her. But Grandma’s right here! But the Teddy Bear came and the Big Bad Wolf run away over there. The Teddy Bear play with Little Red Riding Hood and Grandma came back!

Laith, 6

Once long ago there was a creative guy. His name was Jones. He build a big giant robot with giant laser beam eyes. And he opened the garage door. And then he started destructing the whole city. The robot said, “You can’t stop my power. It was the millennium. When you connected the last piece you released me too! My dragons do their work. You need to stay here. I will suck up your soul into my eye. You can’t stop me from destroying the world. If you stay here I will chit chat with you. And if you stay here I will destroy the bridge with cars going across. I will make all the cars talk on the phone and topple into the sea.” The end.

Resources

Here is a list of books. These are my five favorite Vivian Paley books, plus a wonderful book by Ann Gadzikowski on the story dictation process. It is a wonderful resource. However, I don’t think you need to read it to get started with story dictation. The real meat of the Gadzikowski’s book how to use these stories as a tool for understanding how young children think. I will add to this in the future, but this will get you started:

Screenshot 2014-09-05 at 6.08.30 PM

Boston Public School offers an INCREDIBLE RESOURCE for anyone who is interested in story dictation. They offer videos of teachers supporting students in telling their stories. They are wonderful to watch, and wildly helpful. I think the best part is, they show you just how practical an activity this is.

In the end, there is no trick to bringing story dictation to your library. In the words of the great Fred Rogers:

“You’ve got to do it.
Every little bit
You’ve got to do it, do it, do it, do it
And when you’re through,
You can know who did it,
For you did it, you did it, you did it.”


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Discover What’s Under the Cover: A New-Book Storytime Experiment

Last night, I had an idea for a spontaneous storytime experiment.  Recently, we had a flood of new materials coming into the department, and the new materials shelves are overflowing. The pages get frustrated when they run out of room. I decided to brainstorm on this question: “how can we push new materials out the door?” It occurred to me that I could combine this problem with another question I often ask myself: How can I capitalize on busy times when no events or storytimes are scheduled. We have always been a busy play space for young children, and this has increased since the library underwent a major renovation. I decided to riff on the brilliant Rebecca Zarazan Dunn’s spontaneous storytime experiment at Chattanooga Public Library.

RZD

RZD is adorable & magical…like a unicorn, only better.

In Rebecca’s case, she implemented “spontaneous storytime” as a way to introduce herself–the newest librarian on the 2nd Floor–to the community of patrons who frequent the library. I’ve been working at NPLD for five years, so the kids know me well. I wanted to see if Spontaneous Storytime would work the same magic on “new books”, as it did on “new people”. Here’s what happened…

New-Book Spontaneous Storytime

Method 1: Groups, big and small

Step 1: Go to the new books shelf.

Step 2: Grab a bunch of new picture books or interesting-looking Juvenile nonfiction & put them on a cart.

Step 3: Take them to the play pen.

Step 4: Set out the books on a table or on top of the picture book shelving.

Step 5: Ask each participant to pick 1 book they want to hear. (I’d like to find a good way for the kids to pitch a book that isn’t working for them without hurting the feelings of the child who chose it. This is a delicate situation. I don’t want anyone to have their feelings hurt)

Step 6: Sing a introductory song. I made up a version of If You’re Happy and You Know It. It went like this:

If you want to read a new book clap your hands
If you want to read a new book clap your hands
If you want to read a new book all you’ve got to do is choose one
If you want to read a new book clap your hands

Step 7:  Read the books selected by kids.

Step 8: If the book is a big hit, give the selector the 1st chance to check out the books. If he/she doesn’t want it, put it up for grabs. If several kids want to check it out offer to put it on holds.

Step 9: Closing song. I sang The More We Get Together.

As I was getting ready to put the books away, I thought of an alternative method to try using 1-on-1 read-alouds.

