Storytime guerrillas took over the Networking Uncommons this past Sunday at the ALA Midwinter Meeting. For one hour, storytimers shared tips, asked questions, and advocated for the great work we do with children every single day by putting on a Guerrilla Storytime for all the conference to see. From my count, well over 50 people participated or actively stayed to observe, and even more people peeked in to see what was happening. Guerrilla Storytime Philadelphia 2014? SUCCESS!
I took notes on everything that went down at our Guerrilla Storytime, and I’m providing all the shared info here. Challenge questions denote prompts that came from the Guerrilla Storytime Challenge Cup. Guerrilla queries are questions asked by participants. Don’t forget to also check out Angie Manfredi’s coverage of this Guerrilla Storytime for American Libraries for even more information.
Things kicked off with a group singing of “Open, Shut Them,” after which the challenges began.
Challenge question: How do you add writing to your storytimes?
- Talk to kids and create a word cloud — Open storytime by talking about your theme with the kids, ask what they know about the theme, and write down their answers
- Shaving cream bags — Fill zipper-lock plastic baggies with some shaving cream, then seal shut. Kids can use their fingers to draw shapes, letters, etc.
- In preschool science programs, write down predictions of what will happen in experiments.
- Trace and label pictures and objects that you use in programs; for example, animal prints.
- Do any activity that promotes development of fine motor skills, which are necessary for successful writing.
Guerrilla query: What do you do when you realize a parent is taping you as you do storytime?
- If it makes you uncomfortable or the parent is just trying to capture a video of his/her little one, say, “Go ahead and film, but please do not record me or other children.”
- If you’re cool with it and not using copyrighted material, ask if you can use the video for the library’s website or social media.
- If you’re not sure what’s happening, ask the parent what is the intended use for the video.
- If the parent is recording rhymes and songs to learn them better, offer a handout that lists the words for the rhymes and songs. That way the parent can engage with the child in the program and still recall the activities to do at home.
Challenge question: Share your closing song.
- “It’s time to say goodbye to all my friends” by Dr. Jean (Sung to the tune of “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain”): It’s time to say goodbye to all my friends. / Oh, it’s time to say goodbye to all my friends. / Oh, it’s time to smile wide / And it’s time to wink your eye. / Oh, it’s time to say goodbye to all my friends. YEEHAW!
- Signing “Goodbye Friends”
- “Hands Say Thank You”
- “Wave High, Wave Low”
Guerrilla query: What online resources do you use to learn new songs and rhymes?
Challenge question: What are your favorite shaker songs?
- Open with a color recognition chant: “A shake shake shake, a shake shake shake, a shake shake shake shake shake — STOP! If you have a COLOR egg, shake your egg…” (Thanks to Kate Kosturski for taking and sharing the video!)
- “Shake it to the left / Shake it to the right / Shake it to the back / [Count down and shake] / Shake it to the east / Shake it to the west / Shake it to the front / DROP! / [Count down and shake again]”
- Have kids shake their shakers when they see a card that shows the same color; great for sensory storytimes.
- Introduce the egg shakers as something fragile, that needs to be held in nested hands, as a way to deter children from throwing their eggs.
- “I Know a Chicken” by Laurie Berkner
Guerrilla query: How do you get kids to do call and response?
- Have a helper who says the response to your call.
- Model how call and response works before launching into the song or story.
- Introduce all call and response activities as “This is a say what I say and a do what I do song”; have children repeat that same phrase. After they hear it in several programs, they understand that it denotes a call and response activity.
Guerrilla query: What are some ideas for inexpensive storytime props?
- Make shakers out of bottle tops or Easter eggs; hot glue shut.
- Tape spoons together for shakers.
- Use small water bottles from a meeting and fill them with rice, beans, etc.
- Fill different shakers with different substances and explore how they make different sounds.
- Use party streamers/crepe paper in place of scarves. Bonus: Color recognition potential!
- Ask your Friends of the Library to help buy some props, and emphasize that they’ll be used by hundreds of children over and over.
- Use non-stick electrical tape-style material as stretchy bands.
- Visit the fabric remnants bins at craft stores for scarves.
- Cut up old summer reading t-shirts for scarves.
