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Mummy Says What?

I recently made a guest appearance at Monsters’ Ball, the annual Halloween celebration at the Niles Park District. They throw a great party: dinner, costumes, games, and a storytime under the stars (if the weather allows). Side note: I don’t know who did the decorations, but they completely blew my mind!

Anyway, it’s an easy program to plan since it’s only about 20 minutes. And yes, the conditions are unpredictable: there’s a noisy street less than twenty feet behind me, a bonfire on my right, and 150 strange kids crazed with suger and eye-candy. But they’re fired up, and ready to go.

With such a short program, there’s only time for a few activities. And because it was dark, books and flannelboards didn’t make much sense. I started with If You’re a Monster And You Know It (the Rebecca Emberley version), followed by the hilarious jump story Ruby Red Lips, and finally an activity I like to call my special magic spell.

This is a tricky storytime activity, because it all hinges on cooperation from your volunteer(s). But when it works, the results are total hilarious mayhem. Here’s how it works: I ask for volunteers to come up. Then I wiggle my fingers and say some magic words.

Hocus pocus, Ala Kazaam, 
Become a kitty cat if you can!
(Now I cross my fingers) and if I’m lucky, the kids immediately begins to meow.  

I picked 2 girls who were dressed as kitties, and they were awesome! So I turned them back into kids using the reverse spell:

Hocus pocus, ala kazoo
now turn back into you!

And hands went up all over the place. Kids were coming up 5 at a time. I asked who wants to become a dog?

Hocus pocus, ala kanoodles
Turn these kids into poodles!

For my final transformation I picked a wild little bugger who was dressed as a mummy. He ran up in a flash, he was bursting at the seams he was so excited. He bounced up like a little super ball.

Me: Ok, mummy, what do you want me to turn you into?


Me: A POOP!?!? I don’t know, that might be pretty stinky! Let’s put it to a vote: what do you think everybody? should we turn him into a poop?

Crowd: NO!

Luckily, that didn’t get him down.

Me: I have an idea, how about a tasmanian devil?

Mummy: YES!!!!

Me: Hocus Pocus, Ala kanevil, now you are a tansmanian devil!

He spun away like a little tornado, and his dad managed to catch him before he did any serious damage.

Happy Halloween!


My Bag O’ Tricks

I haven’t been a children’s librarian for very long, but a lifetime of being scatter-braine has taught me to keep stashes of extra in-case-of-memory-lapse-emergency items (i.e. chapstick, keys, $10) stashed away in all my bags, jackets, and desk drawers. I have found this rule work for me in the storytime room, too. I keep a mix CD of my favorite interactive kids songs hidden near the CD player. If things are going a little rocky, I need to fill some time, kids are getting restless; I pop it in on shuffle, and go with whatever the machine chooses. It’s a silly thing, but there something about that small element of surprise that I could never fake in a million years. It never fails to shake things up, and get storytime back on track.

So here’s my Storytime 911 mix:

  1. Clap Your Hands/ They Might Be Giants
  2. Shake Your Sillies Out/ Raffi
  3. Brush Your Teeth/ Raffi
  4. Brush Brush Brush/ of montreal
  5. 1, 2, 3, 4/ Laura Freeman
  6. Do You Wanna Know My New Dance Step/ Dog on Fleas
  7. The Hokey Pokey/ Dan Zanes
  8. Song about Slow, Song about Fast/ Hap Palmer
  9. Shake Your Sillies Out/ Michael and Jello

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The Gist

This should have been post #1, but (hey) better late than never. Here is the basic outline developed for my preschool storytime:

    Hello Song

    My right hand waves hello
    My left hand waves hello
    Everytime I see my friends
    My hands wave big hellos
    Con’t belly, feet, fingers, toes

    Circle Meeting: To Do List & Introduce Theme

    Book #1

    Action Rhyme:

    Book #2:

    Get up and Move Activity:

    Book #3:


    Good-bye Song: The More We Get Together

Pre-K Storytime is a 1-hour, weekly storytime for 3.5-5 year-olds runs for 9 weeks in the fall, and perhaps 11-12 weeks in the spring. Registration is required. There are 30 children currently registered, and about 20-25 show up each week.

Each week we open with the same Hello song.

Then we sit down for our “Circle Meeting” where we discuss that day’s theme, and make a to-do list using a sticky board and some pictures I printed and laminated for this purpose. I choose the number of activities we do each week, but I take suggestions for the order in which we perform those activities. I like the to-do list for several reasons: 1) I tend to be a bit of a scatterbrain, so it keeps me on task; 2) the children children seem to like knowing what the plan is. And during the storytime, as we complete an activity the children LOVE to remove each picture and place it behind the sticky board. In fact, I’ve noticed during my drop-in storytimes if my preschoolers are in attendance, they ask “Ms Cate, where are our pictures?”  Here’s the to-do list

We generally read 3 books and do 2 action-rhymes/activities. Then I give them about 10 minutes to color/draw. The first day of the session I provided a blank book for each child with his/her name on it. The first day we decorated the books using crayons and markers. In the subsequent weeks  I provided a small theme-based coloring page, along with the books. At the end of storytime, the children slip the page into the front of their book, and hand it into me.  I glue the coloring page into the blank book. On the last day when we have the Last-Day party, I will pass out the books when their moms are their so they can take them home.

Last year I did this a little differently. I provided blank folders (instead of books) and coloring pages and then laminated the CPs at the end of the session. The kids enjoyed it, but I have noticed that the kids seem more connected to their books than they did to their folders. The books are also much easier to manage than the folders were.