Method 2:

Step 1-3: Same as Method 1

Step 4: Find a single kid, & offered to read 1 book of his or her choice 1-on-1. Since it was just us, we stretched out with the book on the floor. There is no step 5-8 because the kids natural curiosity and enthusiasm led the way to a whole set of interesting results.

Results:

Method 1: This worked really well with a group. I had tons of participation from kids and their parents. The experience was full of happy accidents. For instance, I sang the song on the fly, and the lyrics weren’t perfect. But my dorky blunder got a laugh from the parents. As a librarian, I try to see these moments as my best moments. I enjoy the process most when I embrace mistakes, and laugh my way through them. It rarely fails to put a group at ease. I think in some area of my brain, I’m taking a loosely interpreted cue from the great Studs Terkel. In with Harry Kreisler’s 2003 Conversations with History interview at UC Berkley, Studs said something that has always stuck with me:

I’m very inept mechanically. I’m not a Luddite, but I’m just learning to use the typewriter. I really am. It’s an electric typewriter. It’s very exciting, you know. I hunt and peck. But the fact is, I use a tape recorder, and sometimes I press the wrong button. I can’t drive a car. I fall off bicycles. And so I press the wrong button sometimes, and the person is seeing and says, “Look, he is not somebody from Mount Olympus, and he’s not from 60 Minutes, and he’s not Baba Wawa. No. He’s just a guy.” And the person says, “It’s not moving,” when I had reel-to-reel. “Well,” I said, “Well, I forgot about it.” So I’ve lost Martha Graham. I’ve lost Michael Redgrave. I almost lost Bertrand Russell. This was in North Wales, during the Cuban Missile Crisis. If I did, I’d have put my head in the oven, you know. But I finally caught it. So that defect that I have — like my not hearing and getting the truth — so my ineptitude sometimes works in my favor because that person feels I need him.

I think the same thing goes for library patrons. Working with patrons is all about  connection, not perfection. All the preparation in the world can’t prepare you for what a preschooler or toddler will say. I live for these moments. I learn the most about what it means to be a librarian when I expect the unexpected.

All too often, patrons walk on egg shells around librarians. This is a very new experience for me. I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to the reputation for organization and restraint I suddenly acquired when I got my MLIS. As a kid, my own mother referred to me her “little Tasmanian devil.” I’m a world-class mistake-maker.  So, whenever I meet a new patron, I do whatever I can to encourage them to see the library as a place that welcomes and–as Mr. Rogers said– “likes them just the way they are.”

Anyway, I know that’s a lot to pack into what was essentially a weird little song. But my aim is to put patrons off the notion that I am operating under a set of undisclosed rules that they, or their kids, are expected to follow.  It’s all about creating joyful, playful literary experiences in a stress-free setting.

Method 2: We got about 2 pages into the book before a whole new group of new kids plopped down around us to listen. Then a few more kids picked non-new books for me to read. A toddler brought me the Farmer in the Dell from the nursery rhyme section & the whole room sang along as I read.

Next, an 8 year-old girl brought over a chapter book she had in her “maybe pile”. Her mom started to break in to discourage her, saying, “Don’t be silly, she can’t read the whole book. Anyway, this is just for little kids, you can read that yourself.”

I knew she was just trying to “follow the rules”. She thought her daughter was out-of-bounds. But I saw the cover, and it’s one of my all-time favorites. I couldn’t resist giving it a whirl. (Psst! Guess the book! Hint: the best Newbery winner ever! See the answer written in this hideous pinky-purple at the bottom of the post.) YAY IMPROV LIBRARIANS WIN!!! I think that will be my new favorite hashtag… #improvlibrarianswin

I said, “Well, how about I read just the first page aloud? Reading the first page is a good book-choosing strategy. Plus, it will give the younger kids a chance to see the kinds of books older kids read. Those are, after all, the books they will be reading in the future.”