- Make “stretchies” with lycra fabric — like exercise bands.
- Use panty hose for a stretchy prop.
Challenge question: One child in storytime is being disruptive. What do you do?
- Move the disruptive child close to you.
- Make the disruptive child your storytime helper.
Challenge question: Your group has the wiggles! What do you do?
- “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes”
- Jim Gill songs
- Rhymes that end with kids in a sitting position.
- Close the book, address the wiggly behavior, and leave the book behind if necessary.
- Sign “Five Little Monkeys” (See Marge’s how-to video as well as this snippet from Guerrilla Storytime captured by the sensationally behatted Kate Kosturski)
- Action rhyme: “Tall as a tree / Wide as a house / Still as a mountain / Small as a mouse” (Thanks to Kate Kosturski for taking and sharing the video!)
- Have kids take a deep breath in, then out. Then in again and HOLD IT! Then out again slowly.
- “Zipper up” from the belly button (gets kids sitting up straight), and bring the shoulders up with a deep breath before exhaling.
Guerrilla query: What does yoga storytime look like?
- Use the same books you would for any storytime, but do yoga poses as between-book interludes. End with relaxation poses (Star Pose) and a Beanie Baby breathing exercise (Children lie on the floor with a Beanie Baby on their chests, then focus on the Beanie Babies moving up and down with their breathing). See also Laura’s blog post about her early Yoga Story Times
- Read one story. Retell the story without the book, and instead do relevant yoga poses to “act” out the story (Bark, George! is great). It’s optional to let kids come up with the “poses” by asking how they’d look if they were a certain character in the story. Do some sun salutations and end with relaxation poses.
- Use bath towels or yoga mats cut in half to denote each child’s space.
Challenge question: No one is dancing with you! What do you do?
- Choose a child to be your dance partner.
- Break the song’s movements into smaller parts and practice them together; no dancing may mean the kids don’t understand what to do.
- Tell the grownups: “None of our friends are dancing! Grownups, let’s show them how it’s done!”
- Use puppets (or a finger as a puppet) and get the puppet to dance.
Guerrilla query: How do you address the movement components of storytime when a child is in a wheelchair?
- Encourage dancing in chairs.
- Make small movement accommodations, like raising hands in place of jumping.
- Do an upper body rhyme like Finger Family: “Finger family up / Finger family down / Finger family dancing all around town. / Dance them on your shoulders / Dance them on your head / Dance them on your knees and tuck them into bed.”
- Talk to the child’s caregiver to determine what the child can do, or what movements the child is working on at school or therapy so you can incorporate those movements into the program.
- Talk about modifications for different ages and abilities; each child can choose which way to do the movement.
- Have children make stuffed animals or puppets do the motions.
Guerrilla query: Favorite way to use puppets? (Thanks to Kate Kosturski for taking and sharing the video!)
- Puppet introduces storytime and models appropriate behavior.
- Have a contest for customers to name the puppet, which becomes the storytime mascot.
- Puppet eats flannel pieces.
- Have the puppet at every storytime regardless of the staff member who leads the program; puppet provides continuity.
- Match a puppet to your theme.
- “What will Frog eat?” with frog puppet and pictures of different foods.
- Bring puppets to reinforce letter recognition for the program; e.g., a pig puppet when talking about the letter P.
- Use puppets to add some humor.
- Use puppets in All Star/sensory storytimes as a way for children to express themselves.
- Use puppets in oral storytelling. Beyond the Book is a great resource.
- Have puppets available for free play.
- Allow kids to approach and interact with the puppet if uncomfortable approaching the librarian.
- Introduce the puppet at the beginning of storytime, and then the puppet says hello to each child (name game).
- Use puppets to help young children learn to interact with an adult who is not their caregiver.
- Puppet tells knock knock jokes.
Guerrilla query: Opening rituals?
- Vaudeville style goofing, e.g., putting hat on the feet, boots on the head.
- Name songs as a greeting.
- Activate prior knowledge the children have by introducing the theme or story about to take place, and ask what children know about it.
Festivities concluded with a group singing of “If All the Raindrops were Lemon Drops and Gum Drops,” accompanied by some stellar ukulele playing. Learning and sharing and fun, oh my!