So here’s the outline. I fill in the specifics each week depending on the theme:

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Noisy Storytime

    The Plan:

    1. Hello Song
    2. Morning Meeting
    3. Book #1: What’s the Magic Word by Kelly DiPuccio
    4. Book #2: Snip Snap! What’s That? by Mara Bergman
    5. Action: If You’re Happy & You Know It
    6. Book Number #3: Meow
    7. Action Rhyme: When the Cow Gets Up in the Morning
    8. Coloring Journals
    9. Goodbye: The More We Get Together

    Post-Storytime Report

    Hello Song

    My right hand waves hello
    My left hand waves hello
    Every time I see my friends
    My hands wave big hellos

    Con’t belly, feet, fingers, toes

    Circle Meeting: To Do List & Introduce Theme

    Theme of the Week: Make Some Noise!

    I asked the group about their favorite noises.

    Book #1

    What’s the Magic Word? by Kelly DiPucchio

    Poor Little Bird is born on a windy day. As soon as she sheds her shell she is “wwwhooooosssshhhhhed” out of her nest and into a pile of hay. She turns to the first adult she sees: a cow who lives in the barn, and says, “Hello? Hello? Can I come in?” But the cow replies, “What’s the magic word, Little Bird?” “Peep, Peep?” says the confused Little Bird. But the cow shakes her head, the cow’s magic word is, of course, “Moo”. But before Little Bird can repeat this the wind picks back up and she is “Wwwwhhhhoooossssshhhed” away by the darn wind and dropped at the doorsteps of a series of animals who each require a different secret password. This story is a pleasure to read aloud. The wind-blown illustrations are adorable and dramatic. The text is rhythmic, but the rhymes aren’t rigid. My preschoolers were riveted each time Little Bird was whooshed away, they were eager to find out where she’d land next. And when it came to guessing what the magic word was, they delightedly called out the animal sound without my having to cue them.  This is an ideal interactive picture book for a pre-k storytime, especially on a windy day.

    Before I read the story, I asked the group, “Do you know any magic words?” I got some wonderful responses:

    “Open Sesame!” “Please & Thank you” “Happy Birthday!” “I’m Sorry.”  “Trick or Treat” “Abracadabra!” “Smungamu Ganuba!”

    Book #2:

    Snip Snap! What’s That? by Mara Bergman

    An open manhole on the title page, and the long trail of grimy reptilian footprints left along two blocks of city street can mean only one thing… A no-good alligator is coming to get three unsuspecting siblings. Bergman’s suspenseful story follows the panicky children as the enormous alligator bites through the door with a “snip snaps”, “slithers” down the hall, “swooshes” it’s enormous tale, “gnashes” it long pointy teeth. As the alligator get closer, and closer you ask, “Were the children scared?… YOU BET THEY WERE!” But finally the frightened trio have “had enough! They pluck up their courage” and shout, “Alligator, You get out!” Turning the tables immediately cuts this big bully down to size, “And was the alligator scared?… You bet he was!”

    The kids went wild for this story! They loved the part where they got to shout “Alligator, Get out.” And then I asked what they would do if they saw a big monster, a mummy, and shark. Each time their shouts of “Get out” got louder and more gleeful.

    Note: I introduced this book by saying, “The next book I am going to read starts out a little bit scary, but all the stories I read have happy endings.  I gave them a choice between this book, and a totally non-scary, but equally good alternative. They all demanded the scary story. I also said that if anyone got too scared, they could come sit right next to me, and I’d protect them.

    Action Rhyme:

    If You’re Happy and You Know It

    We clapped our hands, stomped our feet, shouted hurray!

    Then an incredible thing happened. I took suggestion for the other actions to use in the story. First one child suggested we “wwhhhooossshhh” like the wind, another that we say peep-peep, another that we moo, oink, and say please. Then they suggested “chomp like an alligator”, “hide like kid” and finally “yell ‘GET OUT ALLIGATOR!
    It wasn’t until we were a few verses into the song that I realized the children were using all the actions from in the two books, and transposing them into the verses.  I was really excited to see that not only did they enjoy these two books, the connected to them in a very real way. Not only did they remember the details and the sequences of the stories, they spontaneously re-framed and retold them as a group. Man, I just love storytime!

    Since If Your Happy & You Know It went on for so long–and got so rowdy–I decided to skip #7 (When the Cow Gets Up in the Morning)  I got the feeling that one more new thing would be a little overstimulating. I opted instead for something familiar.  I always keep Raffi’s “Shake My Sillies Out” ready for moments like this, and I think my regulars associate this song with my storytimes. It’s always a big hit. When we get to the yawning part,we all snore pretty loud.

    Coloring Journals

    Sharing is still a little bit of a problem. I provide crayons, colored pencils, and (some) markers. They all REALLY WANT MARKERS(!!!), but I’m prefer they use crayons (it’s mostly the messiness factor).  I have tried several things to at least limit marker wars: 2 per child rules, individual coloring baggies, etc) But they still seem to cause problems among the kids. At one point I noticed one little boy violating this weeks (3-marker) rule. He had whole handful of markers, and he refused to share with anyone. I asked him to choose his favorites, and asked him to hand me the ones he wasn’t using. He panicked, and looking for a place to hide them, just sat on them!  Oi.  He’s pretty shy, so I decided to leave him be, but I think I’ll try an absolute no-marker policy.

    Anyway, I love these journals! I just glued in all the coloring pages, and got them ready for next week. They are really adorable!

    Good-bye Song:

    The More We Get Together

    BTW: During this “Noisy Storytime” it just so happened that my boss was in the boardroom (which shares a wall with the storytime room). She said, “It sounded like you guys were having a pretty good time in there.” Noisy Storytime: Mission Accomplished.