I read the 1st page aloud to the whole group. All of the kids were on the edges of their seats. They would have sat listening to more, but I like to leave them wanting more. So that I stopped after one page. I also told them we have a bunch of copies on the shelf, and an audiobooks on CD and Playaway if they would rather listen to an expert reader. Perhaps it will encourage a few more parents to look beyond the picture books for good read-alouds.

Finally, a little girl asked the $20,000,000 question: “Ms Cate, when are you going to choose a book?” I lunged at one of my new favorite nonfiction books:

feathers

I introduced this brilliant nonfiction book as one that may look as “it’s not for little kids”. But I encouraged parents to see beyond the text when it comes to choosing books for their kids. The art in this book offers meaningful insights into beauty & science of bird biology on its own. The text is brilliant; but studying the images carefully is every bit as educational as reading the text. And that lead me to offer up an anecdote from my early experience as a reader and lifelong book lover. Learning to read was a major struggle for me. In fact, I learned late in life (around 28) that I’m dyslexic. I remember thinking my classmates had an easier time learning to read that I did. But I also remember being deeply determined to master this skill.  I have wonderful memories of perusing books long before I could read them on my own, and this built in me a desire to become a reader. I don’t know that I would have had the drive to overcome the headaches, embarrassment, & misery learning to read caused. Those early no-pressure prereading experiences motivated me to persist through the hard times. I think this may be another digression… So I will stop there.

A few more thoughts:

This was a fun experiment, and I want to try it a zillion more times. I am thinking the kids’ responses lend itself to an unconventional rating system for the blog. Well, it isn’t a scale as much as a it a description of the response I had from a single reading:

Takers: Book checked out as a result of New-Book Storytime.

Put-On-Holders: The book was checked out immediately, and there were several kids clamoring to check it out. They had to settle for putting it on hold.

FRANCO: Fun Read Aloud Not Checked Out. This rating is reserved for times that the book was a big hit in storytime–but for whatever reason–no one checked it out.

Meh: kids were bored, and we either stopped half way.

Obviously, the rating system is a work in progress. If you have an better idea, I’m all ears. Here’s a question I haven’t been able to answer yet, how should I record the stats for this?

Misc

So, did you guess the book? The answer is The One and Only Ivan OF COURSE!!! No me-balls for this brilliant book!

 

 


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Those Who Can Code, Do. Those Who Can’t Code, Learn!

Does the idea teaching computer programming seem impossible? ridiculous? TERRIFYING?! What if I told you, you could put together a brilliant learn-to-code program in less than 2 hours, EVEN IF YOU’VE NEVER WRITTEN A SINGLE LINE OF CODE IN YOUR WHOLE LIFE?!!

In March, my colleague Diedre Winterhalter (@winterstacker) went in on a learn-to-code program called “Digital Blast!!!”. It was awesome. It was also a piece of cake. Seriously. And here’s the kicker: we’re both coding novices. In fact, novice might be a generous term for our coding prowess. And yet, we were able to give 12 kids an opportunity to learn fundamental computer science concepts in a fun, engaging hour-long program.

You’d probably say I’m crazy, right? Well I might be a little wacky, but this statement is true nonetheless: “HAVE NO FEAR, HOUR OF CODE™ IS HERE!

television animated GIF

 

Hour of Code™ in a Nutshell

Code.org announced its “Hour of Code” campaign in October of 2013.

The initiative asks schools, teachers and parents across the country to help introduce more than 10 million students of all ages to computer programming during Computer Science Education Week, December 9-15, 2013.

In order to accomplish this goal, they created a series of brilliant, media-rich  online courses for free. The 1st chapter is designed to give kids a yummy taste of computer programming.  Here’s how they describe it:

tutorials

Deidre and I tried it ourselves first. We also made sure we understood the skills involved in each lesson thoroughly. As a facilitator, you never know what’s going to trip up learners. I always try to think of several ways to explain a single idea so that when learners get frustrated, I can offer them more than 1 way to “skin that cat”. Deidre made short course evaluation (because she is an awesome rock star).

We booked our library’s fantastic new training lab. On the day of the program, we set up the computers beforehand. The kids filed in, Deidre gave a quick introduction. We played the first video on the big screen. And the kids got to work. Once the kids got into the course they were all moving at different speeds, and some of them watched the videos on their own. But we played a few of the videos on the big screen, too.

Deidre and I walked around, offering help when needed. But the best part was that when we were both occupied, the kids jumped in, and helped each other.

Actually, scratch that, THE BEST PART was when I pointed out the show-the-code button to a 5th grader.

scratch view

Hidden beneath the default view lurks the…

She clicked on it, and went bananas.

java view

THE REAL GROWNUP STUFF!

She squealed, “This is like the real grown-up stuff!” Her little sister (Gr 3) looked over, caught a glimpse, and then went bananas, too. As they continued through the chapter, they read the Javascript aloud to one another as they went.

At the end of the course, we collected the evaluations. They were all 5. They all included some version, “More programs like this, please!” Unfortunately, we plan programs months in advance, so we couldn’t offer a formal program right away. However, we have a very open-ended Maker Monday program, and we’ve decided to dedicate several meeting to the HOC! I’d love to see this snowball into a Kids Code Club.

The full course, Beyond the Hour of Code, offers 19 or so additional chapters in the same format. PLUS, a bunch of awesome printable, classroom-friendly activities that apply the computer science concepts to make-and-take craft projects. Here’s a video that explains the 1st project that explores binary code using colors instead of numbers:

You Can Do It!

The Hour of Code™ is super library friendly–provided said library has a computer lab and/or some semblance of adequate technical amenities. FYI: Tutorials work on browsers, tablets, smartphones, or “unplugged.” If you need more info on technical specifications, here’s a link to their info page for teachers.

Try it! You might like it!

Cheers.

 


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Armchair Astronomy: Explore the Cosmos at the Library

This program has been a long time in the coming. But I’m struggling to write about it because it is so simple, I hardly think of it as a program idea. What is “armchair astronomy”, you ask? Think of it as astronomy storytime. I took a bunch of images from Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD for short), projected them on the big screen, and read the captions aloud. My first trial run of this program was on Saturday, and I had more than 40 people from oohing and aahing for nearly an hour. The best part is, it might be the easiest (and cheapest) programs I have ever put together.

The Source

APOD is arguably one of the most successful, long-running astronomy communication projects on the web. Founded in 1995 by two professional astronomers Robert Nemiroff of Michigan Technical University and Jerry Bonnell of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, APOD invites average joe’s like you and me to “Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.” Today, the APOD archive contains the largest collection of annotated astronomical images on the internet. I’ve had a daily APOD habit for a long time. At first, I looked more than I read. The images are breathtaking. It’s often hard to take your eyes off them long enough to notice that words beneath. But it’s the words that connect the wonder your eyes take in with the understanding your curious brain needs. The captions describe–in brief, accessible detail–what the images show. And they are every bit as beautiful as the images. Take this one posted on January 10, 2014:

The description begins, "A mere seven hundred light years from Earth, in the constellation Aquarius, a sun-like star is dying."

The description begins, “A mere seven hundred light years from Earth, in the constellation Aquarius, a sun-like star is dying.”

I’ve been “collecting” my favorite first lines from novels since I was 12, and this caption rivals everything in my top 100. And this is just one of thousands of APOD entries. Every single one of these images (whether the image is beautiful or not) is supported by a small, yet profound grain of scientific knowledge. It’s amazing how digestible esoteric subjects like astronomy, cosmology, and astrophysics are when served in bite-sized pieces. And that’s what makes APOD an incredible tool for learning. That is what made me realize this program would work. In storytime, we guide young children through stories made up of both images and words that when delivered simultaneously, lead them to greater understanding of new ideas and experiences. I began to think I could apply the storytime model to astronomy, and create an engaging learning experience for people of all ages in my library.

The Program

This program is ridiculously simple. In fact, I’d say it falls firmly in the Unprogramming Model developed my one of my favorite librarian duos:   and Amy Koester. I projected an assortment of my favorite images onto a big screen, and read the informative captions aloud. Here is the slideshow: 

Each one of the images used can be found in the APOD archive by searching by the date that appears on the slide. Following the presentation, I showed two of my favorite down-to-earth science lectures ever: 

and

Finally, I collected a ton of materials: books and DVDs from all three departments, and put them on display. I made best-of lists in our patron-side catalog (yay bibliocommons).

That’s All Folks!

It really doesn’t get much more simple than that. At the end, we had a quick Q&A. The primary question on everyone’s mind was, “when are you doing this again?” And isn’t that what every librarian wants to hear? What’s more I have a group of 10 patrons ranging from age 7-41 who want to start a Citizen Science club so that we can participate in Zooniverse projects as a group at the library. I am really very excited about this idea. I’m going to put a workshop on the calendar for the fall.  I wish I could start this right away, but we plan programs really far in advance. Sadly, it’s too late to start something in the summer. So even if you know nothing about astronomy, give “Armchair Astronomy” a try.  It’s a great way to explore the universe at the library. I am thinking of turning this into a series. After all, I have a huge number of images I cut from this presentation. I could easily do this as a monthly drop-in program. So give it a try, my little starlings! It’s #Easypeasylemonsqueezy.


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Hack This Infographic Story Stretcher: What’s the Magic Word?

This week’s infographic was not a huge success.

A great storytime book for 4s and 5s!

What’s the Magic Word by Kelly DiPucchio is one of my all time favorite storytime books, but I should have known this story would not go over as well with toddlers. It’s too sophisticated, and perhaps a bit too scary, for this age group. But I wanted to post it anyway for two reasons: 1) it needs some tweaking, but I don’t know what those tweaks entail. I could use some ideas (hint, hint); and 2) toddlers are my main audience, so this infographic won’t see much action if I neglect to share it. Feel free to hack this infographic. In fact, I will upload all the images I used tomorrow when I get to the library tomorrow.

But for now, here’s my version: What’s the magic word


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New Things Going On: Niles Buzz Blog

My library’s website underwent a redesign in the fall of 2013. The Niles Buzz is last phase of that redesign, and it rolled out at the end of the year.  Before the redesign, each department had its own blog, and did it’s own thing. The redesign consolidated the various department blogs into a single, library-wide blog.

I’m the editor of the KidSpace section, but I’ve been given free range to write non-YS librarian posts as well. It’s been many years since my Punk Planet days, and my editorial muscles are a little stiff. But I’m always excited to jump into new projects. I’ll get back in the groove soon (I hope). Plus, it will give me a chance to extend my library work beyond the birth-to-tween set. After all, I do spend a portion of my day thinking about things other than picture books and flannel boards. Admittedly, it’s a pretty small portion, but whatever.

This first post isn’t so far a stretch: Let’s Talk About Chores, Baby!


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Flannel Friday Follow-Up: Hi, Pizza Man Infographic

UPDATE!!!

Here is the PDF of the Hi, Pizza Man infographic: Hi Pizza Man

Last week I tried an experiment with my toddler time group, and wrote this post: Infographic Story Stretchers.

Yesterday, I had an opportunity to follow up on last weeks experiment. Guess what? It was a big success!!

1) My toddler time parents gave me wonderful feedback, and were eager to collect this week’s infographic (Hi, Pizza Man by Virginia Walter).

I was thrilled to hear that everyone said they used them to retell the stories together later that day. And many even said used them several times throughout the week. Two parents said they used the infographics talk about their day with daddies during dinner. Three said they used it to retell the Little Miss Muffet at bedtime. One parent said her daughter has been reenacting the Little Miss Muffet story all week. She laughed and said, “Poor Little Miss Muffet can’t get home because she keeps running into hippos, elephants, dinosaurs, mummies,” and my favorite, “draculas.”

In last week’s post, I forgot to mention that I gave each parent a folder to keep their infographic, as well as a copy of the library newsletter and some flyers for upcoming events. Well, this week two parents actually remembered to bring the folders  this week so they would have a safe way to collect a new infographic. And the rest of the parents said they know exactly where their folders are because they’ve been using it all week. (YAY!)

All in all, I would say that the experiment was a success! Not only will I continue to make infographics for my storytimers this session, but I also hammered out the format to make this a clear-cut task.

Each storytimer received a folder to take home, two infographics (so far), and an envelope for wrangling the small pieces:

Each storytimer received a folder to take home, two infographics (so far), and an envelope for wrangling the small pieces.

An Infographic Story Stretcher kit

And finally, this week’s infographic is based on my all-time favorite storytime book: Hi, Pizza Man. 

photo (1)

The first page is as you see if above, and the second is a bunch of little doors. I printed the first page 20 times, and the second page once. Then I cut up all the little doors.  Each storytimer gets one infographic and one door. At the end of storytime I passed them out, and demonstrated how to use it later to retell the story later.

I just realized I forgot to send myself the PDF, so I will post it tomorrow.

The magnificent Mel Depper is hosting this week’s special Valentine’s Day Flannel Friday. And it just so happens that we are coming upon the third anniversary of this wonderful tradition. So big XOXOXO’s for Mel. Thanks for hosting!


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Flannel Friday: Infographic Story Stretchers

This morning I woke up with a weird idea: replace traditional handouts with a picture book infographic.

So a little background…When I was a new librarian, I was a storytime handout maniac. I made tons of carefully researched handouts with rhymes, booklists, fingerplays, etc. I even put a coloring page on the b-side in the hopes they would end up on a few fridges. But at the end of the day, the handouts would end up scattered all over children’s department and parking lot. Eventually, I stopped making them. I dip into my files sometimes; but to tell you the truth, I’ve never had a single parent ask about them when they weren’t offered.

So what’s a picture book infographic?

Well, since this is my first attempt at such a thing, I don’t want to define it too strictly. Let’s just say, it’s a graphic representation of a picture book or story. The trick is fitting the entire story into a single image. Unlike with a flannel board, where you have several pieces that you use to build the story on a canvas, an infographic uses a single visual representation that kids (and parents) can use to recall and retell the story in their own words.

I think it’s important to note that this is not intended to replace reading the story in any way, shape, or form. I don’t think a story stretcher infographic works on it’s own. It is intended to support the development of narrative skills and memory. It is meant to build on the shared stories and experiences. So read the book. Purchase multiple copies! And build some serious love for your favorite picture books using infographics!

Infographic Show & Tell

I chose a story I knew would fit this format:

little miss

Trapani has written a bunch of books that riff on classic nursery rhymes. I love them. It’s a brilliant idea: take story so familiar that it practically loses all meaning, and ask “then what happened?” For example

Little Miss Muffet
Sat on a tuffet
Eating her curds and whey
Along came a spider
Who sat down beside her
And frightened Miss Muffet away.

In Trapani’s version, Miss Muffet tries to hide from the spider, only to run into a mouse. She flees the mouse, and runs into a frog, a crow a fish, and finally… A MOOSE! Yes, a goddamn moose. How brilliant is that? Very brilliant.

Follow Little Miss Muffet through her ordeal.

Follow Little Miss Muffet through her ordeal.

I had a very little time to slap this experiment together. I did a google image search for game board template and found something awesome: Snappy the Snapping Syllable Turtle. This game is adorable as is, makes a great activity for a passive program. It was also the perfect image for an infographic of LMM. It even had the tree and the pond in the right places; so I hacked it.

Next, I scattered clipart “scary critters” in the order they appeared in the story. Then I found an image of Little Miss Muffet, and made a little game piece out of her.

At the end of storytime I passed them out, and demonstrated how to use it later to retell the story later today or this week. Since this was an experiment, I also asked them to report: “Did you use it? And if so,  was it worthwhile? Was it fun?”

Please feel free to download this Little Miss Muffet handout Little Miss Muffet Infographic. It’s a two-page pdf. Page one is the infographic, and page two is page of 20 Little Misses. Print page one 20x, but page two only once. I printed page one on cardstock, so it would hold up the moving around a bit, but crappy paper would be fine.  I am going to try to come up with more infogenic (did I just invent a word?)

Some that come to mind:

  • Hi, Pizza Man!
  • Pete’s a Pizza
  • Fall is not Easy
  • We’re Going on a Bear Hunt
  • Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus
  • Katie Loves The Kittens
  • Tip Tip Dig Dig
  • Joseph had a Little Overcoat
  • I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More
  • Bark, George
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar

OMG! Like every good storytime book ever. I am going to start on next week’s infographic right away!

Kathryn is hosting the #FFRU at Fun with Friends at Storytime Thanks Kathryn!

 


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Pharrell’s “Happy” is the Best Storytime Song Ever!

I woke up feeling wild and crazy this morning. I woke up excited to try something new in storytime. My husband and I have been listening to this song and awful lot:

We haven’t made through all 24 hours of the epic 24-Hours of Happy. But we’ve been chopping away bit by bit, and the shine hasn’t worn of so far.  The song irresistible.  And I’ve always said I could watch people doing silly dances all day long, but I never thought someone would take this statement so literally. So, I am going out on a limb to say: thanks Pharrell! You are sublime. You are quite possibly the greatest living artist of our time.

Anyway, I was driving into work this morning. I was excited about storytime, and decided to play this song, to prep my brain. Suddenly, I had a crazy idea:

Then I decided to test out a new thing in storytime: take a dance break, and rock out in the middle of storytime. I played Happy. We all danced, and got silly.

I think I will try it again next week. In fact, to give the dance break a little more structure, I will bring rhythm sticks. I admit, some of the caregivers in my storytime prefer “conventional” activities. They may have looked a little ill at ease during this activity, but it only lasted a couple of minutes. Then it was on to the normal stuff.Then during playtime the room was filled with toddlers say “happy”…”happy”… “happy”, all over the place.

Anyway, I highly recommend doing the same. It is awesome!


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Flannel Friday: Reno(vation) 911!

File this under #thingsididntlearninlibraryschool.  My library is in the final of a top-to-bottom renovation. My department, rebranded as KidSpace, has been this final phase. It’s been a roller coaster ride, and I am not sad that it’s coming to an end. And it looks awesome! I will post a full report once it is complete.

I have one piece of advice for librarians who are going through a big renovation project: Expect the unexpected. When it does (and it will), keep calm, and think on your feet. I guess that’s actually 2 or 3 pieces  of advice.

Today around 2:30, we received an unexpected delivery: a giant white board. We didn’t even know this was coming. It arrived at 3 (yes on a Friday), along with a stern warning from our Maintenance Supervisor (who btw strikes an imposing figure) that it was very important to keep a keen eye on little ones with markers in their hands.  We have some magnets, but not enough to cover this bohemoth.

I went to Kidzclub.com and downloaded a whole bunch of their printable  versions of storytime classics and made magnet boards. I set up the magnet boards, and grabbed copies of the books from our collection, so they would have the text to go along with the pieces. So very last minute, and I didn’t have quite enough time to finish all the stories I wanted to do, or create a big display. I sent out an email, so hopefully someone can finish up for me over the weekend, or I can finish on Monday.  Here are some pictures:

Say hello to my white whale.

Say hello to my white whale.

The moral of the story is: when the going gets tough, the tough librarians get magnets!

The wise and talented Lisa of Libraryland is hosting this week. Thanks Lisa!

Happy Flannel Friday!